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Human resource is a very essential part of any company and the people within the company play a very important role. This paper aims at analyzing the relationship of employee voice in an organization and the employee performance. The paper will firstly deal with the various methods that the employees can express themselves and be heard. This will be followed by the importance of employee voice, and the various views that have been presented by authors about the importance. A thorough analysis of the impact of employee voice on the performance has also been made.
Over the years, there has been a high interest in the notion of employee voice both in terms of higher levels of performance and also better employee representation (Beardwell 1998, Sako 1998, Benson 2000; Roche, 2000). There has been a vast amount of literature that has been set down on the topic of Voice. A study by Professor Margaret has highlighted that 'collective voice achieves what the lone voice could never do: it humanises and civilises the workplace, arguing that collective representation is the foundation of a partnership relationship that brings positive benefits for business' (Prosser, 2001). There have been several different meanings that have been set down for the term 'Employee voice'. Each definition and explanation of the terms has provided a different view on the purpose and underlying meaning of employee voice and the need of one rather than an individual voice. For an organisation to develop and be successful it is essential there is a freedom to speak and participate for all employees. The twentieth century has seen numerous initiatives to involve employees and has also tried to promote better performance. According to Lavelle, Gunnigle and McDonnell, have defined employee voice as, 'as any type of mechanism, structure or practice, which provides an employee with an opportunity to express an opinion or participate in decision-making within their organization' (Lavelle, Gunnigle and McDonnell, 2010). Employee voice can be distinguished into two main types,
Direct Voice: this refers to any mode of mechanism where the employees can directly involve and work with the management in various aspects like their jobs. Work environment, teams, appraisal systems, and even the meetings between the employees and the managers. Here most of the involvement of the employees is through the individual themselves rather than via any other intermediate.
Indirect Voice: This form of voice is one where there is a collective employee representation and these include representation like trade unions, non union structures of collective representations like work councils, and consultative committees.
There are several different mechanisms that are available for employee voice within an organization. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the various mechanisms of employee voice can be classified into two main headings, a) Upward Problem Solving and b) Representative Participation. These two also fall into the above categories that have been discussed, i.e. direct and indirect voice. The CIPD has also brought out the various mechanisms that are complementary to employee voice and these are as discussed below:
Upward problem-solving or Direct Method: This refers to any technique that is adopted by the managers to gain the ideas of the employees and also to gain an opinion of the employees, This allows for a two way communication and it encourages the employees to participate by setting up through communication systems. Here the communication is more between the individual employee and the managers rather than with any kind of representatives. There are numerous methods and techniques that can be used to allow this form of communication. One of the first methods that can be used is the Electronic media. This allows disseminating and also permits for ideas to be shared and provided using an online medium. Here as compared to the face to face medium, there is very less interaction and all questions and proposals are sent out using emails. The other form of communication is a two way communication, where the staff and managers can get together and discuss their views and opinions on various issues. These are mostly in the form of regular meeting and these not only allow for improved issue management but also work on the improvement of performance of the team as such. Here employees can suggest problem solving for issues that are faced or even discuss ideas to improve the processes. Another very famous and presently adopted method is the suggestion schemes. These allow the people to discuss and make suggestion and contribute to the growth of the team. Here however there are incentives for the contributors if the suggestions are accepted and implemented. Another very effective form of encouraging the employee voice is using questionnaire surveys. Here the company can discover the levels of satisfaction of the staff particularly in terms of work and work environment. This is a very strong way of increasing the employee voice and being able to reach out to the employees. Another effective manner of direct communication includes the project teams. Here a group of people can be brought together on a regular basis and the team can work on discussion of the quality of work within the organization.
Representative Participation or Indirect Method: This form as mentioned is more of an indirect method. Here there is no interaction between the individual employee and the managers however are more based on the employee representative and the managers. A few of the possible methods that are used in companies include as follows. The partnership scheme is one where an emphasis is made on a mutual gain and a mutual gain and a tackling the issues and problems in a cooperative manner. Another form is referred to as joint consultation. This has been expressed as, 'to consider issues that are deemed to be of common interest or of key importance to the parties' (CIPD, 2010). Also the last form is the collective representation. This is where employees negotiate and work together work towards the pay. Here they act as employee representatives.
These mechanisms only permit a better chance for the employees to voice their requirements. There is a high need for the employee voice to be heard and these have a major impact on the performance of the company and the employee themselves. The next section will deal with the impact of providing employees with a chance to have their voice heard and how it would affect the working and performance of the employees.
Impact on Employee Performance:
As said very rightly by Dulewicz (1989), "â€¦ a basic human tendency to make judgements about those one is working with, as well as about oneself". It is noted that appraisals are inevitable and is universal. People evaluate how well a job is done to set performance standards. The process was linked to the material outcomes, i.e. if an employee's performance is to less than ideal then there would be a cut in pay, however if the performance was better than the ideal level set by the supervisor, then there would be a rise in pay. In the current situation the definition of employee contribution is not only dependent on the output i.e. the end results achieved but also depends on the inputs by the employee i.e. what the employee is willing to contribute to the business.
