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Leading Self-Directed Work Teams.
by Kimball Fisher
  A new edition of the book that lead the self-directed work teams revolution. Leading Self-Directed Work Teams is one of the best-selling books on teams ever published. Now, the perfect guide for any team leader has been revised and expanded to reflect the new realities of team-based organizations.
  More information and prices from: - US dollars - Canadian dollars - British pounds - euros

Empowering Employees.
by Kenneth L. Murrell, Mimi Meredith
  A facilitating guide to empowering employees. Outlines the six building blocks to empowerment, how to make Web-based strategies work, both gaining and sharing experience and expertise. Offers benchmark examples of the empowerment successes of others.
  More information and prices from: - US dollars - Canadian dollars - British pounds - euros

Employee Involvement, Employee-Centred Management and Empowerment

Adapted from Human Resource Management in a Business Context, 3rd edition (2007)

Schuster (1998) asks why managers have been so slow in adopting employee-centred management? He postulates five main reasons:

1. Complacency and inertia. He argues that, until recently, many executives had never questioned or considered changing the fairly comfortable status quo.

2. The short-term focus of 'management systems in general, and reward systems in particular.' Executive performance bonuses and incentive plans are tied to one year - and certainly not aimed at building a committed workforce over the long-term.

3. Inability to measure the impact of HR practices. Schuster contends that: "Until recently, little attention has been paid to executive performance regarding effective utilization of human resources, in part because standards for comparison did not exist. Our lack of control (original emphasis) over the efficient utilization of the most expensive single cost of operation in many organizations is indeed remarkable."

4. Reluctance to give up their special status, executive privileges and managerial power.

5. Perhaps the most significant explanation of all - that many managers would like to introduce high-involvement practices 'but are unsure how to begin or exactly how to proceed.'

Fisher (1999:3) states that things have changed:

"Empowerment has clearly become the latest in a long litany of vogue practices that have ebbed and flowed over corporations like the changing of the tide. Today it is estimated that virtually every corporation in North America and Western Europe is using various forms of empowerment somewhere in their organization. Many even utilize an advanced form of empowerment called self-directed work teams (SDWTs) - now more commonly called high-performance work systems." In fact, SDWTs are in a direct line of descent from the 'socio-technical systems' of the 1950s.

Fisher argues that companies which take this seriously consider empowerment to be more than a passing fad. He also sees the team leader as a key role in the empowerment process. In the past they would have been supervisors, 'foremen', or managers. Now they may have titles including terms such as facilitator or advisor and lead, coach, or train rather than plan, organize, direct, or control. Under the traditional form of management, supervisors would control subordinates by telling them what to do. In other words, the supervisor was the boss. Fisher contends that all traditional managers are supervisors. For empowerment to take effect, they must become team leaders.

Fisher (1999:11) justifies this by saying that: "Competitive advantage comes from fully utilizing the discretionary effort of the workforce, not from buying the latest gadget or using the latest management fad. Voluntary effort comes from employee commitment, and commitment comes from empowerment."

So what is empowerment? Murrell and Meredith (2000:1) define empowering as: "... mutual influence; it is the creation of power; it is shared responsibility; it is vital and energetic, and it is inclusive, democratic and long-lasting."

They argue that empowerment implies a finished process, a state of constancy. Whereas: "Empowering ... suggests action - enabling the growth of individuals and organizations as they add value to the products or services the organization delivers to its customers, and the promotion of continuous discovery and learning."

For Murrell and Meredith managers in an empowering organization:

* Believe that leadership belongs to all employees - and not just a few.

* Know that the company is most likely to succeed when employees have the tools, training and authority to do their best work.

* Understand that information is power - and share it with all employees.

* Value employees enough to build a culture that values and supports individuals.

* Create opportunities for finding solutions and for designing what-can-be - not searching for problems and what-should-have-been.

* Understand that fostering empowerment is a continuous effort - not an endpoint to be checked off a list of objectives.

Employee Involvement

Fisher, K. (1999), Leading Self-Directed Work Teams, McGraw-Hill.
Murrell, K.L. and Meredith, M. (2000), Empowering Employees, McGraw-Hill.
Schuster, F.E. (1998), Employee-Centered Management: A Strategy for High Commitment and Involvement, Quorum Books.

This article is based on Human Resource Management in a Business Context by Alan Price (3rd edition, 2007)

Introduction to HRM

Human Resource Management in a Business Context 
Human Resource Management
in a Business Context

by Alan Price
Thomson Learning - ISBN 978-184480-548-8
Third Edition 2007

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