Employee Involvement and Participation


Employee involvement is a collection of processes designed to allow all the employees know their engagement and their contribution to the organizational objectives. On the other hand, employee participation is the employee involvement process that provides the employees with the opportunity of providing the organization with the helping and in appropriate cases takes part in decision making on some matters which may end up affecting them.The employee involvement and participation scheme widely covers a range of practices that are meant to encourage employee information about the organization and thus help in producing a committed workforce.

Employee motivation scheme can successfully be introduced where there is close willingness between the management and the employees to be transparent in both their minds and attitude. It will be very challenging to attain involvement/ participation among the employees without any trust and motivation. Any scheme that has been instituted in the organization cannot function effectively in an environment of confrontations and disputes.

The lack of sufficient motivation or lack of mutual trust in the part of management and the employees will be the cause of failure. If the management keeps changing its management practices and styles the employees may disregard this approach as an attempt by the management as undermining their scheme. Thus a good employee relation is a necessity in effectively implementing employee involvement scheme.

An open management style where proposed action is supported by employees through consent and not coercion will be of importance. However, this might seem that this is what brings about successful implementation of participation and involvement scheme but it calls for unquestioned commitment from the top management (Blyton, 70 1994)

There is a clear difference between the employee involvement and employee participation. The literature defines that employee participation is a collective approach and as such it might involve various processes and mechanisms for example; collective bargaining which means also the employee share scheme. In contrast, employee involvement is more individualistic and it relies on the commitment to the objectives of the organization. This is found as a soft Human Resource Management approach and usually entails a two-way communication approach.

The upward approach which might be formal or informal may involve a number of tools for example survey of staff general or casual, the employee suggestion schemes either paid or unpaid and the appraisal schemes which at times is linked to the Total Quality Management tools for example improvement quality team etc. the downward communication approach which is usually from the top management down to the line staff may require written information for instance writing of the staff newsletters and then pinned on the notice boards and other channels of communication such as staff forums and employee briefings (Elliot, 596 1978)

The unquestioned commitment by the top management will function on its own in delivering participation and involvement schemes that are effective. The top management through their own behavior is required to have a belief in the scheme otherwise it would be ineffective in its implementation. The top management participation and commitment need not only be seen but be felt positively by the employees. All the top managers are required to show an acceptance of the value of the employee involvement and participation schemes without showing any impression that there is no substance in the scheme or speaking rhetorically about the scheme. Even though a good committee composition will be effective, it would be unrealistic if some managers are not personally committed to the success of the scheme (Hyman, 76 1995)

Employee empowerment verses employee participation

Having noticed the difference between the employee involvement and employee participation where we have found that employee empowerment sits within the approaches and confusing because of the right interpretation of power where the such are being implemented. The result of employee involvement and participation in an aim of securing a positive change towards the employee attitude and behavior is not what is usually claimed if the proposed scheme turns out to be inappropriate towards the organizational needs.

The most noticeable choice of system among many organizations would be the system that brings in consultancy to advise them on implementation procedures of new scheme and to do so without any view of importance to the scheme. For instance, an organization might introduce a system that is responsible for producing monthly briefings. Nevertheless, it can be a waste of time to produce the system without ascertaining whether there can be efficient information to sustain the system on that basis or whether the management has the necessary motivation to make the system successful.

The problem might be complicated further if the management has different levels or management functions of introducing employee participation initiative but they might be having objectives that are not straight forward. This problem is most prevalent on the service sector where the customer needs might fall within the jurisdiction of different departments for example the marketing and the personnel. An organizational management that is fully aware of the importance of employee involvement and participation will go a step further in ensuring that those participating in the practice have informational access to allow them operate effectively.

The information flow will be effective if it is going to be administered up, down an across the organizational departmental structure. A sensible approach would be to listen to the grievances of the employees, evaluating them and acting upon the views expressed by the organizational employees. Management needs to draw a clear picture between the provisions of too much or too little information or the employees would be confused between the two. Therefore, the management need to avoid too much tell and sell criteria because this may trigger mistrust among the employees of involvement and participation scheme mostly if the information is bad and accompanied by calls of belt tightening (Blyton, 66 1994)

What is needed for effective employee involvement and participation?

