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Worker Voice in Action

Four Ways to Make Worker Voice Work for You

July 1, 2024

At A Glance

Worker voice is increasingly seen as a key component in solving business problems. Learn how employers are getting it right from building trust to improving outcomesand where there’s room for improvement. 

Carol Azeez Senior Manager
Sherrica Hill Director
Daniel Horgan Founder and CEO, CoLabL
Practices & Centers Topics

This year, polls show a “relationship reset” is in store for employers and their workers, and building trust will be key. Employees no longer trust their employers: according to a 2023 Gallup poll, a mere 23% of U.S. employees “strongly agree” that they trust their organizational leadership. PwC reports that business executives recognize that this is a problem, citing productivity, quality of products and services, and operational efficiency as the areas most at risk when trust is low. And the benefits of trust are clear: Gallup says that employees who trust their leaders are four times more likely to be engaged and 58% less likely to be seeking a new job. Additionally, the Harvard Business Review reports that people who work at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, and 50% higher productivity than those at low-trust companies.  

Unfortunately, there is a growing trust gap. PwC data shows that executives consistently overestimate the trust that important stakeholders such as their consumers and employees have in their company. Meanwhile the trust these stakeholders have in the company is eroding year after year 

Jobs for the Future (JFF) believes that worker voice is a critical strategy in rebuilding trust and unlocking a host of additional benefits that would positively impact workers, customers, and the bottom line. We have convincing evidence that listening to employees and acting on their feedback and input can have positive outcomes. PayPal reduced turnover in customer service centers from 19% to 7% by making changes to benefits that were identified through employee feedback and input. And JetBlue reduced the cost of weather-related operational disruptions from a staggering $41 million from one storm in 2007 to $170,000 for a similar storm in 2010. This was achieved through an overhaul of the airline’s weather emergency procedures defined through a cross-functional team, including many frontline employees, such as customer service representatives and maintenance engineers.  

Despite these real-world examples, employers can be hesitant to jump in, not knowing how to translate others’ successes into actionable insights for their organization. They need to know:  

  • What strategies are effective for both employees and employers in implementing worker voice practices?  
  • What barriers are employers encountering, and how are they overcoming them?  

To answer these questions, JFF has turned to the most critical stakeholders in this conversation: workers and employers. Since 2021, JFF has been building and launching worker and employer forums aimed at elevating bright spots and developing actionable guidance for employers. In 2024, JFF launched our second Worker Forum with more than 30 frontline entry-level workers and an Employer Forum with 14 employers that collectively employ over 4 million workers in the retail, food services and hospitality, manufacturing, finance, investment, and health care industries. The forums focused on elevating promising worker voice practices and developing new ideas that are good for both employees and employers. From these forums, we have identified three wins and four opportunities for worker voice. 

An employee/employer relationship reset is needed more than ever, and JFF believes that worker voice is a critical strategy element in rebuilding trust and unlocking a host of additional benefits that positively impact workers, customers, and the bottom line.

Three Wins for the Employee/Employer Relationship

These wins demonstrate that employers are already investing in elevating frontline voices and building trust. Forward-thinking employers are seeking opportunities to connect and build mutual understanding with employees, and they are operationalizing worker voice in ways that make sense for employees and businesses. If you are a forward-thinking employer, you may already have implemented the wins below, but if you haven’t, it’s time to catch up and take the first steps toward meaningfully engaging your employees.  

Employers are listening to their employees and using a variety of tools to do so. A mix of surveys, third-party tools, and custom-designed tools are being used to collect and analyze data.  

Employers are deepening their understanding of frontline employees. Engaging employees in deep listening sessions such as focus groups, one-on-one conversations, and town halls has provided more insights into the frontline experience. 

Employers are equipping and empowering people leaders to champion worker voice. Training people leaders on skills such as active listening and giving and receiving feedback facilitates more productive and safe conversations with employees.  

Naturally, though, employers still face challenges in advancing worker voice and building trust with their employees. Below, we detail those challenges and suggest how to overcome them.  

Four Opportunities to Advance Worker Voice

JFF’s worker and employer forums identified three persistent barriers to advancing worker voice: survey fatigue, lack of transparency and action, and employees’ need for psychological safety. The forums also brought to light four opportunities to address them:

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Combat survey fatigue by diversifying, incentivizing, and championing participation in worker voice practices.

  • Diversify channels for worker voice beyond surveys by including listening sessions, working groups, suggestion boxes, and peer support networks.  
  • Reward and recognize employee participation in worker voice practices by both frontline workers to people leaders.  
  • Empower people leaders to establish and sustain a culture of feedback, so that worker voice practices seem genuine and productive rather than merely a check-the-box exercise. 

Create and maintain psychological safety by developing employee competencies and skills and safeguarding employees who participate in worker voice practices.

  • Invest in training for people leaders and frontline employees focused on active listening, giving and getting feedback, inclusive leadership, and self-advocacy.  
  • Ensure opportunities for employees to anonymously share feedback and put appropriate safeguards in place to protect employees who do share feedback. 

Follow through and act on employee feedback by refining processes and engaging employees in developing solutions.

  • Reduce long gaps between surveys and results by investing time and resources in analyzing responses, identifying solutions, and sharing findings. Consider investing in technology such as AI to help with this.  
  • Use human-centered design practices such as brainstorming, iterative design, co-creation workshops, and design sprints in creating action plans with frontline and entry-level employees.  

Improve transparency of worker voice practices by openly sharing data and improving feedback loops.

  • Invest in and refine data analysis and reporting so that people leaders are equipped with key insights to inform action planning. 
  • Establish mechanisms for employees to track the progress of their feedback and see if and how it contributes to decision-making, and recognize those who give feedback. 

Employers must recognize that the journey toward resetting the employee/employer relationship is a collaborative one. By committing to worker voice, organizations can foster an environment where employees feel heard, valued, and integral to a business. This commitment is not just about listening, but also about creating actionable plans and transparent processes that turn feedback and innovative ideas into meaningful change. Join us in this movement to transform the way that employers meaningfully engage their employees. Together, we can build workplaces where trust flourishes and both business and employees thrive. 

To learn more about how you can engage with Worker Voice practices, subscribe to JFF’s newsletter and visit

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Jobs for the Future (JFF) is a national nonprofit that drives transformation of the U.S. education and workforce systems to achieve equitable economic advancement for all.