A large unit, manufacturing electrical goods which have been known for its liberal personnel policies and fringe benefits is facing the problem of law productivity and high absenteeism. How should the management improve the organizational climate?
Organizational Climate: organizational climate is a relatively enduring quality of the internal environment that is experienced by its members, influences their behavior, and can be described in terms of the values of a particular set of characteristics of the organization.
Organizational climate is the summary perception which people have about an organization. It is a global expression of what the organization is. Organizational climate is the manifestation of the attitudes of organizational members toward the organization itself. An organization tends to attract and keep people who fit its climate, so that its patterns are perpetuated at least to some extent.
Features of Organizational Climate
Organizational climate is an abstract and intangible concept. But it exercises a significant impact on the behavior and performance of organizational members.
It is the perceived aspect of organization's internal environment.
Organizational climate refers to the relatively enduring characteristics which remain stable over a period of time.
It gives a distinct identity to organization and differentiates it from other organizations.
It is a multi-dimensional concept. It consists of all organizational factors, e.g., authority pattern, leadership pattern, communication pattern, control, etc.
Elements of Organizational Climate
Individual Autonomy: It implies the degree to which employees are free to manage themselves, have considerable decision-making power and are not continuously accountable to higher management. Thus, it means the individual's freedom to exercise responsibility.
Position Structure: It refers to the degree to which objectives of the job and methods for accomplishing it are established and communicated to the employees.
Reward Orientation: it means the degree to which an organization rewards individuals for hard work or achievement. Reward orientation is high when an organization orients people to perform better and rewards them for doing better.
Task Orientation: if the management is task oriented, the leadership style will be autocratic. The employees will have to speed up the pace of work to please their bosses.
Job Satisfaction: the satisfaction the workers get on their jobs is also an important component of organizational climate. The workers feel happy if the jobs are designed to allow the workers to use their innovative skills.
Morale: morale represents a composite of feelings, attitudes and sentiments of organizational members towards the organization, superiors and fellow members. If it is high, there will be an atmosphere of cooperation in the organization. But if the morale is low, there will be conflicts and poor cooperation among the workers. They will also feel disinterested in their work.
Control: the control systems may be either rigid or flexible. If the control is rigidly followed, there will be impersonal or bureaucratic atmosphere in the organization. The scope for self-regulation will be the minimum.
Problem of Low Productivity
Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of production. Productivity is a ratio of production output to what is required to produce it (inputs). The measure of productivity is defined as a total output per one unit of a total input.
Productivity on the job is a measure of employee's performance and behavior. It was contented by the human relations school that morale and productivity are positively correlated, i.e., they move together or go hand in hand. It was the general view that high morale and high productivity always go together like the east and west sides of an elevator. Low productivity and poor morale go together. People with low morale show tendencies like absenteeism, tardiness, turnover, casual interest in work coupled with apathy, anxiety, tension and even arrogance.
Absenteeism as the frequent absence from school or work, especially without good reason. In other words, any failure of an employee to report for or to remain at work as scheduled regardless of the reason. The term 'scheduled' is very significant, because it automatically excludes things like 10 vacations, holidays and jury duty. The term also eliminates the problem of determining whether an absence is excusable or not. Medically-verified illness is a good example of this. As far as the business is concerned, the employee is absent and is simply not available to perform his/her job. Even this kind of absence costs money. Absenteeism will be defined as any occasion when an employee is absent from work without permission regardless of the reason.
In light of the above costs, organization are using the OB model to improve employee productivity, and to reduce errors, absenteeism, while at the same time improving customer friendliness. The typical Organizational Behavior model follows a five-step problem solving model:
(1) Identifying critical behaviors;
(2) Developing baseline data;
(3) Identifying behavioral consequences;
(4) Developing and implementing an intervention strategy; and
(5) Evaluating performance improvement.
Identifying Factors Which Can Be Used to develop organizational climate
The Workplace Factors: Aspects of job situation that affect low productivity and absenteeism are, workforce planning; job scope; work patterns; workgroups; child/day care facilities; job dissatisfaction; workplace conflict; union representation; absenteeism policy; and organization culture.