For effective involvement and participation among the employees would require a two-way communication. For a downward communication, which is from top management to employees, it may carry many risks because the employees are feeling that the results they are getting are top management decisions which do not involve any employees at all and that the information they are getting are just the results of the events that have been dealt with long time.

Another notable problem the management is facing is the tendency of the employee participation schemes to remain dormant rather than they grow from their initial position in respect to their anticipated goals. Despite for the fact that employees are the recipient of many of the employee involvement, it is usually a common form of failure. Management that is committed to employee involvement practices having introduced the right scheme for the right reasons will be unlikely to provide motivation for employees to arise.

A professional management is usually motivated to ensure participation and involvement scheme are not in effective because their operations are constantly met by the impacts of the workings of the employees in the organization. Some successful establishment of employee participation has been witnessed in organizations with Joint Corporation of management and the unions within or outside the organization. This usually the case because some unions are weakly organized and they usually undermine the introduction of new system as by-passing them and their established members. In contrast strongly unionized organizations usually involve employee participation and this eradicates the chances of in effectiveness (Towers, 311 1993)

Employee participation and involvement scheme will effectively operate if the resources required to meet the direct and the indirect costs are fully met. These costs are the time lost, meetings, services foregone, paid leave and training costs. A management that is not fully committed to the employee involvement initiative will likely disregards the costs as the costs without any benefits and that are not necessary to be discussed by the participants of the scheme.

A forward thinking or the business-driven employee will motivate his/ her colleague to have a positive view about employee involvement and participation criterion and to demonstrate to them the value they add to the organization if they are fully adopted by everyone in the organization including the top management. It would be of great importance if the employees and management are provided with all the materials including the training required to effectively manage the employee involvement and participation scheme.

This may involve the development of some skills that are relevant in chairing meetings so that employees keep to the agenda as well as providing appropriate suggestions to the subject being discussed. Spending resources on the training for all those who are involved represents a sizeable investment by the management. It is a clear indication to all those who are concerned that the management is fully committed to the implementation of the scheme. The management can involve itself in high performance practices that involve motivation and ends up producing employee outcome (Slack, 228 1995)

About Employee motivation

In most cases employees are spending more time working unproductively. This is true because the employers are the ones who have been dormant and they don’t provide any motivation to the employees. The rewards may include security, money, recognition or even being given a chance to make a difference through making something worthwhile. This is quite frustrating and has become very expensive for the owner of the business. Then, what is motivation all about? Motivation involves giving appropriate rewards to people for the good services they are providing to the organization. In reality, an individual would feel they have sense of responsibility and power in influencing their results by their own actions.

Also, for a number of people motivation is being given a chance to achieve your own ambitions. Contrary to this an employee will not be motivated if they don’t know what they are expected of them. As the management draw up clear objectives to be achieved by every employee and if they don’t achieve them they know what the consequences would be. The objectives to be drawn should be practical or realistic and achievable. If the employees can see what they are contributing to the organization, they would be motivated and enjoy being part and parcel of the organization (Slack, 226 1995)

About employee involvement

This is all about the ways in which an employee can become engaged indifferent practices. Employee involvement is a major contributor to the skills and resources of the organizations while at the same time providing motivating opportunity for employees to achieve valuable knowledge or skills which in turn will be beneficial to the organization. Employee involvement and participation schemes can either be led by the management or the employee. In the management led schemes, the employer will lead in setting up specific programmes for example allowing employees to become involved through a given organization or through seconding.

