High involvement management (HIM) was invented in the early 1980s. It is what some authors refer to as commitment management (Armstrong & Baron 2002). These authors describe an innovative methodology of management, which succeeded the control or the Taylorist model of management. Its firm division of labor typifies the control approach, limited opportunities for the involvement of employees, narrowly defined specialists assignments and low levels of employee trust and commitment (Armstrong & Baron 2002). Askenazy and Caroli (2010) believe that high involvement management is increasingly becoming relevant to all organizations, because they experience the uncertainty and intensifying competition. However, the previous employment relations approaches, which were linked to the control model, might have to change. High involvement management means a more accommodating approach between workers and management than the adversarial association. The adversarial association developed, based on narrow job specifications, oligopolistic product market and payment systems in terms of the inflexible job piecework or structures (Wood et al. 2012). In this regard, this paper critically evaluates the claim that high involvement management is the best way of managing in all situations.
Despite some early implementers of high involvement management being non-union and some commentators seeing it as a strategy to destabilize the unionism, Black, Lynch and Krivelyova (2004) perceived both implementers and commentators as possibly compatible. Bloom and Van Reenen (2007) argued that the union involvement in high involvement management might be extremely beneficial for its adoption. Dynamics in the attitudes and role of both trade unionists and management might be essential. Participation that centered on the consultation and information sharing instead of bargaining might be necessary when using the HIM approach. Bordia et al. (2004) further added that via these activities and mutual understanding, firms could experience positive gains from the use of HIM.
The Link between HIM and Performance
According to Brenner, Fairris and Ruser (2004), organizations that use high involvement management might attain a superior performance to those, using the traditional management approach. In this regard, Böckerman and Ilmakunnas (2008) argue that organizations using the HIM approach are able to confront the increasing worldwide competition, while offering opportunities to employees for a greater security and rewards, as well as the inherent satisfaction, which workers’ involvement provided. In fact, during the early 1990s, the performance impacts were taken for granted by some organizations. Most of those, who took those impacts for granted, labeled the HIM approach as high performance work systems.
According to Böckerman and Ilmakunnas (2012), high involvement management implies involving employees in transforming not only their roles, but also the entire business. This involvement goes beyond the role of involvement linked to the work enrichment. As such, Godard (2004) used the term HIM to refer to practices that either directly or indirectly provide workers with opportunities for the organizational involvement via the deployment of the skills acquisition and dissemination of information. High involvement management, therefore, involves work organization practices like flexible job descriptions, team-working, and idea capturing schemes that are ways of promoting pro-activity, collaboration and greater flexibility. In addition, the practices of HIM give employees the opportunities for knowledge and skills acquisition that is necessary in ensuring that they have the abilities to work in an involved manner (Bordia et al. 2004). Examples of such opportunities include an intensive training focused on the team-working, idea generation, functional flexibility and information sharing, especially about market and economics of the business (Black, Lynch & Krivelyova 2004).
High involvement management promotes the pro-activity and idea generation (Black, Lynch & Krivelyova 2004). In fact, this approach emphasizes on increasing the idea generation and pro-activity as its distinguishing characteristics. This has been witnessed, especially during the wake of effective implementation of quality circles and idea capturing schemes, in many Japanese companies that are viewed as powerful innovators, especially in manufacturing. According to Godard (2010), the thrust of this management approach is towards the development of broader horizons among all employees. This development ensures that employees think of the best possible ways of accomplishing their tasks, connecting what others do with what they do and taking a necessary initiative in the visage of novel problems. Green and Heywood (2008) argue that the purpose of HIM is to push employees to take part in what the present management theory refers to as a continuous improvement culture. The aim is to encourage a high performance via the pro-activity and adaptation, which are viewed as the inherent aspects of present work obligations (Black, Lynch & Krivelyova 2004).
Godard’s study (2004) revealed that there are strong relationships between the performance and HIM. Using measures that are based on central practices of HIM, the study revealed that a higher productivity was associated with HIM in private sector, though only in unionized workplaces. This contrasts with the claim that HIM is appropriate in all management circumstances. From this perspective, HIM might not be suitable in non-unionized workplaces. According to Wall and Wood (2005), there is also no clear relationship between the financial performance and HIM. Therefore, some authors have speculated that the collection of results might explain why unions succeed in bargaining for concessions. The success of union arises from a relationship that is more cooperative between unions and employees.
High involvement management is also the best management approach due to its association with various supporting or motivational practice such as incentives (Brenner, Fairris & Ruser 2004). These incentives encourage workers to capitalize on the opportunities for participation. According to Wood and Wall (2007), these incentives are also meant to equip workers with the necessary skills in high involvement management and assist the organization in attracting and retaining suitable employees in order to secure a committed and stable workforce. Such workforce would underpin an efficient high involvement management. Other motivational and supporting practices include group compensations schemes, minimal status differentials and internal recruitment (Armstrong & Baron 2002).
