Advancing Frontline Employee Voice: Knowledge is Power

Advancing Frontline Employee Voice: Knowledge is Power

Employers, it is time to throw away that old adage that you “don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answers to!” Creating an environment where frontline employees can and will openly share their insights with you is key to implementing practice changes to retain and grow your team. And if you don’t have multiple channels for employees to share insights with you, you are likely missing out on insights from those closest to your business and your customers.

We know practice change isn’t easy and we’re here to help guide you so today we’re sharing a few tips from a recent Community Conversation we hosted with the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program and Well Crafted Pizza about Advancing Worker Voice:

<Design> Ensuring confidentiality: Protecting worker confidentiality – and communicating to your workforce about how and why you’re keeping their information confidential – will encourage higher participation and more candid input by survey respondents. When asking for feedback in surveys, be thoughtful about design (particularly of demographic questions) to ensure that individual responses cannot be tracked to individual workers or even small teams. When reporting on input gathered in a public venue like a town hall, anonymize quotes and aggregate common comments or concerns. 

<Implementation> Partnering with workforce organizations: A third party like a local workforce organization can help ensure confidentiality and ease employee fear of being penalized for sharing their thoughts by collecting and aggregating data on your behalf. Workforce organizations often have extensive experience working with frontline employees, and they can help you design a survey that’s appropriate to your employees’ literacy level and English language proficiency. For instance, Well Crafted Pizza worked with Good Business Works to survey employees.

<Follow Through> Responding to feedback and communicating action: Our colleagues at the Aspen Institute recommend starting with quick wins – start with those ideas that are low cost and light lift. For instance, employees may surface that transit schedules don’t align with start times, and an employer could adjust start times to improve employee commutes and reduce lateness or absenteeism. This can increase employee confidence that their feedback was heard and is driving action. Explicitly communicate if there are longer term items you are committed to working towards but may need more investment or clarification. For instance, Well Crafted Pizza shared items they refer to as “Still Crafting,” changes that “might take a while but we will get to them and give updates along the way.”

Listening to workers is a key source of innovation for companies – and it improves engagement, retention, and productivity.

Jenny Weissbourd – Aspen Institute

We understand that approaching employee feedback this way represents a big shift in practice and mental models for many companies – you’re not alone! As participants in the Community Conversation shared, they’re all experimenting with and working through different ways to gather insights from their employees. If you’re stuck on what questions you should be asking in the first place, taking the Opportunity Navigator to identify which of your practices and policies may need strengthening is an easy first step.