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Generative AI and Worker Productivity

Generative AI and Worker Voice

Wilmers Named Visiting Scholar at Russell Sage Foundation

IWER

Human Resources

The Link Between Worker Voice on the Job and Job Quality

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Many consider having some form of voice on the job—and through it, some capacity to achieve improvements in the workplace—to be an important aspect of job quality. For example, a working definition of good jobs developed in 2022 as part of an initiative by the Families and Workers Fund and the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program includes voice in the workplace as one component of a good job.

But how should such worker voice be measured? That’s one question addressed in a recent research report coauthored by a number of scholars at the MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research (IWER) at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. The report, “Bridging the Gap: Measuring the Impact of Worker Voice on Job-Related Outcomes,”  was coauthored by Yaminette Díaz-Linhart, Arrow Minster, Dongwoo Park, Duanyi Yang, and Thomas Kochan. Díaz-Linhart is a postdoctoral associate at MIT IWER, where Minster is a doctoral candidate and Kochan is the George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management Emeritus. Park is a doctoral candidate at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, where Yang is an Assistant Professor of Global Labor and Work. Support for the research was provided by the Families and Workers Fund as well as by the Cornell ILR Workplace Inclusion and Diversity Education (WIDE) grant program.

Through survey research involving nationally representative samples of U.S. workers, the authors tested the effect of a concept called the "voice gap” on workers’ job attitudes and well-being. The “voice gap” concept, which is drawn from previous research by Thomas Kochan, Duanyi Yang, William Kimball, and MIT Sloan Professor Erin L. Kelly, measures the difference between how much say workers have on a workplace issue and how much they think they ought to have.

In their survey research, Díaz-Linhart, Minster, Park, Yang, and Kochan looked both at voice on issues that benefit workers directly (such as pay and benefits) and on topics that are more related to the interests of the organization they work for (such as input related to the quality of an employer’s products and services). Even after controlling for other elements of job quality, having a voice gap was statistically associated with lower job satisfaction and well-being as well as higher levels of burnout and a greater level of interest in looking for a new job. Moreover, a voice gap on issues directly related to workers’ interests had a stronger and more statistically significant effect than a voice gap on organizational issues. Based on these findings, Díaz-Linhart, Minster, Park, Yang, and Kochan write that “our results demonstrate that the voice gap measure is a consistent, reliable, and valid tool for evaluating the quality of employment.”

“As a result of our findings we strongly recommend integrating measures of voice gap which account for both worker and employer interests in future job quality surveys to ensure a comprehensive evaluation of job quality,” the authors conclude.