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I will never forget my first day with one particular company. I was being given a tour of the workplace and being introduced to my new colleagues when I met one of the Directors. This Director was sat amongst everyone else, not tucked away in an office somewhere with the door shut. When told I would be joining the “People Development Team” he enthusiastically exclaimed, “Ah… fantastic, our people are so important to us!” Having worked in HR roles for the best part of my career I had never heard a leader utter these words with such conviction. It was so refreshing and will stay with me always. I wanted to bottle that moment and recreate it for other new joiners to our company and so when given the opportunity to revamp our employee induction, guess who I asked to lead the welcome?!

This interaction set the tone for my employee experience and journey with that company. It gave me permission to ensure that our people were at the heart of what we did, had a voice and felt valued in their work.  Often employee voice, is used as a buzz word, paid lip service to… we’ve read it’s good practice so we need to refer to it but, as always, actions speak louder than words.

Employee voice already existed at that company before I joined. I could see that individuals brought themselves and their amazing uniqueness to their work. They contributed their individuality through their suggestions, quirks were fully embraced! Innovation was key, suggestions were flowing, tools were in place to capture the suggestions and a strong leadership team ensured each suggestion was considered and the result fed back to the individual who proposed it with next steps. Opportunities were provided for everyone to come together as one team. These included company updates, to recognise monthly achievements, wellbeing initiatives and not forgetting the daily lunches; food played a really important part! Employee surveys were administered not just annually but bi-annually and survey action plans were created so that employees drove the HR agenda.

This experience has shaped my HR career. I will forever be influenced by this workplace culture, striving to build on this, taking ideas and inspiration from it to other places. Imagine if we all did this! The effects would be felt beyond our workplaces, I’m sure. Our communities would reap the reward, our society would be better off for it. Driving positive behaviours and values in our workplaces has to have far-reaching effects doesn’t it? 

As soon as I walked through that door I knew my voice mattered to this company and they knew I had a significant contribution to make. I went on to develop ‘Your Voice Matters’ the strapline for our bi-annual employee engagement surveys – not particularly original but it provided the call to action we needed and it was a statement I truly believed in and still do.

I now have the opportunity to explore employee voice at another company as I take on a role advising on engagement and wellbeing. I will be using the four enablers: Strategic Narrative, Engaging Managers, Employee Voice and Organisational Integrity to guide me as I begin this new journey.  

I will forever be grateful to my previous workplace and ‘Engage for Success’ for opening my eyes to employee engagement and look forward to making my next contribution to championing good work for all.

Author Bio: Helen Dunstan, Helen is an HR professional, based on Cornwall specialising in employee wellbeing and engagement and is an advocate and champion for the work of Engage for Success.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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