Is Voice of the Employee the new employee engagement – or a whole new can of worms?

4th Jun 2015

If you’re a regular reader of these pages, you’re no doubt more than used to hearing about Voice of the Customer (VoC) programmes. After all, VoC is at the heart of the customer experiences we’re all trying so hard to refine and perfect. Over the last year or two, you’ll also have heard more and more about the Voice of the Employee. In fact, CX leaders have declared 2015 'The Year of the Employee'.

The thing is that we already had employee engagement (and if you’re old enough, you’ll remember employee satisfaction as well). So is Voice of the Employee just the latest term for employee engagement, or is it actually something different?

The short answer is that it’s different. It’s very like the relationship between Voice of the Customer and customer experience. VoC provides the insights that fuel improvements to the customer experience. Voice of the Employee does much the same for employee engagement.

Voice of the Employee (VoE) refers (or should refer) to a range of programmes that organisations conduct across the employee lifecycle, including:

  • 360 feedback surveys. These are fast becoming a critical success factor in driving business success. 360 programmes offer one of the best mechanisms for providing a holistic view on an individual’s performance and a powerful tool for career development.
  • Annual employee engagement surveys. Most businesses still conduct these behemoths on a regular basis, and while they’re not necessarily as agile as some of the more tactical elements of employee insights, they provide a vital strategic view of engagement across the business.
  • Touchpoint, or employee insight, surveys. These are the more tactical pieces such as on-boarding, post-training and exit surveys. While easily overlooked in terms of the value they deliver, they offer the ability to gather insights that HR teams can act on quickly to re-engage with employees or improve the overall employee experience.
  • Voice of the Customer through the Employee. The new kid on the block, the benefits of gathering feedback on the customer experience through frontline employees are two-fold. Firstly, it provides a level of insight about areas like customer service that even your customers can’t provide, and secondly, it engages your employees by demonstrating that they hold the power to improving the customer experience.

So far, it seems pretty simple. But there are some pitfalls. And, as is often the case, they’re about creating silos of data that prevent us from uncovering the insights that will really drive action. Businesses that have dispensed with those silos are able to prove empirically the link between engagement, enablement and performance. For example, a one point increase in developmental coaching can directly deliver a 0.3% increase in customer retention.

Keeping all your tactical data together should be relatively straightforward, but of course that assumes the luxury of creating a shiny new VoE programme from scratch, with a clear plan and process in place. In reality, many such programmes have been pulled together on an ad-hoc basis by different teams, in different offices, and probably in different languages. If that’s the case, you’ll need to get your arms around all those pieces, and begin to build them into a coherent and cohesive whole. It may seem like a daunting job, but by starting small – say with a single touchpoint – it’s very doable and will help to deliver a more consistent experience for employees in the process.

One of the main stumbling blocks can be the large, traditional employee engagement surveys. This is because the complexities and the sheer scale of running these programmes means that most businesses outsource them to one of the large HR consultancies. But that’s not to say that you’re automatically stuck with a silo of externally-held data. Most of the large consultancies now provide live dashboards and the ability to link that data with other employee data. If you’re able to ensure that the solution your consultants use is compatible with your internal VoE activities, you can bring that data together so your strategic and tactical data deliver that deeper level of insight.

Finally, you need to remember that even if all your VoE programmes are aligned and provide a holistic view of your employees, you’re still missing a trick if you’re not able to integrate that data with other feeds from around the business. The Voice of the Customer through the Employee is a key part of this, but your wider VoC programme will also benefit hugely from being integrated with the Voice of the Employee. Even more so when combined with other business data (e.g. financial or CRM) and wider market input (such as benchmarks).

Getting the most from the Voice of the Employee programme means you’re able to drive employee engagement which, whatever the terminology, is a core aim of any HR professional. As you look to build or refine your programme, remember:

  • Work closely with your outsourced provider. The annual survey is likely to be the most established element of your VoE programme, so ensure that your other activities fit into this effectively.
  • More data feeds don’t automatically mean more complexity. Built carefully, and with clear goals, you can build up an incredibly detailed picture of the drivers of employee engagement and the actions you need to take to improve it.
  • You need reports that are fit for purpose. Your local HR teams, departmental managers and board-level teams need different insights so ensure that you build reports that show everyone the information they really need.
  • Integrate! Silos are devastating for insight, so work with the teams who look after Voice of the Customer, as well as any groups who’ve created their own ad-hoc programmes. By standardising your approach, you’ll uncover so much more. 

Tore Haggren is SVP of Voice of the Employee at Confirmit.

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