Workforce planning: Absenteeism, low labor productivity and ineffective training programmes can be reduced and expenses lowered if workforce planning is executed properly.
Absenteeism rates often showed poor management/conflict within the labor relationship. Management should therefore try to reduce or eliminate those factors that cause personal problems like overtime, fatigue, job-related stress, and extensive employee travel.
An informed understanding of the human aspects of management and organization are necessary to help managers predict, explain and change human behavior. This will go towards ensuring that productivity, commitment and job satisfaction are high, while absenteeism and staff turnover are low. These variables of productivity, absenteeism, staff turnover, employee commitment and job satisfaction are critical determinants of the effectiveness of an organization. Workforce planning should therefore be done with a focus on the welfare and wellbeing of employees to ensure their total commitment to their job.
Work Patterns: Absenteeism can be influenced by work patterns operating within the firm, such as changes in the normal weekly hours of work; overtime policies; the length and timing of holidays; retrenchment policy; the policy for employing part-timers; and shift systems. Companies are discovering that family-friendly work environments more than pay for themselves, and that workplace flexibility is not an accommodation to employees but a competitive weapon. Absenteeism is reduced, turnover is cut, efficiency is improved and the bottom line is more attractive. Organizational factors, which include: the size of the organization; the size of the work group; the nature of supervision; incentive schemes; and the type of work, do have a considerable influence on absenteeism in the workplace. In some instances, employers have cited advantages such as increased productivity, reduced turnover and reduced absenteeism with the introduction of a compressed work-week. Long working hours cause tiredness, fatigue, loss of concentration and ultimately the decision to stay away from work. Therefore it can be concluded that a compressed work-week can increase employee enthusiasm, morale and commitment to the organization, as well as reducing costs, turnover and absenteeism. As a result of work patterns within the firm, work groups are formed.
Work groups will be discussed under the following subheadings:
Self managed teams;
Self-Managed Work Teams: Although not totally new, self-managed work teams have recently come to the fore as a method of improving employee commitment and thus the general well-being of the organization. One of the reported successes of self-managed work teams is the reduction of absenteeism and turnover. On the other hand, cautioned that overall research on the effectiveness of self-managed work teams has not been uniformly positive. Moreover, while individuals on these teams do tend to report higher levels of job satisfaction, they sometimes have higher absenteeism and turnover rates. It is thus clear that inconsistency in findings suggests that the effectiveness of self-managed teams is situation-dependent. Another important form of self managed work teams is quality circles.
Quality Circles: The quality circle groups of companies and found that over a 30-month period the quality circle groups of companies had greater increases than those of the non-participants in the percentage of time spent on production, efficiency and productivity. The quality circle group also lowered its absenteeism rate more rapidly than that of the non-participants. A valuable characteristic of quality circles is their group cohesion.
Group Cohesion: Although there are potential disadvantages to cohesive groups, these may result in: increased interaction among members; mutual help and social satisfaction; lower turnover and absenteeism; and often higher productivity. Groups with high cohesion experience lower job turnover and less absenteeism. Management can therefore use creative ways to design programmes to reduce absenteeism and increase productivity by establishing on-site child/day care.
Child/Day Care Facilities: For enhancing the ability to attend work should include:
• creating a safe and healthy work environment;
• providing day-care facilities at the work place;
• creating programmes to assist troubled employees;
• providing programmes for reducing job stress; and
• providing recreational and exercise facilities.
Job Dissatisfaction: The more people are dissatisfied with their jobs, the more likely they are to be absent. Job dissatisfaction is probably just one of many factors influencing people's decisions to report or not to report for work. Managers should note the levels of job satisfaction in their organizations, because there is evidence that dissatisfied employees skip work more often and are more likely to resign. Dissatisfied employees may choose not to resign but to follow the company's grievance procedure to address their concerns which could end up in workplace conflict.
Workplace Conflict: workplace conflict is a direct result of the power struggle between employees and employers, and emerges in many different forms in business and industry. Conflict in the workplace manifests itself, inter alia, in high labor turnover, absentee rates, accidents, grievances and dismissals. Proactive responses to the requirements of employee inclusion in the decision making process of the company will reduce conflict in the organization and absenteeism will be minimized.
