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Empowerment

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Category: Miscellaneous

Autor: anton 01 July 2011

Words: 3512 | Pages: 15

Table of Contents. 2

1.0 Introduction 3

2.0 Empowerment at PublicOrg 5

3.0 Empowerment at AerospaceCo. 7

4.0 Analysis of empowerment at AerospaceCo and PublicOrg. 9

4.1 Resistance to Change 9

4.2 Training and Communication 10

4.3 Job Security 11

4.4 Commitment and Trust 11

4.4.1 The Commitment Model 12

4.5 Theory X or Theory Y ? 13

4.6 Employee Involvement 13

5.0 Communication- the root of all problems 14

6.0 Recommendations for PublicOrg 15

7.0 Bibliography 16

1.0 Introduction

The basic definition of empowerment is “being given power or authority by either legal or official means.”(dictionary.com,2006).However, this definition does not give a vivid conception of empowerment in context to HRM.What really is �empowerment’ then?How do we implement and evaluate it?The truth is that in reality there is no lucid definition of empowerment along managerial lines. Many do not comprehend its true shared meaning and thus, resort to its narrow implementation.

When empowerment is considered from the managers’ viewpoint, it usually means they desire their staff to “extend their contributions, quicken problem-solving, be more proactive and take increased responsibilities.” (impactfactory.com)

On the other hand, employees view empowerment as a tool that provides them with more freedom in their work and decision-making processes.It allows them to achieve a higher “degree of autonomy.” (impactfactory.com) These two separate viewpoints might look compatible initially, but the reality is far from it.

People have their own perspectives of empowerment.They need to recognize that employment has different forms. It should be “analysed in the context of broader organisational practice.” (Redman and Wilkinson,2001 )In other words we need to look at the organization at which it is applied. “How we define empowerment within our projects will depend upon the specific people and context involved.’’(Bailey,1992)

“At its simplest,empowerment would be associated with the redistribution of power”(Wilkinson forthcoming,p11).The concept of power is central to empowerment. “Power is related to our abilities to make others do what we want regardless of their own wishes or interests.”(Weber ,1946).Without the change and expansion of power, empowerment is impossible.

“TQM is designed to empower workers and encourage participation and innovation.”(Ford 1995,p18).Though TQM may seem to claim to empower,there is no assurance that it will provide 100% empowerment.To achieve the desired results, empowerment needs to be considered in all decision making levels in organisations.Such consideration would ultimately lead to its proper implementation.

This coursework examines the case studies regarding empowerment initiatives at PublicOrg and Aerospace Co. and evaluates the reasons behind the success of empowerment at Aerospace Co. and failure at PublicOrg.

2.0 Empowerment at PublicOrg

PublicOrg, an executive agency, providing service to millions of customers, recognized the need to shift from its hierarchical system and introduced empowerment. However, it is clear that the entire concept failed due to the difference in the managers’ and employees’ perspective or notion of empowerment. Empowerment is a unitary concept that implies that managers and employees should be on the same side, which is clearly not the case at PublicOrg.

Empowerment was initiated with a view to provide better quality of customer service and job satisfaction among employees.Its main driver was the need to make PublicOrg more customer-focused and competitive.

PublicOrg followed a management-driven empowerment programme ; not worker-driven.They wanted their employees to believe that all of them had an equal opportunity (without transferring any power) to contribute to the success of the agency.They assumed that this belief would lead to greater job-satisfaction among employees. Thus,PublicOrg intended to provide power to the employees in a psychological sense;not raw power.

Employees were not well educated about empowerment.They interpreted that they had all the power,whereas, in reality power was with the management only. Improper training and lack of communication with the managers led employees to believe and realise that they were not being allowed to exercise their power and control.They were extremely dissatisfied with the managers who executed empowerment.Thus,we can understand the obvious rift between managers and employees.

Also, the middle managers had worked their way to the top and disliked the fact that empowerment meant handing over control to workers.They assumed that employees would be unable to take on many of the responsibilities.It was an issue of ego as they were extremely unwilling to let go of the power that they had worked so hard to get in the first place.

The empowerment programme collapsed completely and no one at PublicOrg benefited from it.The plan to introduce change at PublicOrg was too sudden for employees to comprehend.Though employees were initially happy with the thought of empowerment,they were resentfully disappointed with its improper implementation.They were excluded from decision-making processes.They also developed a dislike for the achievement-based pay( which was enforced in place of tenure-based pay),as the pressure of work did not allow them to do extra-activities.Whenever employees produced ideas, they were given a pat and handed a 10 pound bonus, but their ideas were never implemented. Distrust prevailed amongst managers and employees.Managers double-checked the work of the employees, which left the employees with a feeling of incompetence and created de-motivation.