Several studies have highlighted that the performance of employees is based not only on the level of pay that they receive but also equally on the level of motivation which in turn is related directly to the level of motivation of the employees. The performance of a company and its relationship with the employee voice has been a topic of high debate over the last decade. The voices of the employees of a company affect the performance of the company directly. Performance here is in terms of two mains aspects, a) the employee performance and b) the company performance. These are inter related in a way that the better the employee performance the better will be the company performance. Human Resource Management mainly aims at ensuring that all aspects of employees from recruitment to retention are taken care of. The HR team would take all necessary steps to ensure that the employee performance is better. The HR has a very clear and very big affect on the performance of the company and the employees, as they bare in some form a major point of contact for the employees (Boselie, Paauwe and Jansen, 2000). The HR has a direct influence on the performance of the company. Since the HR is responsible for recruitment and selection of the employees, it is completely dependent on the HR teams to select employees who would perform, also they are the ones who need to ensure that the employee needs and voice are heard and met and should also support the managers and the top management to encourage and hear the voices of the employees. This is mainly because employee performance is directly related to the needs of the employees and if an employee is not heard the employee can feel disheartened which would cause levels of distress.
According to Beale (1994) employee involvement represents, 'a significant challenge to the traditional influence of trade unions in the workplace. Employee involvement programmes provide an alternative source of information, ideas and interpretation of workplace experiences, an alternative to that provided by the union. Employee involvement programmes actively promote a new culture in competition with the traditional explanations and culture communicated by the union' (Beale, 1994).
It is also essential to understand that irrespective of how much the management might try to avoid any form of unions or representative participation, the level of commitment is not seen to have increased. In the current times employees prefer to have a representative participation, i.e. part of unions, and other representative structures. Hence when a company does not allow or pay head to the employee voice through the indirect measures, it is seen that there is also a clear reduced commitment to work and lowered levels of motivation. It has also been explained by Storey and Sisson (1994), highlight the same point and explain that the enhanced worker commitment will reduce directly if the management attempts to overlook the unions and try to go in for a direct form of contact with the employees. Ackers, Marchington, Wilkinson and Dundon (2003) explain, "On the other hand, where unions stand outside the EI [Employee involvement] initiative, their indifference or hostility may be a major reason for its failure. Social partnership theory suggests that union involvement can make EI [Employee involvement] work better, for both management and employees".
The main intension of any firm is to have high performance working within the organization. Having high performance working in an organization is in a number of ways the opposite of the employment practices set down by Taylor. CIPD explain high performance working as, 'HPW can be characterised as everything that 'Taylorist employment practices' are not. This is an unfair reflection on the substantial influence of F W Taylor on management thinking in the early part of the last century. However, HPW is the diametrical opposite of employment strategies based on short cycle times, skill minimization and 'one right way'. This approach is appropriate to the high volume repetitive working usually associated with products and services sold on the basis of low cost and narrow range. HPW is better suited to product and service sectors that are at least concerned with mass customization and more often designed to meet the needs of individual customers' (CIPD, 2010).
Several authors over the years have provided several different views and notions on the topic of the relationship between employee voice and employee performance. Several authors also concentrate more on the direct voice effect. It has been studied that direct employee voice is relatively much more effective and than the indirect employee voice and shows higher, better and enhanced performance outcomes. Heller (1998) observed that 'high degrees of influence sharing are associated with a better quality and effectiveness of decisions and a significant reduction in the underutilization of people's experience and skills' (p. 1439). Also Cotton et.al (1988) explains that in the case of direct voice, the employees tend to feel more satisfied and also gain a feel of involvement in the decision making. They also explain that when the employee influence is high, there is a higher level of group cohesion and the level of commitment to those decisions is noted to be enhanced and improved.
In another research conducted by Bryson, Willman, Gomez, and Kretschmer (2007), the hypotheses has highlighted that there is a strong link between employee voice and HRM. This as mentioned earlier also has a direct impact on the employee and the performance of the employees. A research conducted by Freeman and Medoff (1984) and adapted Hirschman's (1970) model. Hirschman's (1970) model of exit - voice has been the base of the research by Freeman and Medoff and this has mainly be done to link the union voice, higher levels of productivity and lower quit rates. Kim, MacDuffie & Pil, (2009), explain, 'Without collective voice through the agency of worker representation, employees lack the incentive to pursue public goods, such as enhanced working conditions and workplace policies that affect the well-being of all employees, for example, grievance and arbitration procedures, just cause for discipline and discharge, and seniority clauses (Batt et al., 2002)' (Kim, MacDuffie & Pil, 2009).
Based on the research and the extensive discussion that has been presented above, it is clear that the various researches that have been presented in the past it is clear that the relationship between the employee voice and productivity is ambiguous. Kim, MacDuffie & Pil, (2009), explain, "Union presence may lower labor productivity via restrictive work practices or lower firm investments due to lower firm profitability". On the other hand, it has also been noted that the union voice can also be associated with the adversarial relations within the industries and the if there is no clear flow of information between the workers and the management, there is also a clear lack of complete diversity in terms of the input of the workers. There have also been other findings from studies by Brown and Medoff, which suggest that the unions have a close relationship with the employee morale, needs, motivation and also cooperation (Metcalf, 2003). There have thus been several positive and negative views on this topic and there has not been any clear evidence on the certainty of the effect of employee voice on employee performance.