Employees with access to computers can do the survey online; in the office or after hours in the privacy of their homes.
Productivity in the workplace is one of the key drivers for economic growth  and Africa is lagging far behind the rest of the world.  According to the Africa Competitive Report 2017 compiled by the World  Economic Forum and the World Bank, productivity has grown far less in Africa  than it has in more advanced economies.

“Productivity is a function of human and physical capital accumulation, the  investment climate, and the level of efficiency in which an economy utilises its
inputs. Africa’s combined level of human and physical capital accumulation is  lower than all other regions of the world.

“It thus classically follows that countries that wish to have more productive  economies need to first invest in human and physical capital, and to employ
both types of capital efficiently,” the report says.

It is against this backdrop that Dr Elsa Thirion-Venter and Erna Jörgensen,  directors and co-owners of Hidden Voice, cite a recent analysis in The  Harvard Business Review of various studies that showed an average of 31  percent more productivity and 37 percent higher sales when employees are  happy and statisfied.

“When employees are happy, the entire business is happy and flourishes,”  Thirion-Venter says. She explains it was with this in mind that Hidden Voice
developed a reseach tool that closely monitors how employees feel and what  they think. “It comprises easy-to-use mobile and online tracking technology
that continously keeps the finger on the pulse of how employees feel.”

According to Jörgensen, employers invest substantial amounts in recruiting,  training and employing employees. “It should not end there. Employers have a
responsibility towards their employees to monitor their satisfaction and  contentment. If they don’t the employee turnover and absenteeism in the  workplace will increase, resulting in low productivity, a lower return on their  human capital investment and loss of income.”


Hidden Voice is a subsidiary of MarkData which used to be the survey  research centre of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). It was  phased out as an HSRC function in April 1996 and became MarkData – an  entirely independent strategic and commercial research house with Thirion- Venter and two other partners at the helm.

Dr Elsa Thirion-Venter
As a registered research psychologist at the Health Professions Council of SA  (HPCSA) and an honorary member of the Southern African Market Research
Association (SAMRA), Thirion-Venter  has many years of research experience in various  fields. She is also a lecturer in the Research Psychology Master’s programme  at the University of Pretoria.

Erna Jörgensen
Jörgensen, who used to work with Thirion-Venter at the HSRC until the mid- 1990s and later started her own market research company in Namibia, moved
back to South-Africa in 2014 and became co-owner of MarkData. She brought  with her an equally vast experience that includes working with clients like
Johns Hopkins University and USAID.

Jan Wegelin
When MarkData’s all-women team started Hidden Voice in 2016, they brought  Jan Wegelin on board as co-director. He is experienced in both qualitative
and quantitative methodologies and has done commercial and social research  ranging across health, education, political, consumer and energy sectors in
Africa as well as Europe.


The set of tools Hidden Voice offers for employee satisfaction and climate  studies are device-neutral. This means that it can be used on smart, feature
or so called dumb phones, allowing all to participate. The mobile features  comprise easy-to-use *120* technology known as USSD (Unstructured
Supplementary Service Data).

“Every employee’s voice can be heard freely, anonymously and without  impediments. Office-based employees can complete the surveys online  whereas blue collar workers can use their phones,” Thirion-Venter explains.

“Depending on the structure and environment of your business, we will make  a recommendation on whether mobile or online tracking surveys will work
best. It is also important to note that employees can do the survey after hours  in the privacy of their homes.”

Thirion-Venter says research in industrial psychology shows skilled and well- qualified workers often feel less disempowered and voiceless than unskilled
and shift workers. “The technology we offer can level the playing field within  organisations.”

Hidden Voice is a subsidiary of MarkData with its head office in Monument Park, Pretoria.
Hidden Voice can be used for the following:
  • Heartbeat survey: Short, regular surveys measuring an organisation’s heartbeat;
  • Change management: Measuring the potential impact of a change to the company structure before implementation;
  • Beginner survey: Questions to assess how new employees are settling in;
  • Relational survey: What are the connection points (or not) between top management, middle management and lower level employees;
  • Training assessments: Following a training session, what has been the impact and efficacy of the training programme on performance;
  • Departmental survey: What are the missing links between departments that should be working together, how can these relationships be strengthened or developed and what should be done to make it easier to connect;
  • Leadership survey: Aimed at middle management to measure how equipped or capable they are to efficiently link employees with senior management;
  • Assimilation survey: After launching a new product, solution or programme; what is the reaction of the business, will it be supported, should additional training be provided and is there motivation to assimilate it into the business
  • Opinion survey: To better understand the thoughts and feelings of employees about the business;
  • Annual engagement survey: The traditional annual employee survey;
  • Exit survey: When a staff member leaves, conduct a short independent survey to assess areas of improvement and better understand the drivers of leaving the business.
The survey technology can be used on smart, feature or so called dumb phones, allowing all employees to participate.
Employees have a platform to regularly engage with the business, voice their  concerns and be part of the development and growth of the business.  In contrast to a full employee survey, shorter mobile and online tracking  surveys are generally more cost-effective and time-efficient.

Wegelin says by using benchmark data, mobile and online tracking surveys  can provide early warning signs when it comes to pending problems, thus
enabling organisations to take action sooner rather than later.

Hidden Voice offers a kaleidoscope of different integrated interventions and  not merely a “fix-it” strategy, he explains.

According to Jörgensen the surveys are hosted on secured external servers  to ensure maximum anonymity. “Because it is anonymous and the answers
cannot be traced to individual employees, they complete the surveys openly  and freely without fear of victimisation.

“This is a cost-effective tool to monitor the well-being of the employees and  boosting the bottomline,” she concludes.


Congratulations to Dr Petrus de Kock (Brand SA), Jan Wegelin (African Response) and Dr Elsa Thirion-Venter (MarkData) for winning the Kantar TNS Innovation award as well as the Best Overall Paper award at the SAMRA Annual Conference 2018 that took place in Durban on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. The paper was titled: “A social segmentation model of the diverse and complex South African society with broader implications for the research industry”.