The contemporary workplace: changes and challenges

Part 1: Employee Participation in Contemporary Organisations


The present day business conditions associated with dynamic competition, knowledge-based economies, and globalization markets have increased the significance of human resources in an enterprise (Budd, Gollan & Wilkinson 2010). These business conditions have compelled organizations to consider human resources as a strategic resource for every enterprise. In fact, differences existing among organizations are because of the differences existing in terms of human capital, that is, their human resources and their methods of management and development. The theory of employee participation and collaboration in present-day organizations has been drawing interest from different academicians and Human resource management (Ackers et al. 2006). It is obvious that a number or current organizations are facing problems as they try to empower and manage their employees to take part in the organizational decision-making process. In these current turbulent economic conditions, organizations need creative and innovative employees who can take advantage, inspire innovation, embrace change and adapt to high insecurity in the global market (Daft & Marcic 2007). A significant percentage of the new wave of employees prefers working in an organization that appreciates employee participation in its daily operations (Budd, Gollan & Wilkinson 2010). To satisfy the preference of the young generation of employees, most organizations have partially eliminated their directive leadership model in operations with an objective of promoting collaboration and decisiveness. Such a move also aims at improving both the individual and organizational performance. The idea of employee involvement has taken various forms, transforming from traditional worker participation and involvement in organizational decision making processes into the modern empowerment approach. The approach of employee empowerment involves providing employees with a significant amount of flexibility and freedom to make decisions pertaining to work without direct involvement of the senior management.

This new concept of leadership is in contrast with conventional management techniques that have emphasized rigidity, hierarchy and centralized authority (Dundon & Wilkinson 2010). Employee’s participation and involvement is therefore critical to how organizations make strategic decisions and operate their businesses. The employee’s participation and involvement influences both the employees and organization positively and negatively. This article discusses how worker’s participation and participation influences the workplace.

Employee Participation and Involvement

Before highlighting the impact of employee participation and involvement in a contemporary workplace, it is of the essence to explain the meaning of employee participation. Ackers et al. (2006) define employee participation is the process in which organizational decisions are shared among employees who are at different levels of the organization’s hierarchy. Participatory organization mechanisms involve the subordinate staff and the senior management in problem solving, sharing information, and decision making processes (Dainty, Bryman & Price 2002).

In addition, Redman & Wilkinson (2006) define employee participation and involvement more broadly as incorporating two aspects. The first element is the presentation of complaints or grievances within the working environment to the senior management team of the organization. The second aspect is the direct participation of individuals in the organizational decision-making processes (Delta-Publishing 2006). This implies that employee participation incorporates employee welfare and decision-making processes within an entity. Trade unions have been established to protect employees from issues such as harassment, abuse and poor working conditions. Most governments have also set up policies, regulation, standards and legislation pertaining to employees’ welfare around their workplace. Trade unions are the main conduits through which mot employees address their concerns or grievances. They have incredibly influenced the way workers are addressed and participate in organizational operations. According to Wilkinson & Fay (2011), the collective voice of employees is very instrumental in meeting their requirements within any environment. Collaborated employees have a greater bargaining power than an individual does. Furthermore, Wilkinson & Fay argue that the collaboration of employees is a one of the pillars of organizational success. The employee’s representations act as the foundation of teamwork which is positive in an organizational culture. Moreover, such representations make the work environment more civilized and humane.

Hill & Jones (2012) pointed out that communication is a critical element in the formulation of viable management strategies. They also argue that poor communication mechanism in a workplace is the primary cause of work conflicts. Therefore, organizations must strive to create proper communication mechanisms, which would in turn maintain fast and strategic decisions. A proper communication channel provides employees a framework to express their grievances to the right authority. It also ensures that dispute resolution is fast and efficient. Lee & Kon (2001) theorize that employee participation can result in a positive impact on quality productivity and avert predicaments that would otherwise explode. One of the factors behind the formation of trade unions is the failure of the existing channels meant to address workers’ grievances. Most employees consider trade unions as being the best avenue for voicing their concerns. This is subject to the fact that trade unions are third parties independent of the employer (DuBrin 2012).

