Latest research on High Involvement Management

S WoodProfessor Stephen Wood’s latest research confirms the multi-dimensional nature of High-involvement management – role involvement, organisational involvement and skill acquisition are distinct and the predictors of these will vary.

Professor Wood, along with Sandra Nolte of Lancaster University Management School and members of the School of Management at Leicester, used data from the UK Commission’s Employer Skills Survey of 2011 to analyse the nature of high involvement management and where its elements are found. The management literature identifies three components of high involvement management – worker involvement, skill and knowledge acquisition and motivational supports – and prescribes that they should be used together. Wood’s research shows that in reality they are not. Even the two main types of work involvement; role involvement (giving people autonomy in their jobs) and organisational involvement (involving people in innovation and the wider aspects of the organization e.g. through disseminating financial information, idea-capturing schemes and appraisal systems) are not. Organisational involvement is thus used when people’s jobs are highly routinised and restricted.

Some of the predictors of the different dimensions are the same, some not. The size of the workplace and the sector in which it operates, are related to all of them. Organizational involvement and skill acquisition is, however, positively related to workplace size while role involvement is negatively predicted. Organizational involvement and skill acquisition is related to total quality management, but role involvement is not. How customization is related to the dimensions varies between the public and private sectors. across the economy, but as predicted, higher levels of customization are associated with higher levels of all the dimensions of high-involvement management in the private sector.

The research illustrates the value of scaling methods over the construction of blanket indexes to measure high involvement management, which simply add the total number of practices without any prior investigation of the inter-relationships in their use. Indexes may give the same score to organizations whose HRM practices are dominated by one or other of involvement, skill acquisition and motivational practices. For example, if an organization has merit pay, promotion on merit and profit-sharing, and no involvement practices, and another has quality circles, functional flexibility, and teamwork, they would be scored three on an index, but could have very different HRM philosophies.

The research found that organisational involvement and skill acquisition is positively related to workplace size while role involvement is negatively predicted. Organisational involvement and skill acquisition is related to total quality management, but role involvement is not. How customisation is related to the dimensions varies between the public and private sectors, across the economy, but as predicted, higher levels of customisation are associated with higher levels of all the dimensions of high-involvement management in the private sector.

The research also highlights the independent effects of quality (TQM) and operational management methods (customisation) on the take-up of high involvement management, and how product market strategy also affects this. In particular those workplaces pursuing a high-quality strategy, as opposed to a cost-minimization one, are more likely to adopt involvement methods.

The research is reported in a forthcoming paper in the Human Resource Management Journal: S. Wood, S. Nolte, M. Burridge, D. Rudloff and W. Green, The Dimensions and Location of High Performance Work Systems: Fresh Evidence From The UK’s Commission’s 2011 Employer Skills Survey, Human Resource Management Journal, 2015.

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