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Human resource management and Employee Voice

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Resources
Wordcount: 3884 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Employee Voice Ensures Effective Performance


Talking from the perspective of Human Resource Management (HRM), Employee Voice (EV) signifies the involvement of employees in organizational decision making. EV is an offshoot of the Participative Management Model which aims at achieving corporate goals through management-employee harmony. The chief ingredients of EV are Employee Participation and Employee Involvement. From the works of many management scholars it has been observed that though EV is a growing management concept, it has to go a long way before being universally accepted as a management practice. According to a research report, very few managers consider EV from the viewpoint of collective representation, though many are of the opinion that it contributes towards organisational performance (CIPD, 2001 P. 19).

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The concept is based on collective decision making by management and employees. Though it’s very difficult to implement this idea in a bureaucratic structure, a participative management can very well adopt it provided it is open to the idea of sharing decision making status with subordinates. In the course of this report I will try to justify the premise whether Employee Voice is a prerequisite to ensure effective performance of employees as well as that of organisations.

Definition of Employee Voice

Though it doesn’t have any formal definition, Employee Voice has been explained in different ways by various scholars. While some of them have opined that it is a collection of employee activities that intend to forcefully modify the management policies and practices, others have suggested that it is a voluntary expression of employees’ ideas that aim at influencing organisational activities (Greenberg & Edwards, 2009 P. 25-26).

As has been conceptualised by some managers, EV may be defined as enhanced employee communications that facilitates exchange of opinions and ideas and upward problem-solving through collective representation and commitment (CIPD, 2001 P. 20).

Purposes of Employee Voice

The general purposes that Employee Voice serves in an organisation are as the following:

§ Expression of employee dissatisfaction. This helps in solving problems with the management and also helps in maintain good relations.

§ Collective expression helps in providing management with countervailing power.

§ Employees contribute to the decision making process thereby make their requirements clear to the management.

§ Mutual harmony is harnessed through EV. This in turn secures viability of the employees as well as the organisation (Armstrong, 2006 P. 808).

From the purposes mentioned above, it is clear that EV contributes towards the overall growth of the organisation and also helps in enhancing its development in terms of work environment, quality and, above all, productivity. Owing to these facts, EV should be patronised by the management and it should also be ensured that employees feel free to voluntarily express their ideas and expectations on a regular basis. The management should also take measures to put the information generated from EV to the best use of the organisation in order to develop it on a regular basis.

Classification of Employee Voice

Employee Voice has immense corporate significance from the perspective of Industrial Democracy (ID) (Hyman & Mason, 1995 P. 1-2). Generally, EV stems into two organizational phenomena – Employee Participation (EP) and Employee Involvement (EI).

Employee Participation

Employee Participation can be conceptualised as the management initiatives which attract the employees to participate voluntarily in organisational activities through various awards and rewards. EP is manifested in the following ways:

Employee Ownership

Through various schemes, employees can hold shares of the organization and thus enjoy the usual rights of a shareholder (Lee, 1991 P. 2-5). This enhances the mutual responsibilities of both the organization and employees. On account of being shareholders, employees perform optimally towards greater scales of organisational success as that would reflect in their individual value as well. “ESOPs in the U.S. and U.K. are frequently cited as having a triad of objectives: to broaden the ownership base, stimulate investment and improve performance” (Lee, 1991 P. 4).

Profit Sharing

This is generally done in the form of payment of bonus in proportion to the organization’s annual profit. This is a form of employee incentive which intends to enhance employees’ commitment (Lee, 1991 P. 5-6).

Employee Involvement

As the name suggests, the objective of Employee Involvement is to involve employees to a greater extent in the administrative activities of the organization. This helps in empowering the employees and also enlightens them to understand the corporate policies and activities in a better light. EI facilitates the psychological divide between employer and employees and endows the latter with some degree of decision making capacity. It has two major benefits – firstly, through empowerment and decentralization the management is relieved of some portion of its administrative responsibilities and secondly, on being empowered the employees’ responsibility for organizational success increases and so does their accountability and commitment. EI also helps in uplifting employee morale and job satisfaction. Thus it enhances performance (Schafer & Economic Policy Institute, 1996 P. 126-128).

Workers’ Participation in Decision Making

This is a self explanatory method of Employee Involvement in which a decentralised and participative management seeks employees’ contribution towards organizational decision making. It increases transparency and also enables both the employer and employees to identify and respect their mutual expectations. The objectives of EI are manifested through Quality Circles, Production Teams, Employee Directorship and Workers’ Council (Lee, 1991 P. 7).