According to Dundon & Wilkinson (2010), there are different trade unions to address various employee grievances due to their diverse and complex nature. Some of the aproaches that workers employ to adrees their grievances include representation and recognition, trade union membership and direct employee involvement. According to a survey, trade union membership has significantly reduced. Employee participation has become popular globally. Ackers et al. (2006) highlights that most entities found that employees’ involvement promotes organizational culture and corporate responsibility. This is mainly because the employees are the foundation of all the organizational operations. Human resource management (HRM) has pointed theorize that as workers get involved in daily decision making processes within a  business environment, they tend to become more creative and innovative (Daft & Marcic 2007).

Democratic model of leadership promotes vertical integration within an organization. It creates a healthy link between the top management and the subordinate staff. As workers get actively involved in decision-making, develop a sense of membership and recognition (Crossan & Killing 2005). This motivates them furthering their performance and the overall productivity of the business. Since the inception of this concept, organizational participatory practices have impacted the work environment both positively and negatively. It is widely accepted that employee participation and involvement have a significant affect on a worker’s productivity and commitment to the company (Budd, Gollan & Wilkinson 2010). Employee participation also affects an employee’s job sanctification. These elements notably influence the way a company or an organization perform their businesses. Employee participation also reduces or averts internal disputes, as well as, industrial disputes between employees and management subject to poor communication (Ackers et al. 2006). The effective and efficient resource allocation process is directly linked to sound decision-making process. Proper communication mechanisms also lead to lesser work stress and conflicts among workers. The overall benefit is that employees are motivated which translates to a performing organization.

Impact of Employee Participation in Workplace

Human resource is the most underutilized resource in many organizations. The current knowledge economy demands initiative and independent entrepreneurship throughout the organizational ranks. According to Ackers et al. (2006), organizational involvement is no longer a one-way process. As such, the management in any institution should work towards involving the entire organization forcefully enough in order to achieve the desired objectives. A multi-skilled workforce and flat hierarchical structures characterize the new knowledge-based organizations and institutions. Managers and heads of institutions in these institutions provide leadership and coaching roles as they work diligently to provide employees with efficient resources and working resources that are essential for the accomplishment of the agreed organizational objectives. In general, employees in knowledge-based institutions or organizations do not work for their managers (Crossan & Killing 2005). In fact, managers work for their staff. This leaves one to wonder how managers can work for their staff when it is supposed to be the other way round. Employee participation attempts to solve this mystery.

The impact of employee participation or involvement in workplace is versatile and varied. Clearly defined organizational goals play a key role in formulating effective employee involvement strategies (DuBrin 2012). Most organizations entrust their management teams the responsibility to come up with such strategies. The human resource department is central to policies and strategies pertaining to the general employees’ welfare. Other organizations pass temporary responsibilities to trained personnel. Rarely do companies pass such duties to employees without factoring their qualifications. According to Dubrin (2012), most companies recognize and reward their employees for their good performance. Such a scheme promotes and cements the communication vertically and horizontally within an organization. The most evident impacts of employee participation include employee productivity, job satisfaction and employee commitment. Others include better use of time and resources, less industrial disputes (Dundon & Wilkinson 2010).

Employee Productivity and Effective Resource Utilization

Most organizational cultures dictate hiring and maintaining both innovative and productive employees. Organization can only maintain their competitive advantage and corporate brand if they sustain or economically increase their output (Gilbert 2008). This can only be achieved through productive workers. Productive workers are characterized by creativity, innovation and working under minimal supervision. Such workers normally create new ideas or strategies that promote employees welfare, as well as, improve the quantity and quality of their output. Innovation is a key tool for surviving current turbulent globalization trends (Goldin & Reinert 2012). In economics, productivity is a performance measure, which integrates both efficiency and effectiveness. The correlation between employer participation and productivity is underlined in the working organizational culture that encourages employee involvement. An organization in which employees are involved in decision making, goal setting  and problem solving results in higher individual and organizational performance (Robbins & Coulter 2007).

