Organisational management influence the engagement of the workforce

The idea of creating a highly engaged workforce to improve organisational performance is proving to be at the front of many global organisations’ agenda. It has become clear that there needs to be an understanding of how effective organisational management can influence the engagement of the workforce, if at all. This essay has chosen to look at nine different aspects of organisational management, how they are linked together and ultimately, how they affect the engagement of the workforce.

Each issue, once defined, will look at selected related theories and show how they are used in current working environments. The aspects covered will be; approaches to management, organisational structure, leadership, decision-making, communication, motivation, group behaviour, culture and managing change. Approaches to management have changed significantly in the last century. Theories developed due to organisations rapidly expanding at the start of the 20th century and scientists needing productivity to be effectively increased according to Clegg et al (2005).

Original theorists such as Taylor, Fayol, Mayo and McGregor developed approaches such as scientific, human relations and bureaucratic management but these have been determined too restrictive when used independently (Cole, 2004). Taylor introduced scientific management to increase productivity in 1911, believing workers would be monetarily motivated to adopt specialisation. It became clear in the 1930s that workforces were not just machines and not just motivated by money, resulting in the Hawthorne studies focusing on valuing workers and fulfilling their needs as there was proof this increased morale and productivity (Clegg et al, 2005).

Both theorists indicate that objectives included engaging the workforce. One thought this was solely monetary, whereas the other was solely about fulfilling needs (Handy, 1993). Both have valid points and are accommodated by recent theories including the Systems and Contingency approaches which looks to “select a mix of theories which seem to meet the needs of the organisation” (Cole, 2004: 5). Modern approaches also take external factors into consideration.

It is important to understand the situation and adapt accordingly, with great importance on supporting personnel as this is more likely to improve productivity than if more focus is on production (Goodlight, 2007). The approach will influence the structure an organisation adopts. It is vital to have good structure as it allows control, which can positively affect both productivity and morale of the workforce because aims and job roles are clearer (Mullins, 2007).

The structure will vary depending on the organisation’s size, approach, aims and objectives but will focus on ensuring all employees are involved so that there is full commitment to achieving the vision (Cole, 2004). There are thought to be two main types of structures; centralised and decentralised. An article (Learn Management, 2009) suggests the former takes a more vertical hierarchical structure seeing managers having the majority of the control over the organisation. This may be advantageous because their experience can be beneficial.

The latter distributes responsibility further down the structure providing better development understanding amongst the workforce. The responsibility also empowers the workforce, encouraging the desired behaviour. Decentralised structures are more likely and should be adopted by the larger organisations, as it is more logical to distribute the large amount of responsibility to more people. Ridderstrale (2009) insists that most organisations must move away from centralised hierarchical structures because they alienate the workforce.

This is confirmed by Bramley (2009), representative of The Co-operative Group, who emphasises that workforces need to be involved because they will feel more valued thus producing higher quality products and services. While there is management within an organisation there will be leadership. There is debate as to whether leaders are managers. Passages from Mullins (2007) and Career Success (2009) suggest they are different because managers are seen as achieving specific objectives on more hierarchical structures, whereas leaders guide and draw out the best in the workforce and its role is not always obviously defined.

It is perceived as the “relationship through which one person influences the behaviour or actions of other people” (Mullins, 2007: 363). With good leadership comes a more empowered workforce by building trust and respect (Chynoweth, 2008), which has the potential of increasing productivity further and by giving examples, it allows the workforce to acknowledge the leaders’ authenticity (Gym, 2009). Leaders must be able to not only achieve the desired goal, but should also be able to develop and maintain the workforce according to the action-centred leadership created by Adair (2009).

Present organisations are advised to call on extremely strong leadership especially during the current economic climate where morale amongst the workforce is lower (Berta, 2009). Chan (2009), IT leadership expert, states technology is rapidly evolving within the hospitality sector and it is important that leadership evolves with that to successfully lead the workforce. This shows that traits and knowledge are and should be constantly added to the leadership role so that it is up to date in the current economy.

