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Opinion - Employee voice and the bottom line

2022-09-21  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Employee voice and the bottom line

Doreen Zamuee

Employee voice, also known as voice, is the method by which employees can express issues and grievances, interests and opinions, as well as ideas to contribute to organisational decision-making with management.

 It gives management the chance to propose ideas, test them with the workforce, and get input on how employees view the issues. 

Employee-management communication channels can range from official to informal, and they can take place at different levels within the organisation. 

To convey ideas, solutions and experiences that are advantageous to the organisation through shared decision-making processes, voice mechanisms can enable and implement employee voice, which is an important feature of employee voice that is particularly relevant in sustainability.

However, despite the crucial role that human resources may play in achieving sustainability goals, the involvement of the employee and, in particular, organised employee voice, is lacking in Namibia’s sustainable human resource management (HRM) practices. 

Employers are paying a price for the lack of employee voice in organisations. 

The highly bureaucratic and unquestionable structures that govern the government and parastatals in the country have made little progress in embracing bottom-up strategies. 

The status quo continues to be that information trickles from the top down, where bottom-up initiatives are frequently muzzled with ‘this is how things were done’ or ‘it has always been done this way’ mantra being the order of the day – in the process ignoring the changing nature of work and impeding institutions’ ability to compete globally. 

The idea that the executive committee (exco) is the custodian of information and knowledge, and that those serving beneath them are merely passive implementers of directives has the potential to deny organisations access to crucial information that could have a positive impact on organisational sustainability. 

A simple illustration would be a cleaner suggesting a particular brand or type of detergent used. 

The compound effect’s attractiveness makes it possible to save a sizable amount of money in terms of the bottom line. 

However, if an organisation does not have an ear, proposals may fall on “deaf ears”, leading to “manufactured silence”. 

Although workers have discovered more effective, economical ways to produce maximum production, office furniture’s aversion to change stunts growth, especially in highly bureaucratic, centrally regulated firms. 

Most companies are yet to include lower-level employees in these types of decisions and many times result in the loss of trust and a race to the bottom due to a loss of key talent.


Way forward

A number of proposals are advanced to ensure the embedding of the employee voice in the context of Sustainable Human Resource Management (SHRM). 

Firstly, emphasis must be placed on realising SHRM in organisations in Namibia. 

SHRM has the ability to help organisations build the concepts, policies and procedures needed to meet the human resources management challenges of the twenty-first century. 

To accomplish this, however, it is necessary to properly address and include employee input into the theory and practice of HRM. 

Further, the real and potential role of trade unions in promoting employee voice has to be conceptualised. 

The creation of efficient employee voice mechanisms is essential to the implementation and upkeep of sustainable HRM. 

Secondly, process mapping can be a positive step for organisations to recognise the employee voice because nobody knows the task better than the people who are doing it.

When platforms, particularly informal channels of communication, are developed in organisations, tacit knowledge can be more effectively retrieved from employees. 

The ability to inspire good sustainable HRM policies and practices will potentially be made available by assessing how deeply ingrained employee involvement is.

Thirdly, organisations must embark on a sustained drive to find more sustainable ways of working that can result in an increased focus on voice systems. 

This proposal is attributed to the fact that the quality and embeddedness of employee input in real participative processes depend critically on managerial attitudes.

This short article has outlined the frequently underappreciated role employee voice can play in the creation of new management systems and the critical role HRM plays in both the adoption of new policies and practices like SHRM and vehicles, such as employee voice, to support and maintain progressive work patterns and practices in organisations.

 Without such a strategy, SHRM runs the risk of being dismissed as a fad and fails to live up to its promise within the company. 

Management in organisations must take this issue seriously if they want to encourage productive working conditions in Namibia.

2022-09-21  Staff Reporter

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