For organizations who wish to enhance their internal understanding they would do so by sponsoring their employees in projects that are beneficial to the organization, community and to the employees. In other cases an employer an employer may provide initiatives where the employee is actively involved in conservation procedures. Employees can provide practical involvement through practical tasks for example tree planting, fencing or footpath maintenance. There are also other programmes that are supported by the organization but they are led by the employees themselves. These initiatives may include for instance, an employee paid leave in order to carry out volunteer activities that match their time with funds (Slack, 226 1995)

Those companies that are owned by the employees exist because of many reasons; from the view of the business owner to the management and the employees. The reality is that those organizations that are more oriented to the employee involvement outperform the rest in its category and the government has demonstrated this association through the Share Incentive Plan. However, these are the dreaded times for the shareholders, but there is no better time to highlight the importance of employee involvement and participation than now. People are in the midst of the challenges brought about by productivity. For better economic performance, there should be flexibility, skills and the ability for the employees to adopt to changing management needs (Slack, 220 1995)

The trend of employee involvement and participation

In the last few decades, the development of HRM has emphasized individualism and focus has been drawn into the immediate relationship between the management and the employees. Employees nowadays are encouraged and motivated to make their way within the organization. The focus on the employee involvement and participation is an approach that seeks to benefit the employee and the organization at large. The main advantage that results from employee involvement and participation is that it gives a sense of worth to the employee that they belong to the organization and that their contribution is a positive one. That is the reason behind the importance of investing employee involvement and participation to the success of the (Sauer, 200 1993)

Since the 1970’s the term employee involvement and participation has been in use. Many organizations have adopted the approach of employee involvement and participation to reap the advantages that comes with it. The employees may present their proposals to the management through various means such as worker-manager committees, managed work teams provides a means in which the employees may present their ideas and obtain a response from the management. This is crucial for most managers because it assist them to effectively compete with others in the same fields Farnharm, 1005 1993)

The employers who prioritize on employee morale and motivation will most often get the benefits of high productivity and improved quality. If communication is encouraged between the management and the employees then the employees will be responsive and they won’t want to apart from the management. On the management level of view, it can be seen that it greatly helps them to escape future threats like strikes because they dedicate time to the employees and encourage participation. Those employers who maximize on communication will at most times be ahead of the rest and their participation with the employees will lead to a stronger relationship.

Generally unions do not like the term employee participation since the participation groups reduces the need for that organization. If the employers effectively deal with the employee concerns it would be hard for the employees to turn to the unions for assistance. That is the reason why unions prefer the term industrial democracy rather than the term employee participation. Under the term industrial democracy, it means employees are involved more in the business affairs while at the same time improving on industrial efficiency (Towers, 321 1993)

Kinds of employee participation

There are two different types of participation. These are direct method which is more about involvement and it allows individual employees or a given workgroup to take part in the decision making for example quality circles, briefing groups and the indirect method is about participation and it involves a number of employees where work council represent their purpose and they often discuss their issues with the management. Employee involvement mostly belongs to the people in the lower management while employee participation is mostly felt in the higher levels of management.

Overall the scope of participation is dependent on many factors which includes the nature of ownership and the characteristics of the organization, the attitudes of the parties involved, the employee experience and the scope to which participation is based on some agreements for instance voluntary agreement. Employee participation can come in different forms; from sustained communication to joint responsibility or from the simple structures to the experimental stages.

Primarily, communication is the centre of all these. Without any ideal communication there can never be any participation. The communication should encourage the information flow from the top management to the employee level. After this there should be a continued process where management can engage in consultations that involve listening to feedback and making any necessary changes if possible. Later on collective bargaining should take place where terms and conditions of employment are negotiated between the employee or their representatives and the employer or the business owner. The final step of employee participation is the joint representation where the employer and the employee come into a final agreement and then they make decisions (Elliot, 593 1978)

There are different types of employee participation. First is what is known as the profit sharing where an employer pays additional remuneration inform of cash or shares top on their normal remuneration package. All these are dictated by the rise in profits of the organization. Secondly there is profit related pay where employees are given a pay award usually in form of bonus payments in relation to the organizational success. Thirdly there is sharing of ownership where the employees get ownership of the organization through shares usually in a given period of time. The fourth type of employee participation is the gain sharing where employees are provided with a bonus and usually measured by the overall performance of the organization (Towers, 300 1993)

Kinds of employee involvement

There are various forms of employee involvement, these are; first there can never be effective employee involvement without adequate communication. Communication is one of the myths of industrial relations which have been ascribed to solve any problem between the management, employees and the unions. However, it will be wrong to suggest that communication is the cause of wrangles between the management and the employees and also suggesting that it can be an avenue of solving problems.

