Employee Involvement

What specifically do we mean by employee involvement? In this article we define it as participative process that uses the input of employees to increase their commitment to the organization’s success. The underlying logic is that by involving workers in the decisions that effect them and by increasing their autonomy and control over their lives, employees will become more motivated, more committed to the organization, more productive and more satisfied with their jobs.

Employee involvement programs differ among countries. For instance, a study comparing the acceptance of employee involvement programs in four countries, including the United States and India, confirmed the importance of modifying practices to reflect national culture. Specifically, while American employees readily accepted these programs, managers in India who tried to empower their employees through employee involvement programs were rated low by those employees. In these Indian cases, employee satisfaction also decreased. These reactions are consistent with India’s power distance culture which accepts and expects differences in authority.

Examples of Employee involvement Program: Now let’s look at the three major forms of employee involvement – participative management, representative participative, and quality circles in more detail.

Participative Management: The distinct characteristics common to all participative management programs is the use of joint decision making. That is, subordinates actually share a significant degree of decision making power with their immediate superiors. Participative management has, at times, been promoted as a panacea for poor morale and low productivity. But for it to work, the issues in which employees get involved must be relevant to their interests so they’ll be motivated, employees must have the competence and knowledge to make a useful contribution, and there must be trust and confidence between all parties involved.

Dozens of studies have been conducted are mixed. When the research is reviewed carefully, it appears that participation typically has only a modest influence on variable such as employee productivity, motivation, and job satisfaction. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the use of participative management can’t be beneficial under the right conditions. What it says, however, is that the use of participation is not a sure means for improving employee performance.

Representative Participation: Almost every country in Western Europe has some type of legislation requiring companies to practice representative participation. That is, rather participating directly in decisions workers are represented by a small group of employees who actually participate. Representative participation has been called ‘the most widely legislated form of employee involvement and the world. The goal of representative is to redistribute power within an organization, putting labor on a more equal footing with the interests of management and stockholders.

The two common forms which representative participation takes are works councils and board representatives. Work council groups of nominated or elected employees who must be consulted when management makes decision involving personnel. Board representatives are employees who sit on a company’s board of directors and represent the interests of the firm’s employees.

The overall influence of representative participation on working employees seems to be minimal. For instance, the evidence suggests that works councils are dominated by management and have little impact on employees or the organization. And although this form of employee involvement might increase the motivation and satisfaction of the individuals who are doing the representing, there is little evidence that this trickles down to the operating employees whom they represent. Overall, the greatest value of representative participation is symbolic. If one is interested in changing employee attitudes or in improving organizational performance, representative participation would be a poor choice.

Quality circles became popular in North America and Europe during the 1980s. Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, General Electric, Xerox, Procter & Gamble, IBM, Motorola, and American Airlines used quality circles. Quality circles are defined as work groups of 8 to 10 employees and supervisors who have a shared area of responsibility and who meet regularly – typically once a week, on company time and on company premises to discuss their quality problems, investigate causes of the problems recommend solutions, and take corrective actions.

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