An apparent mechanism behind the concept of employee involvement is its long-term prevalence in Human Resources Management (HRM) and workplace dynamics, often under different definitions in different eras. Foy (1994: 17) commented on the notion of empowering employees in the workplaces of the 1990s, noting the similarities behind the ideas of ‘involvement’ in the 1980s and ‘participation’ in the 1970s. In order for a company to reach its potential, it was believed its employees had to be directly involved in the pursuit and implementation of strategic objectives, resulting in cost efficiency and effective market practices (Hyman and Mason, 1995).
Employee involvement in the past has been identified by the use of influence, sharing of information and interaction (Wall and Lischerson, 1977), with a general consensus that these would include either company-led instructions or fully democratic processes. The ideas of empowerment are defined but tend to be simplistic, such as Cook and Macaulay’s definition which focuses on the concept as a management tool to enable individuals to use their skills and abilities for the purpose of customer satisfaction (Cook and Macauley, 1997: 54). In this sense, the use of involvement and empowerment is different – empowerment invokes the presumption of influence i.e. the ability to suggest ideas that are the will of the employees rather than the will of the management – while also seemingly to overlap as the theory developed over time.
Studies and surveys show support for the hypothesis behind the use of employee involvement incentives – the ‘components of the psychological contract’ table (Wilton, 2013: 36) displayed various criteria needed to foster greater commitment, satisfaction, motivation and loyalty in employees, with HR policies/practices and trust being some of the main factors. Other studies based on sample sizes in the UK have found similar conclusions, such as positive correlations between human resource-led initiatives based on creativity and collaboration and overall company performance in the public (Gould-Williams, 2003) and the private sector (Heffernan et al, 2009).
Ultimately, employee involvement often contains deeper meanings influenced by the environment business are forced to work in. The subtle differences are shaped by commercial, environmental and industrial circumstances (Lashley, 1997: 10) which consequentially affect the mind-set of the management regarding the use of employee involvement initiatives. If there is pressure on the management to produce results in a difficult environment i.e. an economic downturn or in a very competitive market, there is less incentive to give employees proper autonomous opportunities (Cappelli and Neumark, 2001). One particular initiative, the employee voice, will be further discussed in terms of its history, influence, benefits and problems.
This essay will attempt to explain the reasons why employee involvement is seen as...