By itself, communication cannot eradicate the conflicts between the two that is interests and values. Often, conflicts are brought about by different objectives, the perception of interest and attitudes which adversely affect the interpretation of information. Adequate communication usually comes in handy to get rid of the differences that are prevailing between the management and the employees. Secondly, the employee report which is another form of employee involvement. This is evident where many organizations with more than two hundred and fifty employees are required to provide annual reports to its employees.

The annual report is the perfect tool for providing all the information the employee requires for the whole year. The annual report on its part should be free of errors in order to assist employees to evaluate themselves of how positive they contribute to the effectiveness and performance of the organization. The third form of employee involvement is the briefing groups which seeks to downsize the level of verbal communication between the management and the employees who are working in different departmental levels to workgroups. There are many advantages attained from briefing groups that they encourage the supervisors to be workgroup communicators and they allow two-way communication between who know each other well. Finally, there is financial participation which is usually employee-driven and centered on individuals.

This approach is mostly used by organizations in encouraging employees to closely identify with the organizational objectives and to hold to the fact that their common interest is vested in maximizing organizational profits. It is always the hope that employees see the importance of cooperation, teamwork, flexibility and resolution of conflict in their pursuit of working in the organization (Sauer, 220 1993)

Fundamentally, employee involvement and participation is usually dictated by the employer and unitary in association with the employees. According to the unitarist, they perceive the organization as a team where everyone in the organization is working to achieve a set objective without conflicting each other because the objectives they are individually aiming at are the set objectives the organization has developed for everyone to achieve. Even though organizations continue to apply different types and methods, it is evident that communication is the main driving factor of motivation in employee involvement and participation (Slack, 220 1995)

Purpose of motivating employees

Organization needs to motivate its employees for the positive behavior they are showing in the organization. The process of rewarding employees is a way of showing the employees that they are part of the organization. In turn who are rewarded for the job well done will be motivated and encouraged to engage with the organization and to improve the productivity of the organization. In rewarding the employees constantly it will make them draw a connection between their actions and the rewards hence increasing the chances of repeating the same productive work. An instant thank you need not be an expensive tool for an employer.

Though simple it will go along way in boosting the employee morale and encourage employee involvement and participation. If the employers divide the scheme to different departments, they stand a risk of creating a divided workforce. However, in including an element of flexibility within the diverse workforce, the scheme can work well. In order to put a motivation programme in place, an employer needs to profile its audience according to age, the gender and the interests they carry with them. The employer above all, needs to ensure that the profile he/ she have developed for the employees will suit the rewards they are going to be given.

The employer needs also to understand that giving wrong rewards to different people will turn them away. Vouchers for instance, can be stored on site until they are needed. They provide an option of choice to employees in respect to their rewards since they can be spent on different products including cosmetics, music, household goods and electrical appliances. Another alternative is to allow employees choose the events they can match with their interests (Cloke, 610 2002)

The benefits of suggestion scheme are two fold. Firstly the employees feel a sense of identity to the organization because they are involved in the decision-making process rather than being given solutions they did not provide. Secondly, the employees find the job more interesting to them when they are involved or they participate in the decision-making. This improves productivity to the organization (Marchington, 682 1992)

What is necessary for a scheme to operate?

For a scheme to operate effectively across the diverse organizational workforce, it should have support from top management. Any commitment by the top management will be instrumental in driving any scheme ahead and ensuring that the project is practical from the operational point of view. If possible a project leader may be necessary to oversee the completion of the project. For employers, the best way to operate an instant reward is first by establishing the sector I which they work. Occasionally, instant rewards do not usually work for those who are earning good package but it can work effectively for those who are earning little.