The HIM approach enables organizations to match the HR system to their context that can either be the core strategy of organizations of the elements of the environment (Black, Lynch & Krivelyova 2004). In relation to the theory of contingency, one might anticipate the impact of HIM on the performance to differ, depending on the extent, to which the approach is consistent with pertinent external factors. According to Wood et al. (2012), there might be contexts, in which high involvement management will have no impact or be counter-productive. This contrasts with the claim that the HIM approach is suitable in all contexts. Some authors have maintained that the benefits of the HIM approach are highest, where organizations are experiencing the uncertain and turbulent environment.
Wood and Wall (2007) claimed that HIM is highly appropriate for organizations using a high quality strategy as opposed to the strategy of cost minimization. If an organization is focused on the performance maximization, then, it will match its HRM to the strategic or environmental context. If this theory associating performance holds, consequently, strategic or external factors would be linked, at least in both medium and long term to the extent of the HIM usage (Wood et al. 2012). Similarly, assuming that the theory is globally pertinent and holds, one would anticipate the HIM approach not to be restricted to specific contexts. As such, one would anticipate it to span evenly across the economy. One would also expect HIM and its determinants to be predominantly internal factors of the firm (Wood & Wall 2007). According to Green and Heywood (2008), it is also possible that the use of the respective HIM practices has been substantially concentrated in specific industries or characteristic to certain workplaces. This might be because the organization’s fashion of management has mimicked the competitors’ management approach.
The Link between HIM and Well-Being
There is an emphasis that high involvement management increases a job satisfaction. According to Askenazy and Caroli (2010), it is achieved by improving the traditional aspect related to enriched jobs. Such traditional aspects include the skill utilization, autonomy and development. For instance, Black, Lynch and Krivelyova (2004) suggested the primary mechanism in the high involvement management system by explaining the impact of employee involvement on the overall performance. According to them, the key mechanism of high involvement management is the fact that it calls forth a greater voluntary effort from employees (Black, Lynch & Krivelyova 2004).
According to Bloom and Van Reenen (2007), the increased discretion or control for employees implicit in the high involvement management approach reduces their psychological strain and allows them to cope with higher demands. Böckerman and Ilmakunnas (2008) as well as Bloom and Van Reenen (2007) argue that the high involvement management approach might avert stress, though it might place huge demands on workers by encouraging them to add in discretionary efforts in order to assist the organization or the team in succeeding, and therefore, it causes stress. The association between stress and high involvement management might go either way (Black, Lynch & Krivelyova 2004). The negative impacts of increased demands might outweigh the positive benefits of the increased control. On the other hand, the positive impacts of the increased control might outweigh the negative impacts of the increased demands. From this perspective, according to Askenazy and Caroli (2010), the HIM approach is not suitable in all contexts.
Studies have been motivated by the pursuit to determine the aspect of the balance by assessing the direction of the relationship between high involvement management and well-being (Armstrong & Baron 2002). Despite the measures of high involvement management varying between studies, they all tend to concentrate on the discretion as the major mechanism associated to the positive well-being. According to Böckerman and Ilmakunnas (2012), different dimensions of the involvement might be associated to well-being differently. In addition, even the effect of enriched jobs might not be restricted to the increasing demand or autonomy.
Bordia et al. (2004) pointed out that high involvement management might improve the perceived personal control and various work. According to Brenner, Fairris and Ruser (2004), this is possible even if there is no associated increase in the job discretion. The improvement of the perceived personal control by the high involvement management approach is achieved through improving opportunities and role breadth for the suggestion making and idea generation. According to Bloom and Van Reenen (2007), group forms and, perhaps, the functional flexibility of idea capturing increase the social contact, which is a important cause of satisfaction that, in turn, helps in reducing anxieties among employees.
The sharing of information and the greater understanding of objectives of an organization by its employees might make the environment certain (Green & Heywood 2008). According to Green and Heywood (2008), employees might recognize their career projections to be positive or their job to be more secure. This is because the high involvement management approach creates the perception of booming an adaptive organization or successful results. The acquisition of information and skills that are entailed in high involvement management might increase the contentment and satisfaction. According to Black, Lynch and Krivelyova (2004), this can be achieved through the effect of HIM on the job variety of an individual, the ability to learn and be proactive, as well as the self-esteem.
The invitation to be involved in the organization, contained in high involvement management, might signal a worker that they are highly respected and that their involvement is highly valued (Armstrong 2008). In addition, being directly informed of and involved in the objectives and progress of the organization, might also improve the meaningfulness of the organizational participation and work. This might improve the perceived social value of the job. As such, employees are then less likely to view their job as simply work, but as a career. In addition, there is significant evidence that people, who view work as a career, are more satisfied (Armstrong & Baron 2002).
