Business Essays - Employee Control

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Investigate and Analysis how to Improve the Working Lives of Staff of Company XXX, including Empowering them by Advocating for Employee Control.

Dissertation Proposal

The title of the proposed project is: - Investigate and analysis how to improve the working lives of staff of Company XXX, including empowering them by advocating for Employee Control. Produce the necessary proposal documents and a draft project plan to implement positive change.

Introduction to the Research

The project scope is outlined below - The purpose of the dissertation is to investigate ways to improve the working lives of people in order to create a ‘win-win’ situation that results in overall higher productivity due to an improved work/life balance. The study has been identified as important to all stakeholders in the company that will result in benefits at all levels.

The goal is to identify how, if possible, to enable staff members to lead a more balanced lifestyle while holding down a career, regardless of their personal circumstances. Currently the company is traditionally run, including the human resources management and its procedures that govern work practices and procedures.

Management identified the need for change, they work in a highly competitive market and it is vital to retain highly skilled staff that is scarce and difficult to replace; effectively putting a restraint on future company growth. The staff turnover levels appear to be increasing, a cause for concern to the company and the basis for initiating this study. Management has decided to bring in an external consultant researcher to conduct the study, to ensure it is unbiased and remains confidential.

Employee Control refers to ‘the latitude that staff has at work and their control over job related decisions and it affects their health, morale and ability to handle the workload. Richard Hackman and Greg Oldham reported, in 1976, that control (in terms of job-provided autonomy) enhanced motivation and growth’ ref Hackman, J. R. and G. R. Oldham (1976). Motivation through the design of work. Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes, Vol. 16(2), pp. 250-279. Employee control, must also include, discipline and responsibility to ensure staff take ownership for their team, workload, etc.

Insight Link Communications (UK) http://www.insightlink.com/how_to_keep_your_top_performers.html state ‘there are five primary reasons that make employees stay with employers’ long term:

  1. Challenging and interesting work
  2. Opportunities to learn new skills and grow in their jobs
  3. Good relationships with co-workers
  4. Fair pay
  5. A great boss.

The company views this research as the 1st step towards achieving reduced staff turnover and move towards higher staff retention and loyalty. They also consider a spin off benefit will be an improvement in customer relations and build stronger client ties due to the reduction in staff turnover and an improvement in the levels of responsibility and commitment to the company.

The study will be limited to staff within an Information Technology company – this will include staff at all levels, including the management team members.
The study will address the staff and company requirements and limitations, do analysis and scenario planning to lead to provision of a proposed plan for moving forward and empowering the staff within the boundaries of the company.

Research Design Methodology

Staff Evaluation

The research will start by using descriptive research to identify, categorize and understand the current working situation within the company. Ref http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descriptive_research - ‘Descriptive research, also known as statistical research, describes data and characteristics about the population or phenomenon being studied. Descriptive research answers the questions who, what, where, when and how.’

This will take the form of questionnaires followed by interviews with staff to obtain comments, more details and fully understand their specific situation/s. In addition, they will be provided with the opportunity to state their preferred suggestions for improving their working environment and that of the company as a whole.

The Management Library, ref http://www.managementhelp.org/evaluatn/fnl_eval.htm#anchor4293321196
Will be used at a guideline for structure and optimal format of the documentation and subsequent analysis. The following summary of the use of these techniques follows:

Method

Overall Purpose

Advantages

Challenges

Questionnaires, surveys

When need to quickly or easily get lots of information from people in a non threatening way

  • can complete anonymously
  • inexpensive to administer
  • easy to compare & analyze
  • can get lots of data
  • many sample questionnaires already exist
  • might not get careful feedback
  • wording can bias client's responses
  • are impersonal
  • doesn't get full story

Interviews

when want to fully understand someone's impressions or experiences, or learn more about their answers to questionnaires

  • get full range and depth of information
  • develops relationship with client
  • can be flexible with client
  • can take much time
  • can be hard to analyze and compare
  • can be costly
  • interviewer can bias client's responses

Further reading is provided and will be referenced from Reframing Evaluation through Appreciative Inquiry (Hallie S Preskill, Preskill & Russ-Eft, 2004) and  Evaluation Strategies for Communicating and Reporting,2nd (Rosalie T. Torres, Hallie S. Preskill, Mary E. Piontek. Additional reference material will be used, where appropriate, based on the input received.

As the staff is technologically advanced, input must be sought on their recommended solutions to allow more flexible working and/or employee control, such as telecommuting, wireless and mobile communications usage in order to do their job, etc.
 An additional source of staff feedback could also include the feedback received during exit interviews from prior staff members to identify their reasons for leaving. When doing the analysis and applying weightings, lower weights should be applied to data from prior staff in order to arrive at the best solutions and proposals for current staff; while remaining inclusive of the concerns raised by past employees.

Company/Management

Management will play a dual role, they will provide input and comments as stated above as staff members and provide input to a separate evaluation that identifies and investigates the current company status and it’s viability to move towards any proposed change.

