How Has The World Of Work Changed Commerce Essay


How has the world of work changed in the post-Fordism era? What implications does this have for the way people are managed? Williams (2007 p1) states 'there are many visions of the future of work,' varying from seeing the world as positive and moving progressively and others regard it as moving in the wrong direction. In particular there will be an emphasis on the dichotomy of Fordism and Post-Fordism focusing on the emergence of both dualisms and how they have shaped and will change the nature of the future of work.

The office as a workplace has reached a critical point in its evolution. The requirement of the conventional office would appear to be holding back the near applications of IT and organisational creativity, which aim to promote a much freer and more dynamic relationship between space and time for the office workplace. Henry Ford's mass production of the 1920s laid the foundations of the modern office as we know it, but 'post-Fordism' is challenging the rigid patterns then ordained, especially the traditional notions of work time and space. To this end not only must the office be redesigned but also the nature of work itself must be redefined.

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Fordism is the era in which the concept of mechanisation of work force was the key aspect of work culture. Because of mechanisation repetition of tasks and capability of that task to accommodate unskilled labour makes it more efficient in terms of cost and speed. This happened just because of one reason and that is the standardisation of the product. Labour processes of fordism were structured according to the organisational principles of Taylor and technological innovations of Ford.

Aspects of Taylorism -:

' Separation of mental and manual labour

' Fragmentation of task: increase in division of labour

' Deskilling of jobs

' Planning of work taken over by management ' simplification, standardisation and deskilling

' Utilising time and motion studies

These were the factors which are responsible for labour unions coming into the scenario. These unions got hold of the work culture to maximum level. Because of this the skilled labour or the white collared jobs were getting diminished. So, called white collared jobs were there in that era but to the extent of making strategies, rest of the practical work was been done by the unskilled labour. Issues like commitment to work and company has lost. Labourers were more committed to their respective unions.

Why the Crisis of Fordism happened '

' inflation;

' declining rates of profit;

' enhanced power of labour; and,

' 'decommodification' of many sectors of production and consumption in response to political pressure.

The shift from fordism to post fordism actually happened because the saturation of key markets brought a turn against mass consumption and higher living standards. This shift changed the way the market is viewed. Now consumers are viewed as they have the choices except the standard goods. So production of small batches of specialised goods came into being. In 1970's the economic downturn forced markets to change their work culture. During this era many communist nations had taken a shift to socialist or capitalist. Governments around the world responded with strategic policies to combat the slump, nothing worked, and instead, the unremitting period of inflation that settled over industrial countries began to eat away at their power structure, saw currencies plummet, and growing mass unemployment in a stagnant economy. The hey days of Fordism were over, and the break with the past accumulated into the emergence of a global culture, guided by the huge and now extremely powerful multi-national corporations. As Webster points out, "globalization meant that Fordism was increasingly hard to maintain [because] the nation state was undermined by the international flow of information around and across the globe . . . with information playing an integral part" (Webster 1995, 145). Conceivably, libraries are currently global information sites, with librarians funnelling through and disseminating information for their clients.

Business aspects which influence workplace Revolutions due to Post fordist ideology

Technology Accelerated Innovation

Products Variety of Products

Marketing Niche Marketing

Organisation Flat Hierarchy

Lateral Communication



Integration Autonomous Profit Centre

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Network Systems

Internal Market within firms


Collective Bargaining Localised bargaining

Core: periphery

Political Participation Social Movements : Regional Diversification

Welfare Consumer choice

The main needs which actually force the change of people management are to reduce costs, improve quality, be quicker in meeting market demands, and in innovation. In 1980's new forms of work organisation came into picture, which emphasise on multi skilling, team based work organisation and generally higher level of employee discretion in execution of work. A necessary feature of successful work organisation in these work system is trust in workers and for them to undertake their own quality inspection. These new work systems have been variously described as 'Japanisation' (Oliver and Wilkinson 1992), 'World class manufacturing' (Schoenburger 1982), 'flexible specialisation' (Piore and Sabel 1984), 'Total quality management' (Wilkinson and Willmott 1995) or, simply 'lean manufacturing' (Womack, Jones and Roos 1990). The human resource consequences of these new forms of work organisation have been termed as 'high performance work systems' (HPWCs) in North America (Appelbaum and Batt 1994) and 'High Commitment Management' (HCM) in the UK (Wood and Albanese 1995).