However, a simple recognition can still work so long as the employers make the right choice of rewards based on some motivation values. For an award to be given the employer should first need to recognize the behavior it is intended to suit. Therefore, careful planning of the scheme should be developed in order to help in motivating the diverse workforce. Poor developed plans can be a source of conflict about the kind of behaviors to be rewarded. In some cases due to the fact that there are no proper guidelines on the kind of behaviors to be rewarded and therefore, some managers can be generous in rewarding others and this might cause some form of unrest among other employees. Some form of consistency is therefore required when giving the rewards to the employees (Hyman, 76 1995)

Instant reward scheme is a motivational factor towards the employee involvement and employee participation. It encourages positive behaviors throughout the entire work force. If structured properly reward scheme can be a cost-effective way of thanking the employees while at the same time adding a virtue of fun in the working environment. In order to have a scheme that is successful it should at all times motivate employees into going an extra mile (Farnharm, 1001 1993)

The need for an organization culture

The employee performance and the organization performance can be determined by instilling employee participation culture. The most proven technique is the suggestion scheme which strives to bring a sense of employee participation. Motivation can be inculcated in the employees through the suggestion scheme which tries to bring a sense of belonging to the organization. Suggestion scheme is a mechanism that allows employees to air their thoughts and ideas to the management for the better services to be provided by the management at the price that is affordable to all the employees. The intended changes should be of beneficial to both the organization and to the employees.

The employee participation approach not only helps to optimize on the creativity of the employee but also assist the organization in identifying variety of opportunities that can help in coming up with employee as well as the organizational growth. Additionally, it helps an employee to increase his/ her innovation and initiative and in other words it helps in improving processes and services. The purpose of suggestion scheme will act as an alternative resource therefore their main purpose is to perform a corrective role.

This is evident when at times some modification needs to be established in the organization in order to respond to changes or errors being felt within the organization. Without the suggestion scheme the management might initiate change to given procedures without getting the feedback from the employees who are needed to accept to change and get involved with the system. In order to make the suggestion scheme a success it should follow the following steps;

  1. the top management should be supportive and be sincere to the implementation of the scheme,
  2. the managers should be given full autonomy to administer the scheme. Their task will include setting targets, motivating employees, feedback gathering and communicating policies
  3. having a well defined criteria with objectives to attain. A committee should be established to set up to develop policies determine the reward criteria and to maintain the scheme
  4. develop an open reward system. The awards may be through monetary terms or recognition awards. This may involve the inclusion of tangible and intangible rewards in order to motivate the employees.
  5. Have regular feedbacks as well as performance monitoring. It is required to measure the extent of the suggestion scheme. This calls for adequate flow of communication between the management and the employees (Elliot, 590 1978)

At the business level, the employees’ involvement specifically has ended up producing successful management techniques for example Total Quality Management, quality circles, kaizen, 5-S and the TPM. One of the most challenging and difficult task for any manager is the commitment one has to vest on the employee participation. There are numerous barriers to its implementation including the lack of support from the top management and the personality traits of the middle management. As a consequence, the HR assets are the least used assets in an organization. The suggestion scheme is the best tool to ensure the employee involvement and participation (Cloke, 600 2002)

Productivity verses employee involvement

Those employees who are highly paid will work more efficiently. Hence highly motivated employees will result in high productivity. Employees are mostly motivated by rewards which will enable them effectively work.

Motivation at work can take place through 2 ways; intrinsic motivation that is attained from the work content and the extrinsic motivation that is usually done to people in order to motivate them. It is through mechanisms such as pay rise, rewards or even promotion in the workplace. To get highly motivated employees the employer needs to provide adequate rewards to encourage employee involvement and participation. Motivating the organizational employees through the scheme of rewards can be through two ways; financial rewarding or non-financial rewarding. However for a real rewarding package it should entail the following method;

Linking wages to productivity

Different countries use different methods in employing wages to its employees. Additionally, there are different bodies for example the wage bodies, pay commissions, industrial tribunals and the labor courts and unions to perform this activity. The employee wages are also fixed through the job evaluation and through collective bargaining. According to public sector through the industrial enterprises, wage is settled through a process of bilateral negotiation between the business owner and the employees. Given the fact that the government is the overall owner of these enterprises any settlement on a given enterprise will have notable impact on others.

Before any settlement is signed between the management and the government usually taking place between 4-5 years, a government signed approval must be obtained. The wage increase must be proportional to the increased efficiency, cost and man-power reduction. However, increase in wage does not necessarily translate to increased productivity. Without any motivational schemes to be instituted by the management, then the productivity will remain the same (Blyton, 56 1994)


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