Employees’ Perception of Voice

Employees generally feel threatened by a common notion that the management uses them as mere resources without any concern for their personal enrichment. They are also driven by the fear of losing their jobs. It is irrespective of the size and nature of the organisation, that employees are worried about job security and career development. EV gives the employees a common platform for uniting and conveying their views. Hence, employees primarily perceive EV as a mode of expression which helps them in sending across their message to the management.

Management’s View towards Employee Voice

Though Employee Voice has been conceptualised through the works of various management authors, it is yet to gain global importance. The success of EV depends to a great extent on the management style (Dundon & Rollinson, 2004 P. 57). Management’s openness towards accepting EV as a developmental tool is crucial in shaping its outcomes. If and only if management encourages employees to voice their opinions and fosters a feeling of interdependence, the employees can express their ideas. The managers should also utilize the voice mechanisms in order to making their decision making easier.

It is apparent that unless a proper participative management model is implemented in an organization, it is difficult for the managers to fully appreciate the importance of EV. It can come into being only when a company works towards achieving industrial democracy (Boxall, Boxall, Purcell & Wright, 2007 P. 231-233).

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

This is the fundamental paradigm behind Employee Voice. The management should brace itself to decentralise power and control and should take employees’ ideas into serious consideration because the latter’s contribution toward organisational throughput is immense. Owing to fact that employees are invaluable resources, it is just to empower them so that they may provide the management with finer ingredients to enhance performance. It has been largely suggested that healthy labour relations plays an important role in shaping organisational productivity (Pfeffer, 1998 P. 228).

Participative management has been proven to be the healthiest of management styles owing to the fact that it though employee empowerment, it enhances the speed of communication and thus other organisational processes are also enhanced proportionally.

Employee Voice and Organizational Performance

Generally, lack of proper communication leads to organisational conflicts. Employee Voice helps in bettering employer-employee relationship through information flow. It has been observed that though different measures of Employee Participation and Employee Involvement are necessary for organisational performance, management employee interrelationship plays an equally important role in enhancing job satisfaction and hence in enhancing organisational productivity (Brown & Heywood, 2002 P. 103).

In the context of EV, we may also analyse the psychological contracts that are involved with employment. Management employee interrelationships are largely based upon exchange of services and compensation. This often leads the employees’ psyche to be uncooperative with the management’s growth strategies. The situation can be made favourable through a synergistic relationship that will exist in a wider “zone of negotiability” (Anderson, Ones, Sinangil & Viswesvaran, 2002 P. 133-136).

Though EV ensures better performance, the management must take proper initiatives in order to make it a sustainable trend. We should appreciate EV as a collective manifestation of good management practices, industrial democracy and employee unity. The management should introduce self management training modules for the employees. Training and education helps in developing the value system and perceptions of individuals. The voice of developed employees will be in sync with that of the management in issues related to organisational development and profitability, or at least they won’t feel alienated and exploited during such discussions (Smither & London, 2009 P. 377-379).

Since 1980s, employee relationships have undergone a lot of change in the U.K. mostly there have been emphasis on non-union employee representation (NER) and partnership. These have also been developments whereby the management has to inform the employees in regular intervals matters pertaining to organizational performance as well as strategic planning (Gollan, 2005 P. 238-239).

It is worth noting that high performance comes with high levels of commitment. The same concept also applies to employees. Highly motivated and committed employees tend to identify with the organisation and hence perform optimally. It goes beyond saying that enhanced commitment is a result of employee satisfaction. Thus, a goal oriented organisation should continually try to empower its employees through various ways – patronising EV being one of them (Beer, 2009 P.276).

Another study shows that unionised employees show lesser trends of attrition. EV imparts a sense of collective security to the employees and thus management faces lesser problems regarding their retention (Barrett & Mayson, 2008 P. 468).

Again, thinking more practically, we find that in general productivity and performance are not the primary interests of employee unions. They are more concerned about compensation and benefits, employees’ rights, etc. According to Kelley and Harrison, increased productivity is a by product of unions and is different from their central goals (Kaufman, Kleiner & Industrial Relations Research Association, 1993 P. 191).

Various works in the recent decades have suggested ways to reduce employee anxieties such as job security, which can be adopted by the management. Restrictions on downsizing the employee base may enhance employee loyalty which in turn will have positive effects on job satisfaction and performance (Cooke, 2003 P. 76).