One of the most important parts of post-fordism was the 'flexible specialisation'. It is built around the ideas of organisational decentralisation and innovative production techniques managed on daily basis by multi-skilled and flexible workers themselves. Employees are usually organised in teams, often producing goods and services for smaller niche, or customised, markets. This is the flexible use of both technologies and people to produce product variety more customised for the end user. If Henry ford is famous for his marketing dictum that 'you can have any colour you like provided it is black', under mass customisation and the concomitant production system of flexible specialisation the adage is, 'you can have whatever colour, and any model, you want, when you want it'. This has huge implications for work organisation, the place of employees in the production of work process and, crucially, for human resource management.

Because of flexibility roles like part time working started to play a significant role. The UK is roughly on a par with countries such as Germany, Sweden and Belgium, and only really below the Netherlands where about three quarters of women and one quarters of men work part-time (Marchington, 2008). Part-time work is encouraged because it facilitates better work-life balance, as well as making it easier for workers to enter or retire from the labour market. It is interesting to note that the growth in part-time work may be due more to sectoral change, and the emergence of new firms in the service sector that are more likely to employ part-timers, than to the extension of part-time working at 'continuing' workplaces (Millward et al, 2000, p.44). Employers tend to regard part-timers as providing more flexibility- and even being harder working ' than full-timers, and it also helps them to retain skills that might otherwise be lost.

Human resource management in post fordist era depends on one aspect and that is 'commitment' as compare to fordism which is more towards the 'control' part of the labour force. Commitment includes many issues which have to act together to achieve maximum profitability in terms of knowledge and product. The issues which have to be addressed are as follows -:

Employee Motivation

To retain good staff and to encourage them to give of their best while at work requires attention to the financial and psychological and even physiological rewards offered by the organization as a continuous exercise. Basic financial rewards and conditions of service (e.g. working hours per week) are determined externally (by national bargaining or government minimum wage legislation) in many occupations but as much as 50 per cent of the gross pay of manual workers is often the result of local negotiations and details (e.g. which particular hours shall be worked) of conditions of service are often more important than the basics. Hence there is scope for financial and other motivations to be used at local levels. As staffing needs will vary with the productivity of the workforce (and the industrial peace achieved) so good personnel policies are desirable. The latter can depend upon other factors (like environment, welfare, employee benefits, etc.) but unless the wage packet is accepted as 'fair and just' there will be no motivation. Hence while the technicalities of payment and other systems may be the concern of others, the outcome of them is a matter of great concern to human resource management.

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Recruitment of staff should be preceded by:

An analysis of the job to be done (i.e. an analytical study of the tasks to be performed to determine their essential factors) written into a job description so that the selectors know what physical and mental characteristics applicants must possess, what qualities and attitudes are desirable and what characteristics are a decided disadvantage;

' In the case of replacement staff a critical questioning of the need to recruit at all (replacement should rarely be an automatic process).

' Effectively, selection is 'buying' an employee (the price being the wage or salary multiplied by probable years of service) hence bad buys can be very expensive. For that reason some firms (and some firms for particular jobs) use external expert consultants for recruitment and selection.

' Equally some small organizations exist to 'head hunt', i.e. to attract staff with high reputations from existing employers to the recruiting employer. However, the 'cost' of poor selection is such that, even for the mundane day-to-day jobs, those who recruit and select should be well trained to judge the suitability of applicants.

The main sources of recruitment are:

' Internal promotion and internal introductions (at times desirable for morale purposes)

' Careers officers (and careers masters at schools)

' University appointment boards

' Agencies for the unemployed

' Advertising (often via agents for specialist posts) or the use of other local media (e.g. commercial radio)

An organization needs constantly to take stock of its workforce and to assess its performance in existing jobs for three reasons:

' To improve organizational performance via improving the performance of individual contributors (should be an automatic process in the case of good managers, but (about annually) two key questions should be posed:

' What has been done to improve the performance of a person last year?

' And (what can be done to improve his or her performance in the year to come?).

