10 October 2013 #Employment
Over one hundred HR practitioners in the Thames Valley attended a joint celebration of both CIPD and Clarkslegal’s centenaries, at an evening reception that reflected on the development of HR throughout the past 100 years and its vision for the future.
Guest speakers at this leading event were Peter Cheese, CEO of CIPD and Michael Sippitt, Chairman of Clarkslegal, who both spoke of the fundamental need for employee voice to be the heartbeat of an organisation.
Introducing the event, Mark Withers, Chair of CIPD Thames Valley, explained why employee voice is a key focal point in HR now and in the future: “Employee voice concerns us all - it`s at the heart of organisations culture and at the heart of engagement. We need to create organisations where employees feel they have a voice and they actually do have a voice.”
Michael Sippitt reciprocated this sentiment, stating that “employee voice is absolutely integral to all businesses so we can shape the culture of organisations.”
Peter Cheese emphasised the importance of an organisation’s employees particularly in today’s market, explaining “labour is the primary asset in a service economy and human capital the most important intangible asset of a sustainable organisation”.
Michael agreed that people are the most important asset of an organisation but in reality they are not heard. He warned that employee voice can get lost when an organisation has to cope with pressures, creating tension within organisations: “Tension is shown between shareholder pressure, commercial pressure and employees feeling forgotten and therefore disengaged. HR has to balance this tension – if HR doesn’t then who does?”
Both speakers placed great emphasis on the impact disengaged employees can have upon organisations, where Michael Sippitt explained the need for both an individual and a collective voice: “The collective voice at work is as valuable and influential as the individual voice. If you don`t look at collective engagement you are risking losing people.” He recommended that one of the most practical and effective things an organisation can do is run focus groups, arguing that well run focus groups are a good sign to employees that their employers are willing to engage. Peter Cheese agreed that “trust is fundamental to engagement.”
Looking forward, Michael sympathised with the audience that there’s as much pressure on HR as there’s ever been but is likely to only increase as organisations try to engage with distance workers and mobile workers. Peter cautioned that HR cannot manage today’s workforces as they have managed workforces previously: “Generation Y has different expectations. We can`t treat the workforce as a monolithic entity. Generation Y want their voice heard more than any other generation.”
A major recommendation for the future was that organisations focus on their managers to ensure engagement flows throughout the organisation. Michael advised that “one of the biggest problems for HR is identifying the disengaged managers who, because of their disengagement, cannot get their employees engaged.” This was fully supported by Peter, who explained that “middle management often feel the pinch from the top and the bottom and therefore feel the most insecure. Developing managers is critical. Engagement starts and ends with your line manager. We`ve not trained the line manager enough. They need to ensure their team has an employee voice.”