Apart from being provided with alternative arrangements such as flexible working hours, job sharing and telecommuting, employees should also form an integral part of the performance appraisal system. A successful performance appraisal system should be participative and transparent (Nelson, 2007 P. 173-174).

Irrespective of the organisational size and the state of unionisation, employees tend to deliver their best when they have a proper knowledge about their duties and rights and also have an opportunity to address their views to the management. As management structures are becoming increasingly flatter, it is important for each employee to have a comprehensive knowledge as to how to be sel sufficient at work (Gennard & Judge, 2005 P. 185).

As a matter of fact, when management employee interrelationship operates at a high level thereby strengthening the process of communication, the organisation will be able to solve nearly all its internal issues without any third part involvement. This enhances the integrity of the organisation (Schafer & Economic Policy Institute, 1996 P. 127). Communication can be successful only when EV is patronised.

Communication is largely a managerial function and responsibility. The managers should ensure that information flows both in the upward as well as downward directions and also through collective channels. Staff communication policy should be formulated and improvised as per requirements (Brewster, Hegewisch, Price, Waterhouse & Co. & Cranfield School of Management, 1994 P. 163-165).

Another way to enhance EV is through harmonisation whereby differences in status are reduced. This encourages employees to freely express their ideas (Marchington, Wilkinson, Sargeant & CIPD, 2002 P. 187). This measure calls for the flattening of management structure and also requires counselling across hierarchies to make the change acceptable.

As it is being greatly clear that successful EV is an outcome of well coordinated communication, it is important to minimise the common barriers to communication and to develop a general climate that advocates as well as facilitates communication across hierarchies (Roodman & Roodman, 1973 P. 57).

EV endows employees with the right to control their career. This is a basic human need which needs to be satisfied in order to ensure commitment to work. At the same time it also reduces the supervisory responsibilities of the management and allows them more time for strategising (Pendleton, 2001 P. 108-113).

This is reflected in the words of the Production Director, Weaveco, “it probably started by preaching to our employees, then we started talking to them but then the next thing is to start listening, and I think the listening is more through the DITs where they get involved in solving problems” (Stuart & Martinez-Lucio, 2005 P. 33).

Participation is further enhanced though employees’ representation in the Board of Directors. This consolidates the stand of the employees as an inseparable element in organisational success. Apart from this the corporate policy should support individual self determination, codetermination and collective bargaining for employees to voice their ideas and necessities. There should be a symbiotic association between the management and employees to work towards a common goal (Wilkinson, Gollan & Marchington, 2010, P. 487 496).

Employee participation in any organisational activity tends to increase with their personal involvement. With an increase in involvement the employees naturally perform optimally thereby proving that EV is of immense importance in enhancing organisational performance and productivity (Kirkman, Lowe & Young, 1999 P. 42).

According to a research by the U.S. General Accounting Office Employee Ownership, together with Employee Participation in organisational decision making, can improve the overall performance of the organisation (Harris, National Research Council (U.S.), Committee on Human Factors, National Research Council (U.S.) & Panel on Organizational Linkages, 1994 P. 83). Thus it is justified that employees being key elements in the organisational processes should be taken into serious consideration from the perspective of management decision making for the betterment of organisational practices. This helps in widening the spectrum of decisional alternatives and facilitates the process through the collective approach. Management employee harmonisation also helps in bringing the two entities closer and the mutual understanding thus achieved, helps in identifying common goals.

Negative Impact of Employee Voice

Unabated EV, if not monitored carefully may lead to an upsurge of collective emotions and employees try to devise outrageous mechanisms to vent out the same. To avoid such eruptions, the management should by empathetic in listening to the employees on a regular basis and also allow room for collective bargaining in order to arrive at moderated conclusions wherever possible. Otherwise, EV may take to hostility against the organisation and disrupt its operations through non cooperative activities such as strikes, etc.

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In the course of the report we have found that EV plays an important role in shaping the organisational processes and enhancing the overall efficiency, performance and productivity. It is a tool which can best be used by a participative management model wherein it is the aim of the management to empower the employees through providing certain degree of autonomy in terms of decision making. Thus EV also reduces the management’s decision making burden. In flattened organisations it is highly necessary that individual employees have voice. This is necessary because it helps the employees to express their dissatisfactions too the management. Any corrective response by the management acts as a grievance management tool, increases employee job satisfaction, enhances their morale and commitment and thereby helps in enhancing organisational performance. Through the enhanced flow of information, administrative and process related activities become faster. It also enhances overall coordination among departments and across hierarchies.


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