3.0 Empowerment at AerospaceCo.

AerospaceCo, a company that deals with the final stage of production in the manufacturing of military aircraft, was incurring high costs and poor sales, due to which it had to consolidate many of its businesses and reduce it workforce. They realized that in order to survive in a highly competitive market and to reduce cost as well as increase customer satisfaction, change was extremely essential.They decided to go ahead with empowerment as they were quite focused on flexibility, training and involvement.

Kreisberg(1992;57) defines power as “the capacity to implement”, and that is the concept Aerospace followed. They avoided rushing into change and made sure initiatives were relevant to company needs. They also understood the fact that support ,i.e., was necessary for positive changes. Aerospace knew that in order to successfully implement change, management had to change collectively with the employees in order to find solutions to the problems plaguing the company.

Managers and employees shared a collective understanding of employment through mutual respect.They both had similar perspectives about empowerment that led to collaborative efforts in all aspects. Good relations between employees and staff accelerated positive developments in the company. Management was honest with the employees and made them aware of the critical condition of the company. Employees were also aware of the recent job losses .They were able to comprehend the environment around them well enough to deduce extreme hard work and dedication were the only tools to revive Aerospace. Empowerment or New Work Practices(NWP-as they called it at Aerospace) was not promoted as something that would be beneficial to employees. Aerospace was very clear and open about the objectives for introducing empowerment and this honesty increased employee commitment and loyalty towards management. Resistance to change was removed and they did not oppose to extra work and responsibilities. Infact ,they viewed extra work as a medium to gain experience, knowledge and undergo personal ,positive transformations.

Though the logistics required each job to have a specific time frame,employees were given the freedom to calculate their own time.They supported new technology, new targets, reports, appraisals etc. totally.NWPs also increased work or functional flexibility for employees. They were trained for different skills but everyone understood that work could not be compromised under any circumstances through standardisation.Work was checked by each worker himself and another worker as well.Nobody was against this kind of double-checking as they all understood the drastic consequences of any mistake.They did not mind the warnings that were issued when a mistake was detected.The system of penalties and double-checks had been well defined and well communicated to all employees.They were trained to be open and honest about their mistakes.All these measures increased the safety margin of the aircrafts. Authority to make alterations and decisions was limited only to certain aspects of work as the other areas required more skills and extensive understanding.But employees readily accepted these limitations as they were well aware of the risks involved in the manufacture of a complex part of an aircraft.

The NWP was a major success at Aerospace because of its excellent implementation. Efficiency of production, cost reduction and improvements in customer service took place.Consequently, employees felt more secure in their jobs, which also gave them greater job satisfaction.The production manager had an unbiased understanding of empowerment and was committed to encourage it.It was due to his enduring efforts that communication and involvement was improved at all levels in the organization.He never enforced any changes on his employees.On the contrary, he was extremely supportive to employees and sought their advice and suggestions from time to time. All his actions gave rise to a deep respect for him amongst employees, which again indirectly but strongly, influenced their positive reception of empowerment.

4.0 Analysis of empowerment at AerospaceCo and PublicOrg.

4.1 Resistance to Change

The introduction of empowerment at PublicOrg meant bringing about modifications in the existing culture of the organisation. As Williams et al (1991)states “Culture influences what the executive group attends to, how it interprets the information and the responses it makes to changes in the external environment.” He also states that “Since culture influences what other members of the organisation attend to, how they interpret this information and react, it is a significant determinant of the success of strategic implementation. Culture influences the ability of the organisation both to conceive and to implement a new strategy.”

The main problem at PublicOrg was that there was a resistance to change (new culture).It suffered from “rigid hierarchies which isolate top management, confine middle management to administrative roles and frustrate operational and supervisory management in their decision-making.” (Thurley and Wirdenius,1989)

The new work procedures were not welcomed by many at PublicOrg and this non-reception was very evident in the middle management.Probably, they feared that if the employees did well after empowerment, there would be cutbacks in middle management.They were unable to let go of their previous work practices and attitude towards the employees.In a nutshell, they were not flexible enough to adopt a new culture.As a result, their ideas and practices conflicted with the concept of empowerment.

However, Aerosapce Co. hardly faced any such difficulties.Employees embraced the NWPs and there was no resistance to change.They bore a flexible attitude and were ready to undertake changes as they were aware of the volatile situation of the company.

4.2 Training and Communication

The HR policies and practices were not prepared in accordance to empowerment at PublicOrg. According to ( Guest,1987) “The quality of people is vital with quality within the HRM model seen broadly, incorporating quality of work, quality of workforce (including investment anf training and development) and quality of the treatment of workforce by management).”

