TIGHTENING THE LINK BETWEEN WELLBING AT WORK AND PERFORMANCE

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Abstract :

The purpose of this academic essay is to review the research work under the title 'Tightening the link between employee wellbeing at work and performance' by the learned scholar Nicole Renee Baptiste with the aim to take the academic discussion further. The research work is well presented and rich in terms of knowledge, evidence and recommendations. The topic of research is a contemporary issue of great significance, particularly in this time of economic downturn.

Sum-total of organizational success reflects on the economic growth at the national level and that is why effective and efficient organizational functioning, be it in the public sector or private section, has always been on the top of the agenda of the policy makers and organizational leaders.

In addition, organizational success depends to a large part on the wellbeing of the employees. In other words, a happy workforce leads to better business performance - is the theme under review.


Introduction:

'Life expectancy and numbers in employment are higher than ever before, yet around 175 million working days were lost to illness in 2006 (Dame Carol Black's Review of the health of Britain's working population 'Working for a healthier tomorrow' presented to the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 17 March 2008.

The policy makers are in the process of reviewing work place practices in relation to wellbeing and encouraging ideas to improve business performance to be competitive in the global market that signifies the importance to wellbeing as rightly depicted by the author.

In order to further the academic discussion, the following points will be analyzed:

  1. The title of the research work: Tightening the link between employee wellbeing at work and performance.
  2. The notion of HRM as suggested on Page 2 of the research work.
  3. Performance
  4. Recent HR Concepts, e.g., employee engagement
  5. The problem of such investigation: how to separate wellbeing as a variable as a contributory factor to performance
  6. 'HRM practices' on page 3 of the research paper.
  7. The HRM Practices - Employee voice - .........'and it is considered essential that workers have the opportunity to express their grievances openly and independently....' Page 3 of the article may be debatable.
  8. Commitment, Job Satisfaction and Work-life balance are the constituent elements of
  9. Wellbeing. But the issue is: commitment, job satisfaction and work-life balance are the outcome of a good wellbeing policy rather than being the constituent elements of wellbeing which may be open to debate.
  10. In the Data Collection process male, female, age, length of service, type of occupation, qualification - all the elements were taken in into consideration but item has no mention, which is Ethnicity, which is open to debate. Different ethical background may have different perception of wellbeing.

From a reading of the article under review, it seems the article is prescriptive leading to prescriptive recommended policies which reflect a sort of model, the expression used to analyze HR by Mike Noon, Re-assessing Human Resource Management, edited by Paul Blyton and Peter Turnbull, Sage Publications, 1996, page 16.


Literature Review:

Employee wellbeing as a concept to improve organizational performance from the perspective of HR practitioner can be traced to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 as government legislative intervention placed a duty of care upon employers.

'Employers have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA 1974) to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees. (HSWA 1974, s 2(1).

The term used by the government has been welfare rather than wellbeing, which may bear the same meaning except wellbeing, seems to be much broader in scope.

The author takes the view that HRM is a unitary system of management - which is a singular endorsement of managerial views, is also open to debate. Today's HR is very much based on mutual consent in nearly every aspect of employer-employee relationship which may be in a redundancy situation, recruitment and selection, discipline, trade union negotiation et cetera.

What makes the study of HR difficult is 'the multiplicity of variable' Charles Handy, Understanding Organizations, 4th edition, 1999, Penguin Books


Review:

Summary of the questions:

  • The title of the research work: Tightening the link between employee wellbeing at work and performance.
  • The notion of HRM as suggested on Page 2 of the research work.
  • Performance
  • Recent HR Concepts, e.g., employee engagement
  • The problem of such investigation: how to separate wellbeing as a variable as a contributory factor to performance
  • 'HRM practices' on page 3 of the research paper.
  • The HRM Practices - Employee voice - .........'and it is considered essential that workers have the opportunity to express their grievances openly and independently....' Page 3 of the article may be debatable.
  • Commitment, Job Satisfaction and Work-life balance are the constituent elements of
  • Wellbeing. But the issue is: commitment, job satisfaction and work-life balance are the outcome of a good wellbeing policy rather than being the constituent elements of wellbeing which may be open to debate.
  • In the Data Collection process male, female, age, length of service, type of occupation, qualification - all the elements were taken in into consideration but item has no mention, which is Ethnicity, which is open to debate. Different ethical background may have different perception of wellbeing.

Appraisal

The first issue which comes to mind as a reviewer is the title of the research paper

'Tightening the link between employee wellbeing at work and performance.'

According to the title, the author does not specify which type of organization is the article for, whether it is for the private sector or public sector or charity organization, SMEs et cetera. If it assumed that the research paper is intended for all types of organizations, then the problem is: the empirical analysis in local government in North England or an opinion survey of a particular group of employees working for the government may not be able to represent the views of all types of employees.

Perception on wellbeing differ from organization to organization. Aims and objectives and performance are not the same or similar.