Workplace conflict often leads to workers organizing themselves into trade unions to represent their interests.
Union Representation: A comparison which reveals non-union establishments as providing fewer rights and benefits for workers, lower pay, higher rates of accidents and absenteeism, and poorer employee communication. Non-union industrial and commercial workplaces offered few formal mechanisms whereby employees could contribute to the operation of their workplaces in a broader context than that of their specific jobs. Nor were non-union workplaces as likely to have opportunities to air grievances or to resolve problems in ways that were systematic and designed to ensure fair treatment. Broadly speaking, no alternative model of employee representation had emerged as a substitute for trade union representation. In order to reduce employee frustrations good employment relations is necessary, the advantages of which are, inter alia: better performance; low turnover; improvement in quality; increase in productivity; and reduced absenteeism. One of the ways of establishing sound employment relations is a fair absenteeism policy.
Absenteeism Policy: Employee absenteeism may continue despite the use of absence control methods: if there is no written absenteeism policy in the company there will be inconsistent enforcement of the policy as well as a lack of absence documentation in the organization. Where there is a sick leave policy in the company, it is unfortunately true that many employees abuse the provision for paid sick leave as contained in the policy. Employees are also aware of the provisions of section 22 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 which states that an employee can be on paid sick leave for two days without producing a medical certificate within an eight week period. This means that sick-pay schemes may indeed encourage increased absenteeism. Effective forms of employee discipline for absenteeism should include:
• A written policy statement;
• Distinguishing between absenteeism and other examples of employee misconduct as a reason
• Using progressive discipline on the absence record separately from the other misconduct issues;
• Explicit absenteeism standards and a definition of excessive absenteeism;
• Allowing employees to improve their records through good attendance; and
• Consistent application of the policy.
Otherwise non enforcement of the policy may lead to a bad organization culture.
Organization Culture: If a permissive absence culture exists in an organization, employees will view sick leave as a benefit to be utilized, or it will be lost. On the other hand, if unnecessary absence is frowned upon by either management or the co-workers, employees will think twice before abusing sick leave. organizational structure and design; organizational culture; human resource policies and practices; technology; and work design have a great impact on workplace absenteeism.
Management Style Factors: Managers appear to have some influence over attendance behavior. They are able to punish, establish the bonus systems, and allow employee participation in developing plans. Whether these or other approaches reduce absenteeism is determined by the employees' perception of the value of the rewards, the amount of the rewards, and whether the employees perceive a relationship between attendance and reward. Managers affect absenteeism in the workplace by influencing the following variables: management control; communication system; motivation strategies; salary/remuneration packages and worker empowerment.
Management Control: Effectiveness declines with increases in the amount of control exercised. That, in turn, could lead to increased dissatisfaction, absenteeism and turnover. Where there is uncertainty concerning the level of absenteeism, there is almost always a low level of management control, accompanied by a high level of absenteeism. Management control can be supported by a sound communication system.
Communication System: The management of any organization must have a good communication system. Part of this is to create systems whereby the complaints and grievances of staff can be brought to the surface. If this does not happen, grievances can accumulate to such an extent that they could later be expressed in some other form, such as high absentee rates, staff turnover, or perhaps even strikes. One of the communication strategies to control employee absenteeism that managers use is absenteeism feedback intervention. Part of the communication system should include employee motivation strategies.
Motivation Strategies: Employees go to work because they are motivated to do so. The level of motivation remains high if the individual feels that attendance is going to lead to more valued rewards and fewer negative consequences than alternative behavior. specific strategies for enhancing motivation. These include:
• A proper match between the employee and the job;
• Job enrichment;
• Rewards for good attendance;
• People-oriented supervision; and
• Clear attendance standards
The degree to which employees are motivated is influenced to a certain extend by their rewards.
Salary/Remuneration Packages: Attendance factors like reward systems reduce absenteeism rates. When employees' pay increases, absenteeism goes down. High rewards accompanying high dissonance tend to reduce the tension inherent in the dissonance. Low salaries often lead to absenteeism and turnover. Beside rewards given to employees, empowerment is another important factor in employee absenteeism.