To identify potential, i.e. to recognize existing talent and to use that to fill vacancies higher in the organization or to transfer individuals into jobs where better use can be made of their abilities or developing skills.

To provide an equitable method of linking payment to performance where there are no numerical criteria (often this salary performance review takes place about three months later and is kept quite separate from 1. and 2. but is based on the same assessment).

On-the-spot managers and supervisors, not HR staffs, carry out evaluations. The personnel role is usually that of:

' Advising top management of the principles and objectives of an evaluation system and designing it for particular organizations and environments.

' Developing systems appropriately in consultation with managers, supervisors and staff representatives. Securing the involvement and cooperation of appraisers and those to be appraised.

' Assistance in the setting of objective standards of evaluation / assessment, for example:

' Defining targets for achievement;

' Explaining how to quantify and agree objectives;

' Introducing self assessment;

' Eliminating complexity and duplication.

Publicizing the purposes of the exercise and explaining to staff how the system will be used.

Organizing and establishing the necessary training of managers and supervisors who will carry out the actual evaluations/ appraisals. Not only training in principles and procedures but also in the human relations skills necessary. (Lack of confidence in their own ability to handle situations of poor performance is the main weakness of assessors.)

Monitoring the scheme - ensuring it does not fall into disuse, following up on training/job exchange etc. recommendations, reminding managers of their responsibilities.

Full-scale periodic reviews should be a standard feature of schemes since resistance to evaluation / appraisal schemes is common and the temptation to water down or render schemes ineffectual is ever present (managers resent the time taken if nothing else).

Basically an evaluation / appraisal scheme is a formalization of what is done in a more casual manner anyway (e.g. if there is a vacancy, discussion about internal moves and internal attempts to put square pegs into 'squarer holes' are both the results of casual evaluation). Most managers approve merit payment and that too calls for evaluation. Made a standard routine task, it aids the development of talent, warns the inefficient or uncaring and can be an effective form of motivation.

Employee Services -:

Attention to the mental and physical well-being of employees is normal in many organizations as a means of keeping good staff and attracting others. The forms this welfare can take are many and varied, from loans to the needy to counseling in respect of personal problems.

Among the activities regarded as normal are:

' Schemes for occupational sick pay, extended sick leave and access to the firm's medical adviser;

' Schemes for bereavement or other special leave;

' The rehabilitation of injured/unfit/ disabled employees and temporary or permanent move to lighter work;

' The maintenance of disablement statistics and registers (there are complicated legal requirements in respect of quotas of disabled workers and a need for 'certificates' where quota are not fulfilled and recruitment must take place);

' Provision of financial and other support for sports, social, hobbies, activities of many kinds which are work related;

' Provision of canteens and other catering facilities;

' Possibly assistance with financial and other aid to employees in difficulty (supervision, maybe, of an employee managed benevolent fund or scheme);

' Provision of information handbooks,

' Running of pre-retirement courses and similar fringe activities;

' Care for the welfare aspects of health and safety legislation and provision of first-aid training.

The location of the health and safety function within the organization varies. Commonly a split of responsibilities exists under which 'production' or 'engineering' management cares for the provision of safe systems of work and safe places and machines etc., but HRM is responsible for administration, training and education in awareness and understanding of the law, and for the alerting of all levels to new requirements.

Example of BMW works culture -:

There are some unique policies which they follow for retention, work enjoyment (psychological relief). Basically it is much more labour welfare oriented. It's like saying that 'if employees are happy and satisfied, profitability will increase on its own'.

Usage of conveyor belt is still there but standing beside it is eliminated and people now stand on the belt itself with the product, this gives employees more control and feasibility to work.

Every employee should know at least three tasks, and they get trained for that. The positive implication of doing that is rotation of employees. This helps them not to get bored with the job. The element of curiosity is maintained by not telling them the task they will do the next day. It is been informed on the same day morning.

Integration of employees and technology, the main difference it's not technology driven as it was in fordism. Machine and people work hand in hand, and on the speed of humans. There are certain task which are been done with machines only that is the point in time where 'robots' came into picture and no human intervention is there in that particular task. So, work culture is still changing with new inventions. Some writers call it as 'Neo Fordism'.

These changes make the process more ideal in terms of knowledge management.