In 1961, Burns and Stalker (Mullins, L.J. (2005). Management and Organization completed a study of 20 UK manufacturing firms to determine the types of structure that existed. Finding concluded that two basically contrasting forms existed - mechanistic and organic.

Mechanistic Structures:

  • Have a rigid structure
  • Operate in stable environments
  • Have tasks that are specialized and functionally differentiated
  • Have a hierarchical structure in which control and authority predominate.#

Organic Structures:

  • Have fluid structures that are more responsive to change
  • Operate in more turbulent/constantly changing environments
  • Have tasks that change regularly with the business
  • Have an environment where knowledge is spread throughout the organization

What has structure of an organization got to do with wellbeing? To some extent, structure plays a very important role in the make-up of the organizational personality which is the sum-total of the employees, management style, culture of the organization, type of employees recruited and selected, expectations, industrial relations and the external environment t in which the organization operates.

All these factors may lead to a perceptual difference in which wellbeing is viewed.

Public or government departments are to some extent or similar to Mechanistic structures where employees seem content with job stability (even the government departments are having to face up to recession) - which means the wellbeing package from the perception of the contented employees may be different. This is an assumption and at this moment of time, no empirical evidence can be provided.

On the other hand, private organizations and SMEs, charity organizations have another outlook in relation to wellbeing because, external pressure of competition, the competitive nature in order to survive and sustain, performance related in terms of finance and profit - all seem to suggest, that wellbeing is approached from a more financial perspective like huge salaries taken by the organization leaders which has come under attack by the public and media recently.

At this moment, no empirical evidence can be provided to support the above mentioned assumptions.

On page 3 of the research work, the author has to some extent equated Employee Voice with Grievance by the statement '.........have the opportunity to express their grievances openly and independently,...........'Grievance is not the same as raising an issue. Employee voice is about involvement, engagement, consultations and discussing issues related to work without fear. To use the phrase 'Grievance' seems inappropriate.


The notion of HRM

According to the author 'HRM will be defined as a set of practices used to manage the workforce of an organization, that is recruitment and selection, training and development, worker involvement, pay and rewards, flexibility, involvement in decision-making, communications and employee welfare.'

If the view of the author is taken that HRM is a set of practices, which means it is a map or managerial tool to solve managerial problems, then the question no theory is required to support assumptions or no empirical evidence is required to support assumptions. There is still a lot of debate about the true nature of HRM from the academic perspective, practitioners view point and also, from the view point of educationalists who teach this discipline.

According to Torrington et at., (2005), define HRM as, 'Resource centered, directed mainly at management's needs for HR (not necessarily employees) to be provided and deployed. Demand rather than supply is the focus on the activity. There is greater emphasis on planning, monitoring and control rather than mediation. Problem-solving is undertaken with other members of the management on HR issues rather than directly with employees or their representatives.'

This definition is also similar to the author which focuses on Practice.

According to scholars like Guest, it is more than just a set of practice - the discipline has well tested models and theories which provide the conclusions with more authority which is why empirical evidence is provided to support findings.

Performance is another issue which requires clarification.

The author does not really specify when dealing with performance as to which performance is being referred to:

  • Organizational performance
  • HR performance
  • Employee performance

Wellbeing is related to performance but which performance. If wellbeing is related to organizational performance, then wellbeing needs to be separated from the rest of the other variables which is difficult to do. Compartmentalizing Wellbeing, if possible, may lead to different conclusions. Wellbeing will then be examined against the organizational performance indicators and see how wellbeing contributes to the overall performance of the organization.

In these times when the going gets tough, employees try to put on their best show, just to be in jobs. Performance increases as times get tough (People Management, published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, July issues, 2009).

Wellbeing not necessarily leads to better performance. But without a shadow of doubt, plays a significant role leading to effective performance.

In a stable condition, job security, commitment and work-family initiatives have been empirically evidenced by the author that wellbeing improves performance. It is agreed.

But does the same hold for in an unstable condition where jobs are disappearing, people being made redundant, re-structuring take place just to save money, training is going through the windows due to shortage of funds, recruitment freeze in some industries - it is a matter of doubt.

    Commitment, Job Satisfaction and Work-life balance are the constituent elements of Wellbeing. But the issue is: commitment, job satisfaction and work-life balance are the outcome of a good wellbeing policy rather than being the constituent elements of wellbeing which may be open to debate. This is another point seems to be open to debate.

    A good wellbeing policy will lead to greater commitment, job satisfaction and work-life balance.

    By adopting a Cause and Effect analysis, it can be safely assumed that commitment, job satisfaction and work-life balance is the end result or the effect of a good wellbeing policy rather than being the constituent elements of wellbeing policy.