Worker Empowerment: The organizational advantage in empowering employees is that this principle can lead to increased productivity, improved job satisfaction, reduced sick leave, and less absenteeism. Empowerment should also include employee training. Training has contributed to the significant reduction of absenteeism and resignations in organizations. Absenteeism therefore, not only denies the employee the opportunity to learn from others but also denies other members of the work team the opportunity to learn from the absent employee. Counseling services need to be part of the broader empowerment strategy, and maintains that a lack of counseling services can result in high levels of employee absenteeism.
Employee Variables: The effect of the following employee variables will be discussed in this section:
• Unmet expectations
• Job-person match
• Social problems
• Family related issues
Employee variables such as values, unmet expectations, frustrations, commitment, attitudes, behavior, personality, job-person match, social problems, and family-related issues do influence the employee's decision to stay away from work. Managers should understand their employees' attitudes, values, expectations and behavior-determining variables such as frustrations, commitment, job-person match, family and social problems to be able to manage workplace absenteeism.
Biographical Characteristics Influencing Absenteeism: Biographical characteristics such as an employee's age; gender; marital status; tenure/length of service with an organization; which have an influence on the absenteeism rate in an organization are discussed in this section. Substance abuse is a recognized problem in several workplaces as are its effects on productivity, absenteeism, and accidents in organizations. Smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse problems may be a valid explanation for clustering of absences in work groups. For employers, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as smoking cessation programmes may yield important short term economic benefits by reducing absenteeism in addition to enhancing the substance abuse control measures.
Substance Abuse: Substance abuse is discussed under the following sub-headings:
• Alcohol abuse
• Drug abuse
Substance abuse is a recognized problem in several workplaces as are its effects on productivity, absenteeism, and accidents in organizations. Smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse problems may be a valid explanation for clustering of absences in work groups. For employers, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as smoking cessation programmes may yield important short term economic benefits by reducing absenteeism in addition to enhancing the substance abuse control measures.
Disease-Related Factors: work attendance and absenteeism are linked to many different factors, the major, though not sole determinant being disease-related incapacity such as health-related issues; illness; stress; and HIV/AIDS.
Poor health can lead to absenteeism, low productivity, loss of income in the case of long absences and, in extreme cases, the loss of employees who are difficult to replace. Poor health increases the rate of absenteeism, and identified perceived stress, food choices, body mass, systolic blood pressure, tobacco use, physical inactivity, cancer and heart diseases as predictive factors of absenteeism. Employees who experience poor health could be suffering from particular illnesses.
Employee absenteeism due to illness has cost implications for the employer, due to employee replacement costs and decreased productivity. From an economic perspective, an employee decides not to attend to work if he/she experiences higher utility in being absent rather than working. This decision thus depends on the costs and benefits of attending work. This, in turn, depends, inter alia, on employee job satisfaction, wages, health, sick pay and valuation of leisure time. The illness of a family member or the employee him/herself could lead to employee stress which is another significant cause of absenteeism.
Many members of the South African Police Service experience dangerously high stress levels, but lack the necessary life skills to deal with it. They also fail to respond adequately to the reality that police, too, are victims of crime and violence, so there is a growing incidence of, inter alia, absenteeism among police members. Another occupational group with high stress levels are shift workers, particularly those working in mundane, repetitive jobs, such as production operators and security guards, who are also presenting their distress with 36 symptoms like lowered production and absenteeism.
HIV/AIDS has tremendous social and economic consequences which have to be addressed by Human Resources practitioners in their organizations. In affecting the population's most productive age group, HIV/AIDS hampers the labor supply and skills levels. HIV/AIDS also imposes direct costs on businesses because of greater absenteeism, lower productivity at work by infected workers, higher labor turnover rates, and thus increased recruitment and training costs. In addition, pension, death benefits and health insurance costs also increase. HIV/AIDS has cost implications for organizations, in this case, the cost of a high rate of absenteeism.
Health promotion and wellness programmes have an intuitive attractiveness given the substantial contribution of factors such as illness, stress, HIV/AIDS, life style and infectious agents have on workplace absences.
Stress management and stress training have an important role in the workplace. Effective and simple strategies should be developed to assess workplace stress as a component of health promotion and wellness programmes management practices.