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Voice and voiceless: which of your stakeholders do you hear?

By Dr Jim Ormond and Jane Fiona Cumming

· planetary boundaries,social thresholds,Research

What is voice? Is it another word we all use, but with different meanings? Is it something which we understand on a personal level but would not know how to measure on a wider level? And when we speak about hearing employees’ voices and empowering the voice-less - what, and who, do we mean...

  • Is it the 45.8 million people enslaved worldwide?
  • Is it female workers, who on average only earn now, what men did a decade ago?
  • Is it the 4 million people in the UK who speak English as a foreign language?
  • Is it the 4.5 million young people without jobs in Europe?
  • Is it the 33 million smallholder farms in Africa which supply European and north American supermarkets?
  • What do you think?

Research: How companies measure and report ‘employee voice’

Our latest research explored how 220 of the world’s largest companies are setting targets against planetary boundaries and social thresholds. One of these thresholds is ‘voice’, which in many ways lies at the heart of the 9 boundaries and 11 thresholds. In considering ‘voice', the research particularly focused on employee voice. Informed by insight from our practitioner interviews, this was felt to be a key area which companies could impact. Further, with new requirements for companies to report against topics such as slavery (e.g. UK Government Modern Slavery Act) and with increasing attention on topics such as employee diversity (e.g. Gender Parity Gap), corporations around the world are facing the challenge of hearing the ‘voice’ of employees in their supply chains.

Based on publicly available information, we found limited evidence for how companies have developed KPIs / measurement systems or targets for employee voice. Where targets were identified, they typically focussed on compliance with human rights and considered quantitative assessments of employee engagement. For instance, identified targets/metrics included:

  • % completion for the annual employee survey
  • How long grievance / complaints resolution take to resolve
  • Number of employees for whom whistle-blowing mechanisms are available
  • Training on human rights and ‘speak-up’ initiatives
  • Supplier codes of conduct which include human rights / employee grievance mechanisms

As we look ahead to 2017, the challenge is to develop new tools to engage and empower employees. This challenge is further complicated by the increasingly online and digital world. On one hand, supply chains are becoming ever more remote, yet the rise in mobile communication tools provides innovative new ways for collecting feedback and building global dialogue. What is clear from the research is the increasing importance for organisations to listen and understand the voices of their stakeholders. Not just the 'loud' voices, but also the voices of those traditionally under-represented.

Our research explored how an array of global companies approach the concept of planetary boundaries and social thresholds. For more information, and to download - click here

If you would like to know how Article 13 can support you integrate people and planet into your business strategy, get in touch.

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