Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Job autonomy, trust in leadership keys to improvement initiatives

15.11.2012
Frontline employees will commit to improving their organization if they perceive a high degree of autonomy in their jobs and trust their leaders, says research from University of Illinois business professors.

According to a soon-to-be-published study by Gopesh Anand and Dilip Chhajed, professors of business administration at Illinois, a flexible work environment plays a significant role in increasing employee commitment to continuous improvement initiatives.

“Continuous improvement initiatives are typically bundled with employee empowerment techniques,” Anand said. “We always hear, ‘If you empower employees, they will take care of the improvements.’ But what happens repeatedly is that this employee empowerment is management-driven, and it does not work.”

“It’s a paradox – employee empowerment being forced upon employees by management,” said Chhajed, who also is the director of the technology management program in the College of Business. “What usually ends up happening is that employees feel they are being forced into doing something that they may not even see as being very useful.”

The research, co-written with Luis Delfin, a former graduate student, advances three arguments on how employees’ commitment to continuous improvement in the workplace can be enhanced:

The day-to-day work environment needs to be perceived by employees as autonomous.

As continuous improvement involves making changes to the very practices that frontline employees use in their day-to-day work, trust in leadership is critical.

A higher degree of trust in leadership further leads to proactive behaviors by frontline employees, encouraging them to use the autonomy in their day-to-day jobs to seek out and make systematic improvements to work practices.

The researchers tested their hypotheses on data collected from individual employees working for Christie Clinic, an outpatient health care organization based in Champaign, Ill., that has actively engaged in continuous improvement based on lean management principles over the last six years.

While previous research on continuous improvement initiatives focuses on constituent elements such as rewards, leadership and training opportunities that are explicitly tied to generating employee participation, this study focuses on the association of commitment to continuous improvement with the context of every employee’s day-to-day work.

“Many times, employees end up working on continuous improvement projects simply because the CEO is telling them to participate in the initiative,” Anand said. “But they aren’t really sold on this idea of making an effort to improve their workplace and work practices.”

“Workers need to have a sense of control over their work environment,” Delfin said. “They need to be able to decide how and what to do in their day-to-day work. And that’s actually what motivates them to improve. Their buy-in becomes even stronger when leadership provides them the support to do this.”

Employees shouldn’t end up thinking of improvement initiatives as extra work as such an attitude ultimately leads to “change fatigue,” the researchers say.

“Employees can’t think of it as, ‘This is something being brought down upon us by upper management,’ ” Anand said. “If they do, it becomes extra work that they’re not compensated for.”

“The big one for employees is, ‘What’s in it for me?’ ” Chhajed said. “Management is trying to make things more efficient, so what does that mean for my job, my work hours? That’s why employees need to trust that management is looking out for their best interests. If they don’t have that trust, then even autonomy is not going to help as much. Trust is huge, because you don’t want the perception that management is coercing employees to do this.”

Management shouldn’t be the sole driver of change in an organization, and the process for implementing a continuous improvement initiative likewise shouldn’t be a top-down mandate.

“There should be some top-down direction in terms of where the initiative should go and what are we in business for,” Anand said. “But there needs to be balance between the top-down goals and the bottom-up improvements.

“It’s like building a bridge from both sides,” Delfin said. “Upper management usually has the vision, but at the same time they’re not the experts on how things get done on the ground. So you need to have frontline employees who have some freedom because you are trying to get all of this to meet in the middle. That means that the leaders in management need to act more like coaches, and less like dictators. You need a cooperative environment where leaders are guiding and coaching, and employees are participating.”

Although their empirical context is a health care organization, the researchers say that their results are applicable to most organizations that are deploying continuous improvement initiatives.

“The problems that we look at in this paper are prevalent across industries,” Chhajed said.

“If you talk to people in any industry who are deploying continuous improvement initiatives, they are facing these issues,” Anand said. “That’s why you see new iterations of these types of initiatives over and over, because organizations often fail at sustaining them over long periods of time.”

The paper will appear in the journal Operations Management Research.

Phil Ciciora | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Business and Finance:

nachricht How Strong Brands Translate into Money
15.11.2016 | Kühne Logistics University - Wissenschaftliche Hochschule für Logistik und Unternehmensführung

nachricht Demographic change depresses tax revenues
04.11.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

All articles from Business and Finance >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>