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The Future of the Employee Voice Is Social

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Thomas Buus Madsen

Employees want the same today at work as they want in their personal life: speed, honesty, two-way communication and an easy way to put forward their point of view.
There is still a place for a collective voice, but it doesn't necessarily mean a traditional trade union. Managers need to listen, understand and respond to the employee voice, from wherever it presents itself. Internal Communication needs to stop being the job or a department or an individual. It belongs to everyone and is the responsibility of everyone -- now and in the future.
The speed of technology
There are plenty of companies out there whose idea of an employee voice is still just the annual engagement survey. In many places, a once a year tick box exercise. Questions constrained by the employer, with a nod to letting people have their say with a couple of open ended options at the end. What do you most like about working here? What is the one thing that you would change if you could? This doesn't really cut it in today's world, and it certainly won't work in 2025. It's just too slow. Who wants to wait a year to share their opinion when they can send a tweet in seconds? The speed of technology development makes more specific predictions difficult. But the need for an employee voice will not diminish. If anything, the changes to our culture mean it will become more and more prevalent. More and more immediate.
The role of trade unions
Trade union membership has been on a steady and seemingly irreversible decline since around 1980. The future of trade unions is hard to predict; there is no guarantee that the unions will not manage to turnaround the decline, but what we do know is that trade unions have to engage with younger workers. For the manager of 2025 therefore, the chances that your employee voice is going to come via a trade union is pretty low.
2016-03-08-1457440999-3661247-thefutureofworkmanagingpeopleebookbookboon.JPG © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-08-1457440999-3661247-thefutureofworkmanagingpeopleebookbookboon.JPG The role of social media
Social media is already a big part of the employee voice. Whilst there are still plenty of companies out there taking the lock it down, lock it out approach, they no longer have control, whether they like it or not. Today, people ask you if you are on LinkedIn, if you tweet, or have a Google+ account. By 2025, whilst particular platforms might come and go, asking someone if they are social will sound as dumb as asking them today if they currently use the internet.
Employee voice will evolve further:

  • Employers and people managers will have no choice about being social. Trying to lock it down and pretend the conversation isn't happening won't be an option.
  • Internal communication and collaboration tools like Yammer and Chatter will become ever more prevalent. If employers don't launch them, their employees will do it anyway.
  • Trade unions will become increasingly more marginalized, unless they seriously get their act together and start doing something radical around engaging younger workers, like yesterday. Pay bargaining is probably terminal as a method of voice around pay outside the public sector, but this will leave a void that needs to be filled.
  • The one-off, annual employee engagement survey will quietly fade away, and by 2025 will look about as relevant as the fax machine does today. Employers will need to take feedback in real time -- their ears must be permanently open. Feedback to managers might be comments and likes on their Yammer updates (or whatever technology comes next).
  • Finding out what your employees want will mean a constant conversation. Note the reference to a conversation. Yes, we mean two-way dialogue. Not telling.
  • We are now used to receiving information in real time. Information is available on Twitter within seconds. Employees want the same speed of information about their company.
  • Multi-channel employer communication will be more important than ever. Broadcast it and they will listen won't work. You will have to go and find your employees and engage with them, where they want to be, in the manner they want to digest it. Similarly, you need to hear the voice from wherever it originates.
  • Parent to child communication methods are out.
If you would like to read more about the changing role of management, then download the eBook HR 2025: The Future of Work by Gemma Reucroft and Tim Scott; available at

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