Blog: Establishing a Colleague Voice

Continuing on with our blog series, this week we catch up with Steve Wood, Colleague Engagement Manager, who discusses why giving employees a share of voice is a key component in establishing a happy and productive workforce.

The CIPD uses the following definition of employee voice:

 The ability of employees to express their views, opinions, concerns and suggestions, and for these to influence decisions at work.’

 It recognises that giving colleagues a voice helps to build open and trusting relationships between employers and employees that provides a basis for organisational effectiveness and improvement. For employees, having a voice means a greater sense of feeling valued, increased job satisfaction, greater influence and better opportunities for development. It is also important in creating inclusive and safe working environments too.

Whilst the concept of colleague voice has been around for a while there is some thinking that it is becoming ever more important in the context of ‘The Great Resignation’ and new hybrid working models challenging the extent to which employees feel connected to the organisation.

So, how to create that voice?

Here are some of the things that we’ve been doing at Onward over the past few years to develop a healthy colleague voice:

  • Colleague Surveys. This is a great opportunity to get large scale data and analysis as well as collecting qualitative data. As well as an annual survey we also do mid-year pulse surveys and are currently looking at how we can increase the frequency of surveys.


  • Colleague Forum. One of the outcomes of the first colleague survey in response to the question “If I’m not in a union where is my voice?” We have 20 volunteers from across the business that provide a colleague point of view and feedback mechanism.


  • The Onward Conversation. These are monthly briefings for all colleagues on the first Wednesday of the month. Delivered by members of our leadership teams to groups of around 30 colleagues at a time and covering key activities for the coming month, they are designed to be in equal part tell and discuss/comment. Plenty of insight and great suggestions come from the sessions.


  • Performance Process. We are clear that the relationship between colleagues and their direct line manager is critical to them feeling engaged and empowered. There is a great opportunity to make sure this happens as part of the performance process, not just in annual reviews but in monthly catch ups and day to day coaching conversations. We have gradually moved the focus from annual to ongoing conversations.


  • Routine Feedback. There are plenty of opportunities to get feedback on specific things and events over the colleague lifecycle, whether that is onboarding, exit interviews, training interventions or colleague roadshows. Make feedback an integral part of each event so that colleagues see it as a reflection of organisational culture.


Actions speak louder than words. Hearing colleague voice is important but equally important is acting on it. The CIPD definition given earlier in this piece includes the phrase ‘influence decisions at work’ and if colleagues don’t feel that they are being heard then they will very quickly become disengaged.

One of the key aspects of healthy colleague voice then is being clear what actions have been taken as a result of understanding colleague views. ‘You said we did’, may well be old school terminology but is nonetheless as true now as it ever was. Whatever your version of you said we did, make sure that you follow up with actions and that you clearly link those actions to the initiating colleague feedback.