Professor Wood Highlights the Importance of Employee Involvement in Increasing Productivity

S WoodPublished in July’s IPA News, a recent article by Professor Stephen Wood on his research using both the 2004 and 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Survey shows that employee involvement is associated with higher levels of productivity. Despite this, employee involvement is still neglected in discussions of Britain’s productivity problem. While successive governments have targeted skills acquisition, the Conservative governments’ employment relations legislation has weakened trade union power beyond all recognition and there remains a productivity problem which must lie elsewhere: presumably in work organization and management. A rich body of knowledge is being neglected that shows employee involvement is good for productivity and other related measures such as product and service quality.

Wood’s research shows that there are two types of employee involvement:

  1. Job or role involvement, often known as empowerment or enriched job design, is an approach to the design of high-quality jobs that allows employees an element of discretion and flexibility over the execution and management of their primary tasks.
  2. Organizational-involvement management entails workers participating in decision-making, beyond the narrow confines of the job, in the wider organization or the business as a whole.

Both types of involvement have an positive effect on productivity, but in different ways. Role-involvement management largely increases employees’ job satisfaction, while organizational-involvement management changes the way things are organised and enacted.

Organizational-involvement management aims to encourage greater proactivity, flexibility and collaboration amongst workers through the use of practices that offer opportunities for organizational involvement, either directly – through idea-capturing schemes, team work and flexible job descriptions – or indirectly, through the disclosure of financial information, specific training for involvement, or appraisal systems. Organizational involvement is thus concerned with the development of broader horizons amongst all workers, so that they can think of better ways of doing their jobs, connect what they do with what others do, and react effectively to novel problems.

The full article published in July’s IPA News can be read here.

Stephen Wood can be contacted at s.j.wood@le.ac.uk

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