Saturday, 6 March 2010

Employee Voice and Engagement

A very good colleague of mine, Paul Gollan, from Macquarie University in Sydney has been writing and researching on employee voice for a number of years, assessing whether employee voice has a positive impact on participation and through it, key outcomes for organizations and employees. The usual distinction made in this important stream of literature is 'between direct communication, upward problem-solving, or representative participation. The first two of these are essentially direct and individually focused, often operating through face-to-face interactions between supervisors/first line managers and their staff. Some take the form of informal oral or verbal participation, while others are more formalized in the form of written information or suggestions. The third form centres on the role that employee or trade union representatives play in discussions between managers and the workforce, via mechanisms such as joint consultation, worker directors or collective bargaining in the form of problem solving communications' (Budd, Gollan & Wilkinson, 2010).
Paul and his colleagues have just produced a special issue on this topic for the journal Human Relations, which has some excellent articles in it.  He is also running a seminar series this month at the LSE which looks excellent (and, he tells me, is free!), where he will also launch a new book on this important strand of work.
Among the best (for me) papers in the Human Relations collection is one by Kim, McDuffie and Pil, who write about the impact of different kinds of voice and engagement in the automative industry, and their impact on productivity (see the last post).  The results of this study are complex but generally support the importance of employee voice as an engagement strategy, so resonating with the findings in the earlier post on Steve Wood's research.  Here's a summary of the Kim et al paper by the editors - no need for me to do it. 
'Turning from the determinants of individual participation in voice mechanisms to the effects of employee voice and participation, Jaewon Kim, John Paul MacDuffie and Frits Pil (this issue) analyse the effects of team voice and worker representative voice, as well as their interaction, on labour productivity in ‘Employee voice and organizational performance:

'Of particular note, this research centres on teams’ influence on key work-related issues and worker representatives’ influence on collective voice issues rather than simply assessing the presence of teams or unions. Drawing data from automotive assembly plants from around the globe, the findings reveal that when examined solely, neither channel of voice has a significant effect on labour productivity. Rather, the influence of team voice and representative voice on worker efficiency depends on the interaction between these channels of voice. These findings challenge the conventional assumptions of advocates of both direct and indirect voice because neither type of voice on its own consistently predicts better labour productivity. Significantly, even when the two forms of voice are combined, these findings suggest their relationship with labour efficiency is complex because the positive effects of one type of voice are partly offset by them being partial substitutes. Consequently, the two forms of voice can interfere with, or neutralize, each other’s positive effects on productivity. The findings suggest that this occurs more frequently than the mutual reinforcement some might expect. However, consistent with recent European policy-making on employee participation and voice, the combination of both forms of voice does ultimately have a positive impact on performance and productivity. Overall, the findings therefore reinforce the importance of increasing various forms of employee voice for greater positive organizational outcomes'.

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努力 said...
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