    From an HR practitioner's point of view, wellbeing is made up of:

    • Effective communication (ACAS) (2005)
    • Honesty (from both the employers and employees)
    • An inspiring culture
    • Better terms and conditions of employment
    • Better and competitive benefits in terms of financial and non-financial
    • Competitive reward strategy
    • Schemes like provision for looking after the elderly, young children or taking time-off for looking after the elderly, young children or people with disabilities which may need to be further examined and defined. Disability is a long term adverse condition of a person (mental or physical) which will adversely affect a person's work related performance.
    • Better fringe benefits
    • Secured pensions
    • Et cetera

These may be the constituent elements of wellbeing. If properly executed or implemented, it may lead to enhanced commitment, job satisfaction and work-life balance.


Critical Evaluation of Methodology

The methodology employed is the standard methodology for analysis and the author has taken into consideration all the elements necessary except one item - ethnicity. There seems to be no mention of ethnicity in the methodology. From the ethnical point of view, wellbeing maybe perceived differently by people coming from various ethnical background. This is about diversified background. People are different and may have different opinion on wellbeing. May be the empirical results would be the same, yet it is important to understand wellbeing from different ethnical backgrounds.

According to Professor Binna Kandola OBE in his latest book states 'We are so conscious of the need to appear fair that we hide our prejudices, sometimes even from ourselves' take from People Management 30 July 2009, page number 26.


Hypothesis 1

Social relationships that exist between line managers and employees that are built on support and trust in management from HRM practices play an important long-term role in the development of positive employee attitudes and behaviour that constitute employee wellbeing at work and enhanced performance. Organizations that do not engage in these types of relationships will therefore perform worse in the long term than those that do not.

The hypothesis is well founded, but in times of change, recession, 'latest unemployment figures revealed that 7.1 per cent of the workforce is now out of a job, the latest CIPD labour Market Outlook report, compiled by the professional services firm KPMG' People Management 21 May 2009, page7 the prescriptive recommendations by the author may not be compatible in today's context..


Hypothesis 2

Organizations that promote and maintain commitment, job satisfaction and work-life balance (wellbeing) of their employees through the implementation of high commitment, HRM practices will benefit most by superior organizational outcomes and productivity through establishing long-term relationships of support and trust with employees. Organizations that do not pay attention to employee wellbeing at work will have in the long term to deal with the effects of less productive employees.

The methodology employed is compatible with the hypothesis. But the hypothesis seems to suggest, a long term perspective, within which type of organization is what needs to be established.

Evidence to support the conclusion is well founded.


Statement of contributions

It needs to be acknowledged that the British Library and on line library has greatly facilitated the process of gaining knowledge and applying the knowledge in the review.

At the same time, the guidance provided by the HR lecturer has also enhanced the review skills which has been applied and will be put to test in all future research work. Also, People Management published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has provided the contemporary HR issues.


Discussion and Conclusion

From a reading of the scholarly work of Nicole Renee Baptiste, it is clear from the authors' statement the wellbeing, the central theme, is viewed as 'People's overall sense of happiness.'

In other words, what makes employees happy at work or why should employees like to work for one company rather than another? What information influences employee's decision to make that sort of choice?

According to the author, HR practices make the difference which is supported by the empirical investigation and is also endorsed by contemporary and management gurus.

But, from a practitioner's point of view, HR Practices require more clarification.


HR PRACTICES

It is the benefits which are visible, attracts employees and it is the real needs of the current and potential employees which may constitute employee wellbeing and make employees feel happy to work for the organization.

This being the reason, employee perception on the constituent elements of wellbeing may bring light a more practical approach to the topic of wellbeing and link it to performance by well devised research methodology.

What makes the study of HR interesting is all HR issues are linked to other functions and detaching HR from the other functions is difficult. The brave attempt by the author is to highlight Wellbeing must be appreciated.

In conclusion, wellbeing must and will climb up the ladder of HR agenda which is witnessed by recent formation of the Institute of Wellbeing, (People Management, August 2009).


References:

    Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) (2005)

    Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

    'Life expectancy and numbers in employment are higher than ever before, yet around 175 million working days were lost to illness in 2006 (Dame Carol Black's Review of the health of Britain's working population 'Working for a healthier tomorrow' presented to the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 17 March 2008.

    Mike Noon, Re-assessing Human Resource Management, edited by Paul Blyton and Peter Turnbull, Sage Publications, 1996, page 16.

    Mullins, L.J. (2005). Management and Organizational Behaviour, 7th Edition., FT Prentice Hall

    People Management published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (all the journals have been consulted from January 1 2009 till date)

    People Management, January 2009 published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

    People Management, 30 May 2009 published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

    People Management 30 July 2009 and August published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

    Personnel Manager, Law Pack Publishing, 2005

    Price, A. (2004). Human Resource Management in a Business Context, 2nd Edition, Thomson Learning

    Torrington, D., Hall, L. and Taylor, S (2005) Human Resource Management, 6th Edition., FT Prentice Hall


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