In general, the above impacts of high involvement management might increase the pride of workers in their work and contribution to the success of organizations. Overall, the impacts reinforce feelings of enthusiasm and contentment. Employees might also deploy their opportunities for the creativity and discretion to avert problems or hindrance stressors, which make their job extremely difficult to perform. Böckerman and Ilmakunnas (2008) also argued that the increased comprehensibility, manageability and meaningfulness of the organization and work life related to high involvement management improve the sense of coherency of an employee. An improved sense of coherency, subsequently, enhances employees’ mechanisms of coping and, therefore, enables them to endure any stressors.
Influence on Corporate Structure
In relation to corporate structure, organizations or institutions using high involvement management and institutions using rational management practices also differ. According to Godard (2004), organizations using rational management practices seem to have a very steep hierarchy with various ranks between executives and floor-workers. For instance, organizations deploying bureaucratic control frequently have one level of entry at the bottom level of the hierarchy. In such organizations, recruits tend to work their way up, which appears like an endless ladder. Since these organizations have a very steep hierarchy, employees near the bottom level of the management chain are frequently alienated from higher ups. As a result, the rapport between workers and the executives are minimal. Nevertheless, organizations that use high involvement management practices seem to have a flat hierarchy. This makes intra-organization networking extremely easy. As such, most workers gladly develop attachment to their peers on the job, executives, and the institution. This increases commitment among employees. Whereas the rational system of management seems to maintain distance between lower employees and executives, high involvement management promotes good rapport between the two.
The flat structure of the organization is one the significant things that result in the success of the organization (Brenner, Fairris & Ruser 2004). In HIM employees are responsible for their own decision making. Some individuals might perceive this as adding more weight on employees, though in reality, employees are likely to see the control emanating from within them via the adoption of self-created pressures and demand. According to Bloom & Van Reenen (2007), this does not mean the executives lack these higher powers completely. The fact is that employees under this system are not depending on the CEOs, general managers or other employees in order to do their work. According to Brenner, Fairris & Ruser (2004), this personal discipline drives people assist the organization make greater strides towards success.
The Connected Deployment of HIM practices
The connected use of the high involvement management approach shows that it is the best way of managing in all circumstances. However, this poses a question: do organizations using one type of high involvement management use other types? Are the correlations between the deployments of respective high involvement practices strong? If the associations are strong, then, they show a fundamental management philosophy, in which eliciting the employee commitment will result in an improved performance. According to Böckerman and Ilmakunnas (2008), the HIM practices deployed in British manufacturing firms in 1990 had significant correlations. These correlations could be explained by a fundamental high involvement orientation on the side of the management. The connected aspect in the use of the HIM practices makes it flexible and suitable in various contexts.
The most important positive association is between HIM and the deployment of the total quality management. Godard’s (2010) study indicated that HIM is utilized in conjunction with four different practices. The first practice is a total quality management that makes all employees responsible for a continuous improvement and quality. The second practice used along with HIM is just-in-time, due to the need to manufacture products in a direct reaction to external and internal demands of customers. Thirdly, HIM is used along with a computer-based technology, which assists in linking with the computerized equipment to allow the improved integration. Fourthly, HIM is deployed along with the supply-chain partnering that focuses on developing of long-term relationships and strategic alliances with suppliers. The use of HIM along with these practices improves the management, which makes it the best way to manage organizations.
Why Does HIM Work?
High involvement management has recently become a popular system for institutions. Rather than concentrating on authority, high involvement management concerns personal responsibility, empowerment of employees and independence across all management levels. According to Armstrong (2008), the cultural structure and job design of HIM is one thing that makes it an unusual system. These aspects strongly emphasize on completing the tasks. However, employees complete their tasks in a manner that they enjoy doing. According to Armstrong & Baron (2002), organizational leaders develop business processes, organizations design, capabilities and goals, and measures, which are streamlined with a focused winning strategy. This type of working environment enables employees to approach their job at ease. Technology also pays a critical role in this management system by addressing the communication barriers that makes HIM fit much better. Employee relationships are another focus of the high involvement management system. Organizations hire individuals who are determined, flexible and willing to handle challenges. Since this system depends on personal performance, there is emphasis on employing the suitable people for the job. The recruitment process might comprise of many interviews with different members of the organization (Bloom & Van Reenen 2007).
HIM refers to practices that either directly or indirectly provide workers with opportunities for the organizational involvement via the deployment of the skills acquisition and dissemination of information. High involvement management involves work organization practices like flexible job descriptions, team-working, idea capturing schemes that are ways of promoting pro-activity, collaboration and greater flexibility. High involvement management promotes the pro-activity and idea generation. This approach emphasizes on increasing the idea generation and pro-activity as its distinguishing characteristics. The purpose of HIM is to push employees to take part in what the present management theory refers to as a continuous improvement culture. High involvement management is also the best management approach due to its association with various supporting or motivational practices such as incentives. In general, the above impacts of high involvement management might increase the pride of workers in their work and contribution to the success of organizations.
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