Employee Voice

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Employee voice enables workers to effectively communicate their views to management and be actively involved in decision making. Voice arrangements allow employees to express their ideas, raise concerns and help solve problems by influencing workplace decisions and choices. (Gollan, 2006:349; Pymen et al, 2006:543). The various forms of voice available today in the current industrial relations system include both direct and indirect mechanisms. Indirect mechanisms include unions, non union representative bodies, the media, lawyers and consultative committees (Bryson et al, 2006:445). On the other hand, direct voice can be described as ‘the presence of any two-way communications practices’ (Bryson et al, 2006:445), and includes staff and team meetings, group discussions, training, attitude surveys, quality circles and suggestion schemes (CCH, nd; Pymen at al, 2006:549). Today, direct forms of voice are generally favoured amongst employers, as it is claimed that they allow management to better respond to employee interests and concerns, because there is no intermediary, so eliciting more cooperation and commitment from employees (Bryson et al, 2006:443). It has also been argued that ‘union-only voice reflects a narrow conceptualisation of the alternative regimes available to employees to advance their rights and interests at work’ (Pymen et al, 2006:544).

In saying this, until recently, union voice was the most prominent voice mechanism (Bryson et al, 2006:440). Many people have scrutinised the use of direct forms of voice, believing they have little or no collective power and access to independent sources of advice and assistance, and therefore more susceptible to managerial influence and control (Pymen et al, 2006:544). Overall, employees believe organisational objectives are most successfully achieved through the combination of indirect and direct channels of voice as they are the most efficient and legitimate, when used together (Pymen et al, 2006:556). Thus, it will be outlined throughout this essay that having various voice arrangements in place is not only socially and economically beneficial for the employer and their employees, but is important in maintaining a positive relationship between both parties and a more consolidated viewpoint. Furthermore this essay will address and evaluate issues in the current employment relations environment, and how these impact on employee voice.

It was noted by Luthans and Stajkovic (1999:49) that ‘while considerable deserved attention is being given to developing global strategies and information systems, the human side of enterprises still tends to be slighted or given a low priority’. This emphasises the important fact that employees are not always valued as the most important resource of a business, and their level of autonomy can be quite restricted, limiting their ability to contribute and be involved in the decision making process. Employee involvement and voice is increasingly important in retaining employees as well as increasing staff morale and job satisfaction. This inturn leads to higher productivity and a more efficient and effective workplace (Bryson et al, 2006:443), not only to the benefit of the employees, but also the employer. The availability of voice mechanisms in the workplace can provide numerous benefits to employees. Voice enhances employees opportunities to negotiate with employees over working conditions, and gives them a greater opportunity to share their ideas and opinions, therefore enhancing their sense of autonomy and job satisfaction. As proven by Cannel, whom insists that Voice ‘enables employees to represent their views to management, and for these views to be taken into account’ (Cannel, 2007). Voice mechanisms can also be used as a motivational tool. As voice plays an important role in negotiating issues such as...
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