Image courtesy of flickr user Louisa Thomson

Why the new labour policy won’t help the employee voice

This week the Labour party announced plans to bring the employee voice into the Boardroom. Under Labour’s plans, all companies with a workforce of 250 or more, whether public or private, would be required by law to reserve at least one third of places at the boardroom table for employee representatives.

While the theory is spot on, this policy won’t solve the problem – here are my five reasons why:

1. Sitting at the table doesn’t mean your voice will be heard
For years, communicators have been asking for a seat at the table and my argument has always been this: earn your seat by adding value and influence those that are sitting there so you don’t have to. Board meetings need to have the employee voice in them but through the leaders who are running it. Having an employee rep in the room won’t mean they will be listened to – it’s just a plaster over the problem but the problem will still exist.

2. Everyone at the table is an employee
We forget that leaders are also employees. They need to facilitate the conversation and engage with their teams to ensure voices are heard across the organisation. Yes they are running the company, but they are also employed and making the stand that employee representatives should sit on the board suggests that they aren’t. We ask a lot of leaders and line managers and use them as the conduit inside organisations but they are employees as well.

3. It’s a confidential environment and those at the Board level should be qualified/chartered
I’m not sure that an employee representative at Board level needs to hear all the conversations. Now this will raise an eyebrow because you will say that all the conversations should be transparent etc. but HR/Marketing/Communications will be in there – and I’d hope those individuals are qualified/chartered etc. and therefore bound by codes of conducts for their respective professions. The conversations at this level could include a potential sale of the business, a merger etc. some of these conversations are highly confidential and there is a possibility that shifting the dynamic of the team/boardroom will hinder real discussions taking place.

4. Invest in your internal communications team

How many of these organisations have a dedicated internal communications team? I bet it is a few. If these organisations recognise the power that internal communications can bring to an organisation; hiring professionals equipped with the skills to coach leaders on ethics, strategy and leadership then it would help us move things forward. This team should be the glue for the organisation and the mechanism to help ideas, conversations and suggestions flow through teams. They should be the ones ensuring the employee voice is in the boardroom and helping influence decisions and plans across all teams.

5, Invest in the leadership and line managers
All the research into internal communications will point to the need to invest in line manager and leaders. We promote people because they are excellent at what they do, we don’t know whether they can coach, manage, advise people in their team. This is a skill that in most organisations is ignored and then leaders and line managers aren’t equipped to have difficult conversations, honest and open discussions about the company strategy etc. We don’t expect a manager to be able to mange a budget and forecast for the year without training so why do we think they can manage people and communicate effectively without it?

The idea behind this policy is solid. The culture in some workplaces is poor and unethical decisions are sometimes made to benefit those at the top. Putting an employee from the frontline into that environment won’t help us. Investing in educating leaders and line managers into the importance of ethical and strategic communication will. Helping them build trust with their teams by listening to them and sharing their voice up through the hierarchy. Helping them understand how people work with a knowledge of neuroscience will and giving people the opportunities to talk and be listened to will.

It is time to change but let’s work with the professionals in this field to make that happen.

Read Original Post

Related Content

How to explain what you do in 10 words or fewer
Seven reasons why being on a board is good for your career
Why internal communication strategies matter
Selling Labour Government? The message from Conference

Jenni Field has almost 20 years’ experience in communications. She specialises in helping organisations go from chaos to calm; working to help them understand how to get teams to work together better and operations to work more efficiently. She is an expert in ensuring alignment between the communication and business strategy. Jenni is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), she is a Chartered practitioner. This year, Jenni is the Vice-president of the CIPR and has been a Board Director with them for the last three years. Before setting up Redefining Communications Jenni worked as a Communications Director for a global pharmaceutical business and prior to that she was Global Head of Communications for a FTSE 250 hospitality business. Jenni has experience working in defence, retail and hospitality as well as not-for-profit. It is this experience that has contributed to the development of The Field Model™ and Jenni’s book, Influential Internal Communication.

Posted in All  CIPR  Internal Comms  Public Affairs

Leave a Reply