There was a huge difference in the way people were trained for empowerment at PublicOrg.It was based on grades or level of the organisation.Non-managerial employees received almost no training whereas managers spent a week in hotels training themselves (which was not successful as the mangers attitude towards their employees did not undergo any change.) Lower grade employees received just a one-day session of training in the office.However, at Aerospace employees were trained for different areas of work (functional flexibility ).

Education and communication between the employees and managers was negligible. Managers did not educate employees about the objectives of introducing change. Neither did they define empowerment. They believed that empowerment had a unitarist tone ,but they did not put any effort to create a unitary environment. According to Redman and Wilkinson,2001 “empowerment is elastic and hence it is not always clear that when we discuss empowerment, even within the same organisation, we are comparing like with like”. Due to their complacent attitude, employees assumed the definition of empowerment, which unfortunately conflicted with the idea of the management.

On the other hand Aerospace truly believed in the saying “empowerment without a shared sense of direction can lead to anarchy.”(Hamel and Prahalad 1996:319).Hence, management was sharp enough to communicate the company-oriented objectives of NWP and justify the reasons for such objectives. They also accepted the limitations that came along with more freedom. As a result, employees were in tune with the ideas of management and worked compatibly with the management. Thus, empowerment at Aerospace was truly a unitary concept. Communication was excellent amongst managers and employees. Management and employees had respect for each other.

4.3 Job Security

Employment security issues also affected the morale of the employees at PublicOrg.It was initiated by the achievement-based pay system which replaced the tenure based pay system. The achievement based pay system left them with no extra time as they had to do extensive work to ensure their job security. Thus, these new changes were a burden on employees rather than motivational factors. However, Aerospace employees were aware of the possibility of job losses arising from changes. But they also realized that they survived the recent cutbacks in personnel (which provided them with a subtle sense of job security), and it gave them the notion that management had full faith and believed they were capable of bringing about improvements in the company.

4.4 Commitment and Trust

According to Walton( 1985:76), “managers have now begun to see that workers respond best-and most creatively-not when they are tightly controlled by management.”

However, this was clearly not the case at PublicOrg,where work was double-checked and management kept on intervening frequently. Managers did not trust employees. Consequently employees lacked commitment towards their work. James(1991) states that “employees are only likely to show commitment when jobs are meaningful, and involve significant responsibility.” Job satisfaction also increases commitment.The production manager understood that “ work could be more satisfying with increased discretion over the work process”.(Purcell and Hutchinson, 1996). The extra responsibility was viewed by employees as source of improvement and job enrichment.

4.4.1 The Commitment Model

If we apply the commitment model (Oliver1990:24),which states that there are 4 contextual factors(explicitness, revocability, publicity, volition) that positively relate to responsibility and commitment of employees, we see that Explicitness (goals should be made clear so that employees feel responsible) was absent in the organisation. Neither were Revocability (workers are more responsible when they know that their work is not checked by others),Publicity(more responsibility with more recognition) and Volition(feeling of having a degree of real choice) present in the organisation. Hence, workers were not committed to the organisation and their job. On the other hand, management at Aerospace knew that management commitment was the key to the success of NWPs. Thus, in order to extract maximum commitment, explicitness was followed by the management. Revocability was partial as in some cases the work of employees were in fact being checked by others. But this did not create negative commitment as employees knew that mistakes in their products could be fatal. The specialized nature of the product help them to accept certain limitations to their newly found responsibilities. Publicity was also present and Volition was evident as they could check and clear their own work , make alterations and also possessed a certain degree of functional flexibility. No doubt, the presence of these 4 factors contributed to the commitment of employees at Aerospace.

4.5 Theory X or Theory Y ?

Management at PublicOrg believed in Theory X (which stated that employees were lazy and needs to be controlled).This attitude didn’t change after empowerment was initiated in the organisation. They also supported or had blind faith in hard �TQM’ which proposed that workers should work in a controlled and prescribed manner. On the other hand employees believed that empowerment was based on Theory Y which states that autonomy and responsibility will increase commitment and motivation. They also had faith in soft HRM and as per its theory, they believed they should be involved properly to increase commitment.

However, at Aerospace, management had deep faith in theory Y and soft HRM and hence entrusted them with more responsibilities.

4.6 Employee Involvement

Though employees were eager to be involved at PublicOrg, management refused to acknowledge employee involvement. Oakland (1989) states that “everyone in the organisation from top to bottom ,from office to technical service, from headquarters to local sites must be involved.” He also states that “people are the source of ideas and innovation and their expertise, experience, knowledge and co-operation have to be harnessed to get these ideas implemented.” Whenever someone at PublicOrg came up with suggestions, they were given a bonus but their ideas were not implemented (involved), which caused dissatisfaction and reduced morale of the employees an led them to believe that management was not interested in employee involvement.. This also shows that they were not motivated by just money but also needed some sort of psychological motivation which came with the acknowledgement and acceptance of employee ideas by management.