Employee participation encourages contemporary style of participatory management. Furthermore, employee participation facilitates satisfaction which is directly associated to individual productivity (Wilkinson et al. 2012). This brought by high working capabilities and quality motivation if it is well implemented. Dundon & Wilkinson (2010) points out that a participatory practices have more significant effect on the employee’s satisfaction than participation in particular decision. According to Daft & Marcic (2007), human resource strategies, which promotes employees participation gives employees the opportunities to access appropriate skills. This acts as an incentive to improve the output and an individual input in decision-making.

Employee participation has extensively influenced the productivity of companies and organizations and in general. According to Loughborough Research, organizations that promote employee participation or involvement, performs better that their counterparts, which do not embrace employee involvement schemes in their workplaces (Ackers et al. 2006). The findings further indicate that employees in organizations that cultivate worker participation culture are more satisfied with their jobs and working environment compared to other employees.

The finding further highlights that employees who work in companies that have effective employee involvement or participation are more satisfied with their job compared to other workers. Dundon & Wilkinson (2009) theory on the impact of company productivity and employee participation justifies the same result. Several academicians and business leaders widely agrees that there is a connection between productivity and employee participation or involvement. From this observations and research work, it is evident that employee participation in the daily operation of an organization improves the employees’ job satisfaction and productivity (Ackers et al. 2006).

Job satisfaction and employee commitment

According to Noe (2008), job satisfaction involves a positive or pleasing emotional state of an individual emanating from an evaluation of his or her job. Job satisfaction is also viewed from the perspective of the attitude that a person has towards his or her job. Several affect the levels of job satisfaction including the needs and desires of an employee, the quality and style managerial practices in the organization, job design, levels of compensation, social relationships, working conditions, perceived opportunities within the organization, and perceived opportunities outside the organization. LLoyd (2002) affirms that job satisfaction imposes a considerable impact on employees’ organizational turnover, grievances, absenteeism, and employee turnover. An inference from this observation is that satisfied employees tend to enhance organizational productivity because reduced turnover and less absenteeism (Armstrong 2003). Job satisfaction is the fundamental element of individual output. It plays an important role in the way employees carry out their daily responsibilities. One driving factor behind job resignation is poor job terms and environmental conditions (Redman & Wilkinson 2006). An employee who is not satisfied with the workplace environment as per the job description tends to be stressed and demoralized. Job satisfaction is a pleasurable emotional state directly linked to the consideration of job experience. Most human resource managers perceive job satisfaction as the incongruity between what the job environment provides and what an employee values (Hill & Jones 2012). Many scholars view job satisfaction as the level of an employee affective alignment toward the job occupied in the company. Human resource management has been integrating job satisfaction and employee involvement to develop human capital and enhance productivity. Employee participation ensures that people commit themselves to the duties and responsibility assigned to them (Psoinos & Smithson 2002). According to Ackers et al.( 2006), most employees that actively take part in formulation process were observed to commit themselves to company vision, mission, goals and objectives.

Employees in contemporary organizations grow confidence and become pleased by their organizational participatory practices (Redman & Wilkinson 2006). This scheme generates trust between the subordinate staff and the top management. Through worker involvement, employees tend to come up with new ideas about the business concerns, as well as, get an opportunity to release their stress. A stress free working environment makes employees satisfied with their job. Such an environment also cultivates a culture of reliability with respect to decision-making. Employee participation or satisfaction also makes employees more innovative, creative, productive and committed to their organizational goals (Dainty, Bryman & Price 2002). Democracy in organizations makes workers feel recognized and appreciated as an integral part of the organization. A Human Resource Manager at McDonalds’ points out that the implementation of employee participation results in a considerable development with an effective element of employee involvement. In reference to McDonalds’ organization culture, it is evident that employees will always more than what is defined in their job descriptions (Gilbert 2008). Job satisfaction increases both vertical and horizontal communication within a company. Such an environment is an incubator for innovations and new ideas. Job satisfaction also eliminates informal absenteeism and shortage of employees. Loughborough Research on employee participation in Britain indicated that business entities that do not implement employee participation in their decision-making processes had low job satisfaction (Ackers et al. 2006). This if linked to poor motivation thereby become less creative and innovative. A significant number of employees in such organizations resigned and left to work in other companies that embraced effective employee relation.