Based on their organizational structure, client’s requirements, financial status, etc the company’s ability and willingness to embrace far reaching change and move towards empowering staff must be evaluated as this could prove a serious roadblock to the project.

It is essential that management buy in is clearly defined, documented and understood in order to evaluate the areas that can be accommodated and those that are non negotiable. This information must be made public as total transparency is vital to its success.

Employee control, as defined by the American Psychological Ass, http://www.psychologymatters.org/karasek.html, states ‘Employee control over work can reduce stress and enhance motivation and growth. Several key findings have prompted employers to search for ways to give workers a greater sense of control, to improve health, productivity and morale.’

Success Criteria

The success criteria for this project will be the provision of a structured proposal to company management outlining the way forward to empower staff and increase employee control within the parameters of the company requirements and limitations.
The proposal to include, but not be limited to, the following

  • Summary of staff feedback, prioritized and given results weightings in order to identify and make recommendations on matters that staff have stated would improve their work experience and enhance their level of employee control.  
  • Summary of company constraints and areas that can be addressed and improved including the ‘desire’ for change from management. It must be stated that is management are opposed to the move towards flexible working and employee empowerment, the project will fail. The study could reveal that the company should not embark on the project, if this is the case; the reasons to be stated and evaluated as to why barriers exist that are insurmountable to implementing the change.
  • Investigation and analysis of areas that have arisen that are possibly contentious. E.g. Staff feels that salaries are below standard for the job and turnover is above average. The company has identified a freeze on salaries due to financial constraints. A study should be done on the cost of current staff turnover rates, including indirect costs such as training, advertising, paying overtime when staff shortages occur, recruitment overheads and presenting the argument that a reduction in staff turnover would result in cost savings which could be used to the advantage of the company and the employees. Another approach would be to investigate additional revenue earners for the company; this would involve increasing productivity but also provide increased rewards across the board. Alternately, staff could already be remunerated at an above average rate for their position within that location and this need to be documented and presented as the factor that negates such a request.
  • A skeleton project plan to be used as a roadmap for implementing change and moving forward. The plan could identify 2 types of implementation for change, an incremental approach or a complete change, one time implementation - the results are likely to identify which would prove to be the most successful approach. The plan to include clear milestones and re-evaluation points. The change to increasing staff empowerment has the potential for difficulties and these must be identified and addressed at all phases of the implementation.
  • Identifying and making recommendations for a project team, which includes staff and management, to take ownership of the project. The results may also require that a focus group is formed to ‘test’ the proposed changes before implementation – if this is required, the report to include the required recommendations for the focus group participants
  • By using Microsoft Project, the researcher will provide the plans and include the recommended resources for further discussion.
  • Ensure complete confidentiality of data sources.

Conclusion

The research will identify, document and make recommendations to introduce more flexible working and increase employee control in a technologically based company.
Input will be provided by all employees via questionnaires and interviews. In addition the company itself will be analyzed, both externally, to see its status in the market and quantifying its market rating pertaining to personnel matters, and internally to identify it’s strengths and weaknesses. Management ability and willingness to embrace change will be pivotal to the success of this research project going forward. However, it must be clear that this paper is limited to collecting, documenting, evaluating and presenting the data and making recommendations to move towards enhancing employee empowerment or not. If the study proposes that the company overall has the potential to move forward with the recommendations, the actual implementation of the proposed plan would be the next phase.

Limitations/Concerns/Recommendations

  • Staff could be concerned about confidentiality and the researcher must ensure that a mechanism is in place to respect the employee’s privacy and produce documentation that ensures no individual can be identified in any way. This will ensure honesty and openness when communicating with the researcher and ensure unbiased feedback.  Summary documentation to be provided as part of the final project for management, initial input documents should be documented, coded in a random system, and then destroyed.
  • Management could feel threatened by proposed recommendations that provide more autonomy to staff members as they move away from a conservative organizational hierarchy. This can be perceived as undermining authority, and result in certain individuals, in a position of authority currently, hampering progress. Moving forward there could be a need for conflict management skills within the project team to resolve differing priorities and defuse emotive situations. It is recommended that handling the potential conflict initially is better than trying to plan and progress with reluctant team members.
  • It is recommended that a SWOT analysis is carried out on the company initially in order to understand the environment and identify where the organization stands, if the researcher is not familiar with this already. This will be a platform to evaluate if concerns raised are genuine. E.g. if the company already provide excellent subsidized facilities but a staff member feels they are below average the facts need to be available for discussion to ensure the matter is addressed, although the outcome is not what the individual anticipated or hoped for. Ref Marketing Teacher, http://www.marketingteacher.com/Lessons/lesson_swot.htm

‘Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) - SWOT analysis is a tool for auditing an organization and its environment. It is the first stage of planning and helps marketers to focus on key issues. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors. Opportunities and threats are external factors.’ The SWOT must pay particular attention to the financial strengths and weaknesses of the organisation. This would be a limiting factor to the future project as, initially, there will be funding required and a drop in productivity as resources are involved in the proposed project.

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