Ancona (2009) confirms that leaders favouring the ‘cultivate and coordinate’ approaches are more successful than those adopting the ‘command and control’ as it is vital the workforce work in unity. Any kind of leadership or management requires strong, effective decision-making. It is considered to be a skill to lessen ambiguity and create feasible options in order to deal with the risk at hand within the planning, organising, leading and controlling functions, according to Harris (2008). He also suggests that there are two main approaches to decision-making; authoritarian and group.

The former allows the management to make the decisions and dictate them to the workforce. While the decision is clear due to it being produced by one mind, it removes the workforce’s power and may cause frustration amongst the subordinates suggests Manohar (2008). The latter approach empowers all levels of the workforce that can lead to higher motivation and willingness to achieve more for the organisation. There is belief that it also develops more creative and riskier decisions than the authoritarian approach (Cole, 2004).

However, due to more people being involved in the decision-making process it may take lengthy time to agree on a clear decision, which may prove to be counter-productive for the organisation (Alonso et al, 2009). It is crucial for organisational activity that management should be able to determine the best approach at any given time and should also be able to facilitate the situation successfully so that problems may be solved easier and fresh ideas developed (Coggan, 2009).

For example, kitchens may adopt authoritarian approaches because the environment is specialised, whereas front of house may adopt group approaches because staff are expected to make decisions for customers immediately. Decisions may be made constantly but successful execution of them requires excellent communication (Mullins, 2007). Communication is the transfer of information and is considered successful when that information is understood (Dictionary, 2009).

The message may be lost due to ‘noise’, which is any issue that obstructs it from being delivered to the receiver (Brassington & Pettitt, 2006). Communication often fails because of misinterpretations of situations. There is great emphasis on how messages are delivered, as this is the most common barrier for failed communication. Delivery is not only the tone of face-to-face meetings but also when using new forms of communication that have developed from significantly advanced technology (for example, emails and web conferences) suggests Woods (2008).

HR of any organisation should prioritise communication and relay all messages to employees so that everyone understands the aims and objectives of the organisation. If HR communicates successfully then the “wins are huge” (Harrington, 2008). Especially during the current economic downturn where morale and budgets can be low, it is even more important to focus on excellent communication with the workforce. Organisations are constantly finding the best ways of communication with the workforce to increase their chances of surviving and to provide a better working environment, states Woods (2009).

Cheng (cited by Ng, 2008), HR director of InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong, says that their vision is to have everyone “contribute to a great workplace through open and transparent communication with senior management”. Successful communication may lead to better motivation of the workforce. This is due to staff fully understanding the organisation’s aims and objectives and how they will help to achieve this resulting in them being “motivated to stay longer and work harder” (Hill, 2007: 48).

Motivation is the force that drives people to excel (Dictionary, 2009). Money has been used as one of the primary motivators since Taylor introduced scientific management. They come in packages such as ‘bonuses’ and ‘commissions’ but can be dangerous if used to influence behaviour of the workforce (Pimental, 2007). Financial incentives are considered short-term motivators so organisations should understand how they can motivate the workforce over a long-term period to reap rewards of better performance (Gray, 2009).

To do this it is important to understand the individual’s needs and using that information to tailor motivational incentives personally to them. These are found in content theories created by writers such as McClelland who suggests that the need for achievement (nAch), power (nPow) and affiliation (nAff) should all be considered but warns that the degree of each aspect depends on personality (ACCEL, 2009).

By acknowledging good performance nAch is achieved, giving the workforce responsibility to make decisions nPow is achieved and by finding ways to bring the workforce closer together socially nAff is achieved. Even with low budgets and high pressure found during the economic downturn, a vast number of organisations (including Vodafone) are focusing on motivating their workforce by investing in “motivation-building opportunities” (Gray, 2009). This is because it is even more important to have efficient teams especially if the size of the workforce is restricted.

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