INTRODUCTION TO EMPLOYEE EMPOWERMENT AND PARTICIPATIVE WORK REDESIGN PROGRAMS
Employee empowerment and participative work redesign programs have been a part of the recurring discussions by authors in the recent years. The two phrases have been called as "twin" and have been deployed as worthy innovations and as necessary features to enhance movements including Total Quality Management and Business process re-engineering (Beirne themes M., 2006).
Empowerment is considered to be an important ingredient in high performance organisations today. The meaning and definition of the word "EMPOWERMENT" can be interpreted in various ways by different people. As cited in Michelle.K et al (2000), Parker and Price (1994) define empowerment in an organizational context as "the belief that one has control over decision making", Conger and Kanungo (1988) define empowerment as "increased feelings of self-efficacy", Thomas and Velthouse (1990) and Spreitzer (1995) expand the definition to include the "meaning of the work, self-efficacy or competence, self determination or choice about actions, and impact on work outcomes", Kieffer (1984) define empowerment as "long-term adult learning and development with the goal of increasing participatory competence, i.e. the ability to play an active role in shaping one's environment". Thus including all the above definitions, empowerment can be defined as "A developmental process that promotes an active approach to problem solving, increased political understanding, and an increased ability to exercise control". For the British government and European Union members, the main consideration was given to a humanist element that included fairness and consensus, which focused on economic empowerment; absorbing the building up of economy, community and citizens. (Commission of the European Union, 1998 and Department of Trade and Industry, 1999), (cited in Beirne, M. 2006 p2).
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To cope up with the ever increasing pressure of globalisation and demand for higher efficiency, a lot many organizations have decided to apply the strategy of restructuring. As cited in Isaiah O.et al, from past many decades most of the work on job design and redesign has been based on the studies of Hackman and Oldham (1976, 1980). "As per them the motivational potential in a job is dependent on a number of tasks dimensions such as task variety, autonomy, identity, significance feedback and skills variety. It is generally assumed that a job that has higher value of above mentioned attributes has a higher motivating potential than a job that is not".
In the present era Employee Empowerment and Participative Work Redesign Programs are becoming very popular as they not only ensure job satisfaction and job security at the workplace, but also foster power in people to carry any type of task and cope up with any kind of challenge with confidence
IMPORTANCE OF EMPLOYEE EMPOWERMENT AND PARTICIPATIVE WORK REDESIGN PROGRAMS
Employee empowerment and Participative work redesign programs forms the basis for every organisation today ,as it allows and help the organisation to achieve its objectives and help in transfusing reflective learning in the employees and gear them up to contribute their best towards the progress of the organisation.
In the past century, workers were disempowered under Taylorism and Fordism as they followed the approach of disconnecting the 'doing' and 'thinking' aspects of work. Both Taylor and Ford utilised their ideas in the restructuring of American steel plant and ultimately led to increased productivity and output and also had been able to distribute goods to a large population. Though there were some good aspects associated with Fordism and Taylorism but dehumanising impact on employees was the main source and area of concern. Workers were being affected by the monotony of work, health issues due to cumbersome tasks and by the lack of job satisfaction. Ford himself discovered the power of empowerment along with various other organisations, as employees were dissatisfied with their jobs and were forced to go in search of other alternatives. This lead to the softening of the regime and various incentives and bonuses were offered to retain employees and in Ford's case salary hikes and socialisation programmes to induce a sense of commitment towards his company were conducted for the immigrant workers (Beirne, 2006).
Many organisations today still follow the authoritarian management styles as were followed decades ago by Taylor and Ford. This part of essay is in reference to my personal experience of working in an Information Technology firm. I joined the firm some three years back with a lot of expectation in mind in regards to job satisfaction, opportunity to learn and enhance my skills. With the passage of time I started to realise that the people within my department were afraid of our Group project manager and as soon as he was seen around people would pretend to be working on some important task which in actual was not the case. The atmosphere there was always full of fear and tension. Also during the times of recession a couple of years back employees were forced to take over tasks forcefully, they were transferred to the location away from their homes and were forced to abide by policies that were of no use within the company. Due to fear of losing their jobs employees became puppets of the higher management and had to agree on everything they were asked to do. All these factors finally resulted in high iteration rate within the company as employee were dissatisfied with the quality of work and always feared job insecurity .Thus the employer eventually had to roll back all the unnecessary policies, had to pay high incentives to the employees and considered promoting their employees to retain them within the organisation. Many organisational changes were done to foster in employees satisfaction from their jobs.
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A lot many organisations have benefitted themselves by empowering its employees and launching various motivational programmes. One of the live examples of the same is the BMW Mini plant in Oxford. The company claims to have saved about 10.5 million pounds in two years. The employees within the firm were asked to generate ideas for improvement and a target for the same was given to all its employees. If the target was achieved successfully then the employees were rewarded with the various bonuses. Empowering employees to generate ideas for company's improvement indirectly encourages the employees to work at its best for the success of the organisation.
Second example of employee empowerment is the company named "Toshiba" that started an innovation programme in year 2001 to increase its performance and in return saved nearly £3 billion worldwide and over £10 million in the UK. There were a couple of challenges faced by the management initially as it was difficult to motivate employees to generate ideas. Also a number of innovative projects in the company had been a result of bringing together employees from across the departments in the organisation.