Obstacles to Effective Employee Participation

Many academicians and human resource mangers argue that most companies are reluctant to change from their conventional autocratic leadership to democratic leadership style (Lee & Kon 2001). They perceive democratic leadership as a threat to their centralized authority towards employees. This fear is a primary factor that deters most organizations from implementing employee involvement or participation. The other obstacle is to employee involvement is the failure of company management teams to respond to employee recommendation. Failure to take action on impedes employee involvement (Redman & Wilkinson 2006).


Employee participation and involvement are fundamental constructs in contemporary organizations. In recent debates, the argument has focused on whether direct control from leaders and employee participation can co-exist in a contemporary organization.  It is observed that leader direction is widely accepted by employees at the senior management level of decision-making, but it is perceived as intrusive at the operational level. This paper examined the impact of employee participation and involvement in contemporary organizations, as well as, their psychological empowerment. The findings of this study have highlighted a significant beneficial correlation between employee participation and the total dimension of empowerment.

Part 2: Reflective commentary

This essay has highlighted the importance of effective employee participation to ensure that the positive impact is improved in workplaces. Through training and development programs, a company can cultivate the necessary skills and knowledge required in strategic decision-making process. Companies should also invest in their knowledgebase to foster creativity and innovation for survival in the modern market that is evolving to a global village. Globalization dictates that companies and organizations have to embrace technological advancements to create or sustain a competitive advantage.

By understanding the impact of embracing democratic leadership with an aspect of employee participation or involvement on an organizational performance, the result is a multifaceted and varied scenario for employees and management. This is subject to the argument that employees in these environments are satisfied and work productively; the management, on the hand, continues to benefit from the quality and quantity of the output.

One of the major challenges involves the formulation and the actual implementation of effective strategies of effective employee participation or involvement. Effective strategies would need strategic leaders thereby may not fully include all the workers in decision-making. Effective strategies need some considerable skills and knowledge, which would cost a firm training and development programs across the board. An inclusive decision making process may consume a lot of time given that in a democratic arrangement, all stakeholders’ views and suggestions are integral. Due to the increasing trends towards employee participation, Human Resource management Studies (HRMS) are projected to continue emphasizing on approaches such as teamwork and team building, reward management, job satisfaction, participatory management practices and strategic planning. All these approaches are aimed at increasing the performance and productivity at workplaces.

In this article, a comprehensive evaluation was carried on the impact of employee participation or involvement in the workplace. The presented arguments and observations were founded on the ground that the latest trend of embracing participatory management practices is reasonable and unquestionable in every business oriented setting. Quite a number of organizations are still reluctant to shift to democratic leadership style yet many scholars and HRMS has proved employee’s participation to be beneficial. One of the possible reason why some organizations have no shifted is the fear of authority shift from the management to the employee. Some human resource managers still hang on traditional management approaches because their performance appraisal proves that they have been excellent economically. In such instances, the managers argue that as long as there a partial feeling of involvement by subordinates biased with being consulted infrequently, then there will be a satisfaction. From this essay, it is clear that effective employee participation systems need serious collaboration between the management and employees with a shared goal of virtually reshaping the whole organization. It is obvious that a number or current organizations are facing problems as they try to empower and manage their employees to take part in the organizational decision-making process. In these current turbulent economic conditions, organizations need creative and innovative employees who can take advantage, inspire innovation, embrace change and adapt to dynamism in the global market. I believe that employee participation holds the key to achieving and maintaining sustainable competitive advantage.

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