Employee involvement is creating an environment in which people have an impact on decisions and actions that affect their jobs. Employee involvement is not the goal nor is it a tool, as practiced in many organizations. Rather, it is a management and leadership philosophy about how people are most enabled to contribute to continuous improvement and the ongoing success of their work organization.
My bias, from working with people for 35+ years, is to involve people as much as possible in all aspects of work decisions and planning. This involvement increases ownership and commitment, retains your best employees, and fosters an environment in which people choose to be motivated and contributing. It is also important for team building.
How to involve employees in decisionmaking and continuous improvement activities is the strategic aspect of involvement and can include such methods as suggestion systems, manufacturing cells, work teams, continuous improvement meetings, Kaizen (continuous improvement) events, corrective action processes and periodic discussions with the supervisor.
Intrinsic to most employee involvement processes is training in team effectiveness, communication, and problem solving; the development of reward and recognition systems; and frequently, the sharing of gains made through employee involvement efforts.
Employee Involvement Model
For people and organizations that desire a model to apply, the best I have discovered was developed from work by Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1958) and Sadler (1970). They provide a continuum for leadership and involvement that includes an increasing role for employees and a decreasing role for supervisors in the decision process. The continuum includes this progression.
Adding to the Model
To round out the model, I add the following:
Reference: Tannenbaum, R. and Schmidt, W. How to Choose a Leadership Pattern. Harvard Business Review, 1958, 36, 95-101.
This article is an excerpt from the Michigan State University M.E.N.T.O.R.S. Manual: Monthly Conversation Guide #9. Copyright Susan M. Heathfield and Michigan State University, 2003-2004.
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