Recalling the case study shown in class, on Wedge wood organisation, the company suffered major losses due to ineffective management, employees had no say in the organisation and also the employees were not satisfied with their jobs. The employer in order to bring change within the company decided to spend millions of pounds on buying robot machines that were not efficient and had teething problems , neglecting his employees. The company should have gone with the criteria of empowering its employee, and through participative work redesign programmes it could have saved the company from wasting millions of pounds on the useless robot machines and also would have fostered in its employee satisfaction towards their job.
MAIN CHALLENGES OF MANAGING INNOVATION AT WORK
Innovation forms the basis for any organization who wants to survive in today's restless environment. Organisations today should always strive to renew the process they offer and deliver to their stakeholders. Benefits of innovation include targeting the best customers, holding large market share, increased shareholder return and high employee satisfaction and morale.
The word innovation originated from Latin word 'innovare' which means "to make something new". The most comprehensive definition was given by U.K. department of trade and industry who see it as 'the successful exploitation of new ideas".
An employer may face a lot many challenges while managing innovation at work. The main challenges that can be faced by an employer are as below:
What is the need to change? : Organizations always face a big question of why do we need to innovate. The reason for the same is just to stay within the market for a long term and it may involve configuration of the products, processes or markets all over again. In each case it involves learning and unlearning and it requires strategic direction to focus this process. Also the organizations have to focus on the core area of process, where change is needed.
What is it that needs to be changed: Every firm needs to realize the areas that require changes? Even after the firms have recognized the need for continuous innovation they may face a number of challenges in setting up a required innovation agenda. After an innovation agenda is selected still there are a lot many challenges faced in order to ensure continuous improvement in order to succeed.
Continuous Learning: Continuous learning is necessary for every single organization as it helps them in their development and for this a 'good practice' model is very much required. In the good practice, it is easier to know how an organization can create a series of new products and services. A few features that belongs to a good practice model includes team working, learning and improving continuously, requirement of project management structures and a need of well built structure for continuous flow of processes. Irrespective of the various issues that we find while innovating processes it will always be a subject of change over period of time.
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Communication: Communication holds a major challenge when the innovation within the organization is to be considered. An employer has to make sure that there occurs exhaustive knowledge exchange between all the divisions and departments associated with bringing in the change in order to successfully accomplish the tasks. In case the flow of information between the various units and departments, on the needs to change, is not clear it may prove hazardous to the organization. Thus innovation requires proper channel of communication so as to get feedback and approval of all the employees before going ahead and making a change.
One fine example that defines the real meaning and importance of term innovation was Danish Company named LEGO which is most famous brands in the world when it comes to making children's toys. Initially company only focused on creating simple wooden toys but the main turning point for the company was in 1940 when it started making plastic toys that had parts that could be set apart and re-assembled. The design was not initially successful but soon with the help of Godtfred Kirk Christiansen and his discussions with the USA buyers an idea of an architectural innovation popped up which demanded a product platform on which many different designs could have been build. The design took some time to be accepted but by 1958 it became a reality. A series of product, process and market innovations of adding wheels, figures, targeting new market segments helped the company to evolve in the market. By 1968 LEGO toy system opened its theme park as well and it started to attract over 600,000 visitors in its first year itself. The company grew exceptionally well only by bringing on the basic changes to its design. Thus innovation within an organization can help an organization to reach acme of heights. The main challenge that can be faced by any organization while making any innovative change is to determine the after affects of the change and would then help the organization flourish as is expected from such a change.
Another case that determines the importance of innovation at work is to be detailed now. Henry Ford started producing cars somewhere back in 1903 and faced success only when the
Model T was launched. The main contribution which he made was to change the approach of manufacturing and marketing of cars i.e. the new changes that could have been brought to the already existing cars in the market. Henry, involved rethinking the design of the car and his aim here was to develop the Model T in such a way that it could be purchased by a large section market. He designed and standardised the whole car along with the constituent elements. He even aimed at targeting a large market in competition to the already existing brands in the market from other companies. Ford and his team of engineers even rethought the overall production operations and it was based on a number of innovations which reduced the need for skilled labour, mechanised much of the assembly process, integrated preparation and manufacturing operations for both components and finished product and systematised the entire process. By following all the changes they were able to generate high volumes of cars thereby increasing productivity and generating high revenues to the company.
Considering the case study on nursing empowerment as discussed in class, the main aim of this the case study was to improve the health care of the patients. For this reason the concept of primary nursing was brought into consideration which aimed at allocating nurses to the fixed number of patients so that they can give utmost attention to the health of patients they have been allocated to. Primary nurses were supported by a team to cope up with the work consisting of assistant nurses and ward coordinators. The project faced a number of challenges where in the ward coordinators did not pass on the value information to the nurses taking care of the patients ultimately not allowing them to have full control of their duties. Also the supervisors moved the patients and nurses from one ward to another that disrupted the functioning of the project. Nurses lost their patients due to such a scenario and also lost all the power to talk their heart out in case of any problem. Consultants also faced a lot of issues dealing with the scenarios as they had to go about making rounds of the wards dealing with different nurses and their patients. The above project could have successfully worked had there been a couple of changes been made to functioning of the system. Managing a system require a great deal of efforts and innovating changes take a lot of effort as with changes may arise a lot of factors such as job dissatisfaction, politics within the company, frustrations , unwillingness to work and monotony at work place.