Employee Participation, Culture and Change

“A journey of a thousand miles begins only with a single step,” so said one great philosopher, Confucius. The journey to the success of any organization too begins by putting just a few things in order and then planning a way to forge ahead. Evans has introduced a Human Resource (HR) approach to the management of Greendale Company to revive it from the mess it has been wallowing in for over a century.

The company has been under autocratic family leadership for all its existence. In such a setting, only the owners make management decisions and the workers just have to implement the instructions they are given with no appraisal. (Cunningham 2001). Hence the myriad problems that were notable at Greendale Company. The company was characterized by the use of informal methods to assign tasks, and no supervision was done to assess the progress of the staff. In addition, there was the minimal investment in technology, as the managers seemed to be content with whatever they had. Consequently, the labor turnover was low.

That aside, it is evident that since the staffs would sometimes be required to assist in repairing managers’ cars, there was a lot of loss of man-hours. The seemingly “friendly” work environment was a threat in disguise as this encourages laxity among workers (Cunningham 2001). It is noteworthy that employees from rival organizations, having been used to busy and technologically advanced environments, were brought to a perfectly contrasting environment, hence their frustration. Evans’ HR approach was therefore meant to improve work relations and performance in the company.

With the new HR approach, several changes were notable at Greendale Company. From a laisser-faire kind of leadership in which there were are no supervisors (Cunningham 2001), came a management style in which the staffs were under observation. While embracing the new management approach, the company became more customer-focused with a lot of attention being paid to customer satisfaction. To achieve this, the company invested more in new technology to improve efficiency.

Moreover, a staff reward scheme based on individual output was initiated. Such a move would ensure that each worker at the company aimed at being awarded and therefore achieved the company’s target. To perk up staff efficiency, Greendale Company set a staff appraisal scheme to improve performance. More importantly, the company improved communication by the creation of hot desks, meeting places, and the provision of email services to the staff. Communication is one aspect of organizational culture that is very vital to progress, as noted by Marchington et al (2002). The company also changed the mode of communication from the ubiquitous conversational form to a more visual form by use of electronic notice boards.

Despite the radical changes initiated by Evans, some resistance was noticeable. The key resistors to change in any organization are poor education and the fear by employees to learn something new, low tolerance, and personal compacts of formal, psychological, and social dimensions (Bolognese 2002). Bolognese (2002) defined resistance to change as a kind of behavior that is meant to shield an individual from the impacts of actual or perceived change.

In the case of Greendale Company, the workers complained that they were not well informed of the changes that took place. The personal compacts of the formal, psychological and social dimensions in the employees were portrayed by their failure to report to work regularly due to the changes. Perhaps they perceived the changes as “too stringent measures” for them to persevere. Poor education as a source of resistance could have roused the workers’ feeling that electronic notice boards had denied them the freedom to converse.

To overcome resistance to organizational change, open communication and capacity building are the key issues that need to be addressed. To begin with, improving communication between managers and junior employees would reduce the gap between the two classes of people and all would realize the importance of change (Bolognese 2002). As for the Greendale Company, complaints were raised that the effected changes were not well communicated. This could have been avoided by the use of meetings and other channels to address the importance of embracing change. Change per se is not a panacea for an organization’s success.

There is a need to build confidence among employees by making them participate in the process. For instance, Bolognese (2002) suggests that capacity building should encompass treating the past with respect while addressing the anticipated opportunities and challenges. Managers need to introduce change progressively and not abruptly. Such a move would make employees appreciate the past but also be able to anticipate the opportunities and challenges that come with change.

Organizations that embrace employee participation are likely to benefit from high productivity and better quality of their products (Cunningham 2001). In addition, employee participation limits the gap between employers and employees and creates a good working relationship. To harmonize the participation of managers and their juniors in achieving an organization’s target, managers have to value their juniors’ contribution and appreciate it (Marchington et al 2002).

In addition, effective communication is vital as earlier mentioned. Regular meetings or briefings to discuss an organization’s progress are important (Marchington et al 2002). In such forums, issues affecting various departments can be addressed to improve efficiency. Training on new technologies and ideas is another way of embracing employee participation (Marchington et al 2002). Through training, employees get a chance to ask questions and make clarifications in areas pertinent to their practice. Along the same line, managers get a chance to know which areas in the organization need improvement.

Employee participation is the means to reaching the destination of the thousand-mile journey. The success of an organization does not owe credence to just one department, but the organization in its entirety.

References

Cunningham, J B 2001, Researching organizational values and beliefs: The echo approach, Greenwood Publishing Group, London.

Marchington, M; Wilkinson A, Sergeant, M & Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2002, People management and development, CIPD Publishing, New York.

Bolognese, A F 2002, Employee resistance to organizational change. Web.