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Breaking The Ice – Tips on How to Improve Employee Voice and Navigate the Iceberg of Ignorance

Breaking The Ice – Tips on How to Improve Employee Voice and Navigate the Iceberg of Ignorance

The Iceberg of Ignorance is a topic that has cropped up on our blog previously. It refers to a study conducted in the 1980’s that stated “only 4% of a company’s problems are known to top managers”. Now, we know what you’re thinking; workplaces have shifted massively since the 80’s, with positive movements towards people-focused places to work. 

And you’d be right, many organisations are making the necessary changes to improve their workplace. BUT. The reason that the Iceberg of Ignorance features on our blog for a second time, and we’re still talking about it today, is because… it is STILL relevant. 

Which is why we’re going to delve beneath the surface to explain what exactly the Iceberg of Ignorance is and how it still applies to today’s workplace, followed by some top tips on how to navigate it in order to improve your employee voice.

What exactly is the Iceberg of Ignorance?

To give a bit of background on the the Iceberg of Ignorance, it describes the phenomenon where only a small amount or issues within an organisation are known to managers, with the majority either hidden, or ignored. This can have negative effects on an organisation, such as limited growth, decreased employee engagement, motivation and productivity, and job satisfaction. 

Even just looking at more modern ways of working with more remote workforces than ever before, with workers at home this could bring even more issues around factors such as collaboration, colleague interaction and isolation – there could be even more issues lying below the water.

Overcoming these challenges is a must, and this lies with managers and decision makers within your organisation to take action, and actively seek out hidden issues. 

iceberg of ignorance

What is employee voice and how does it impact the Iceberg of Ignorance?

Employee voice encompasses the initiatives to encourage your employees to speak up, suggest ideas, and provide feedback about their working environment, or any work-related issues. In doing so, this can help identify hidden problems within an organisation, and even highlight things the organisation does really well. 

When your people feel empowered to express their opinions, and give insight into what impacts their day to day, it can help managers and leaders break through the iceberg of ignorance, and proactively address any challenges that arise. 

Top tips for thawing the Iceberg of Ignorance and improving Employee Voice

Improving your employee voice is one way to address the hidden challenges or issues managers may not be aware of. By considering ways your employees could feel empowered to use their voice to drive positive change, you’ll be on your way to gaining the insight needed to create a thriving place to work in no time. 

Here are some top tips for navigating the Iceberg of Ignorance and improving your employee voice: 

1. Encourage a culture of communication

To improve employee voice, it’s important to let your people know it’s okay to speak up, and that you encourage them to give feedback in order to make changes that improve the working environment. One way to do this is to communicate to your employees that any feedback is both welcomed and appreciated, and will be acted upon.

2. Actively seek out feedback

If you wait for feedback to come to you, you may never get it. Actively seeking out feedback by conducting surveys and holding regular one-to-one’s, are some of the ways you can gain insight into what your people are feeling. Here at Hive, we use our own identity-protected feedback tool ‘Open Door’, and throughout the week our employees receive two emails prompting them to use it, and that their feedback is welcomed.

3. Provide the right feedback channels

Wanting to gather feedback is great, but unless there are a variety of options available to your staff, you’re likely to miss out on a lot of it. Identity-protected feedback tools are a great way to get open, honest feedback, and give a voice to the quietest people in the room – not everyone feels comfortable suggesting things face to face, and that’s okay. Surveys are another great way to gather feedback on a certain area you’d like to gain insight on and are a great way to engage your employees, showing them you’re taking a proactive approach to change. 

From the CEO to frontline employees, every voice matters so ensuring you can collect feedback from those who may not have company email accounts by offering the ability to submit feedback and respond to surveys via SMS/smartphones is important. 

Traditional one-to-one’s are also a great way to encourage your people to get their thoughts and feelings off their chest. Asking the right questions, listening and showing an effort towards creating a solution can show your employees that it’s okay to make suggestions and feedback, and provides a channel for those who prefer opening up face to face. So overall, providing a mix or flexible ways for you people to feedback is the key to gaining the insight you need to drive positive change.

4. Lead by example

It’s important that your leaders have buy-in to your employee voice initiatives and that this is known across your organisation. Empowering your employees to speak up, and showing that you’re willing to listen to feedback, admit where changes or improvements could be made, and that you value employee feedback, will help in fostering a sense of belonging, and that your people are part of the organisation’s mission. In doing so they will be more forthcoming with telling you how they feel.

5. Respond to feedback

Collecting feedback is only the start. Your employees want to know that when they’re taking the time to offer feedback, that it’s been listened to and responded to. When employees see that their suggestions are valued, and necessary adjustments are made, they will feel like they are contributing to the organisation. In turn, this can improve motivation, productivity, engagement and work experience.

6. Act on feedback

Gathering feedback, and responding to it is great. But what are you doing to make changes? If you’re seeing common themes in your feedback that are having a negative affect on your people, could you look to add this to your HR strategy to improve it? Are there more conversations you could be having around that topic to find out what exactly employees need to improve that area. Including your employees in the change process is extremely important. Considering them in the solutions is what will not only make them more effective for your organisation, but it can help to foster a culture of engagement and empowerment where everyone can contribute to the success of the business.

And that concludes our quick fire tips! By implementing these tips, you can break through the Iceberg of Ignorance and create a workplace culture that values and encourages employees. 

If you’re a stat person and want to dive head first into the data around what the numbers showed in the 1980’s study, head to our previous blog around the Iceberg of Ignorance:

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