The employee voice in the boardroom
Governance reform is high on the agenda, as is the voice of the stakeholder and, principally, the workforce.
With this in mind, Tuesday’s EY Corporate Governance summer drinks reception was well timed (unless you are a football fan).
The panel discussion centred on workforce engagement, specifically how boards can approach this and ensure they take on employee views in a manner that works well for the company.
The make-up of the panel was an example of how to gather views of the workforce. There are three routes a company can adopt:
– A director appointed from the workforce (in this instance, sitting on the panel was Alex Balacki, a store manager from Sports Direct who was elected as an employee representative).
– A formal workforce advisory panel (on the panel was Julian Baddeley, Deputy Company Secretary for Aviva, which has an ‘Evolution Council’).
– A designated non-executive director (on the panel was Irene Dorner, a non-executive director at Rolls-Royce and employee champion).
Whichever method is selected, it means bringing the employee voice into the boardroom. It allows for matters to be heard, and for another perspective to be added to board discussions. The three panellists offered some different insights. For Rolls-Royce, it has led to increased engagement for other board members by going on site visits, and as such they are being invited by employee groups to visit them. For Aviva, which has a customer-centric model, it means that employees are being heard and influencing strategic decisions. Arguably, the most interesting way to adopt workforce engagement is by bringing an employee into board meetings like Sports Direct, providing a direct link to employees for key messages.
Acting on employee feedback
Whilst workforce engagement is opening the board agenda to employees, highlighting what the board does and changing the way each of these three companies communicates to its employees, there should also be a means for employees to raise concerns in confidence and (if they wish) anonymously. The board should review this and ensure that arrangements are in place for anything requiring further investigation or follow-up action. One thing that each panellist, and each method, experiences is that follow-up is key, since a challenge that could be faced is “Why didn’t you do something about that when I told you?” Knowing when to pass the information on is vital.
The Luminous view
It was a very positive discussion; with the three being early adopters of this board mechanic and as predominantly B2C organisations, for me it felt as if they were likely to be extremely positive and approach it slightly differently than a B2B might.
Certainly, as an account director, it brought reporting to life a little bit more. Knowing what clients are including in their reports and being able to have conversations with them on the content helps move reporting along efficiently both for them and in the studio.
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