Involvement at Aerospace increased largely due to NWPs. Employees had more influence in designing products and identifying areas of improvement.

5.0 Communication- the root of all problems

The management cannot be held responsible alone for the failure of empowerment at PublicOrg. Employees were over enthusiastic about it. They reacted as if empowerment was meant to replace managers and all the managerial duties would be transferred to employees themselves. They neglected the fact that though they would possess increased freedom and responsibility, some form of control was always essential for smooth running of any organization and that control was to be exercised by the management. Thus, the management was partly right when it had to re-enforce its control as employees thought they could do anything they wanted to.Managers should infact, double-check the work to remove errors as it is their job to make sure everything was perfect. The mistake management made was that it did not acknowledge good work or suggest ways to improve average work after double-checking the work of the employees. Had they done so, employees would definitely be satisfied with the positive/negative acknowledgement(feedback) and would not view the system of double-check as an outcome of mistrust. Similarly, it is not possible for management to implement all new ideas provided by the employees. But the employees failed to understand this fact as managers did not give them the reasons for non-implementation of their ideas. This lack of communication made employees feel unwanted. Thus, we see that communication was probably the root cause of all the problems at PublicOrg.

Aerospace definitely lies in the optimistic approach where TQM if introduced at the right time (like Aerospace did ) and at the right place can prove to be a success. Aerospace introduced empowerment at the exact right time when the company had no other option and implemented it appropriately and then, through hard work and dedication achieved valuable results.

6.0 Recommendations for PublicOrg

No doubt empowerment should be introduced in a hierarchical system like PublicOrg because it makes communication easier and leads to quicker decision making but for that to happen the management must be closer to the workers and know what they want.

Empowerment should be worker driven not management driven. A good degree of trust should be present between managers and workers where workers should be left alone and managers should have faith in them. The role of management in empowerment is vital hence the middle managers should be given proper training once empowerment is introduced and they shouldn’t promise entitlements if they won’t be able to deliver.

Equal and proper training should be given to staff as well so that they can do work effectively. Deserving personnel should be awarded as not only does this produce good work but it motivates staff to do well. Good communication and an open air between the management and employees are very crucial in bringing about good results. There should be a sense of camaraderie between the working staff (regardless of what their position is). Management should listen to ideas and solutions put forward by fellow colleagues and implement them as they might hold the key to the company’s future success. Conflicts should be avoided as it leads to a bad working environment and causes trouble. If conflicts do arise the staff should sort them out before matters get out of hand.

7.0 Bibliography

Bailey K.D., 1992, Sociology and the New Systems Theory, State University of New York, New York.

Cartwright R, 2002, Empowerment, Capstone.

Stewart A.M.,1993, Empowerment, Pearson professional education.

Redman T., Wilkinson A., 2001, Contemporary Human Resource Management, Prentice Hall, Great Britain.

Oakland J.S.,2001,Total Organizational Excellence, Oxford, Butterworth Heinemann.

Oakland J.S.,1989, Total Quality Management, London, Butterworth Heinemann.

James G.,1991,Quality of Working Life and Total Quality Management, Work research unit, Occasional Paper No. 50, November.

Oliver N., 1990,Employee commitment and Quality Control, International Journal of Quality and Reliability Management,7(1):21-9.

Walton, 1985,From Control to Commitment in the Work Place, Harvard Business Review, March – April, 77-84.

Guest D. 1987 : HRM and Industrial Relations, Journal of Management studies, 24(5),503-22.

Ford C, 1995,Teamwork: Key issues and Developments, ACAS, Occasional Paper 54.

Wilkinson A, forthcoming, Empowerment: Theory and Practice, Personnel Review.

Williams K., Haslan C., Williams J., and Cutter T.,1992, Against Lean Production, Economy and Society, Vol 21, pages 405-39.

Kreisberg S.,1992,Transforming Power: Domination, Empowerment and Education, Albany: State University of New York Press, New York.

Hamel G., Prahalad C.K., 1996, Competing for the Future, Boston, Mass. :: Harvard Business School Press.

Thurley K., Wirdenius H., 1989, Towards European Management,Pitman, London.

Empowerment, 2006, [online] Available from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/empowerment [Accessed 2nd April,2008]

Empowerment skills and training, 2007,[online] Available from http://www.impactfactory.com/p/empowerment_skills_training/snacks_1215-5103-69551.htm [Accessed 2nd April,2008]

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