Faculty Member DeHart-Davis Helps Public Employees Be Heard

Faculty member Leisha DeHart-Davis recently penned an opinion piece in GOVERNING magazine on capturing employee voices in public institutions.

DeHart-Davis has been working with cities and counties to help them listen to their employees as part of the Local Government Workplaces Initiative. This initiative champions the idea that the most effective local governments routinely and systematically solicit employee input—on decisions that affect them, on organizational climate, and on workplace improvements.

"We surveyed 3,234 local-government employees over the past 18 months, and fully 50 percent of them told us that they sometimes do not speak up when they have ideas for improvement," writes DeHart-Davis. "The odds that these same employees were thinking about quitting were nearly four times that of vocal employees. So silence is a morale issue that affects workforce turnover."

DeHart-Davis proposes a framework for public administrators interested in mitigating employee silence. First, employers must decide that they want to collect employee input. Then, they must create a process for collecting such input. The Local Government Workplaces Initiative offers contractual services including employee surveys, focus groups, employee interviews, and data analysis.

Employers also need to acknowledge and address feedback and train supervisors to do the same. "Overcoming employee silence is a crucial challenge for public organizations,” says DeHart-Davis. “Doing so is a matter of understanding the harms of silence, recognizing the benefits of employee input, and having the will to improve your public-sector workplace."

DeHart-Davis and faculty colleague Kim Nelson have paired up with the Local Government Workplaces Initiative to offer a November 15, 2018 course on the topic: “Encouraging and Managing Employee Voice.” This workshop teaches local government professionals how to effectively listen to employees. Participants will learn about employee voice, how to identify different tools for eliciting and managing voice, and how to devise a plan for improving employee voice within their organization.

For more information on the course, click here.

Read the full text of DeHart-Davis's article: "Overcoming Public-Employee Silence."