October 06, 2008

Human Resources Management: Lesson 4 – Exercise

Question 1: Thinking about organisations you are familiar with (it must not be IBM), what mechanisms and procedures have different organisations used for employee involvement and to give employees voice?

I want to answer this question using 2 different companies that work in the same contest: call centres. One is Telecom Italia (I’ll consider only the call centre department) and NumeroBlu (that provides call centre services to several customer among which Telecom itself.

Despite working in exactly the same environment and (when the customer is Telecom) side by side 2 companies’ employees’ conditions are strongly different:

  • in Telecom Unions have a real power and manage the main part of management-employees relationship;
  • in NumeroBlu (a small company) Unions are almost absent and each employee has to find way to get what he wants.

Dealing with “power-centred involvement policies” (that is dealing with fundamental issues of managerial authority) I’ve noticed “top down” approaches in both company but:

  • in Telecom we can to talk about “indirect methods” of involvement since all the management attention in focused on Unions’ voice and on getting Unions’ agreement
  • in NumeroBlu “radical changes” are simply imposed on employees.

On the other hand dealing with “task-centred methods” (“smaller” or more “operative” changes):

  • in Telecom, also because of Unions’ too strong presence, employees have difficulties in expressing their own opinion, in suggesting new ideas and in being voluntary for new opportunities: Telecom has the entire typical problems related to being a big-almost public company. Only some employees’ satisfaction surveys are performed but often Telecom makes them be led by Unions.

  • In NumeroBlu several “direct methods” have been developed to exploit employees’ opinions in operational growth: brain storming session, blogs,… that all contribute in enhancing productivity and quality

Question 2: How effective were each of these voice mechanisms in a) giving employees an effective voice at work and b) adding value to the organisation?

Obviously there cannot be one single answer in both the contest described.

  1. In Telecom Unionized environment employees’ rights are represented by Unions but we’ve also to consider that because of the enormous employees’ number it’s quite hard to become one unique voice. As mentioned above Unions’ voice seems effective in strategic issue. As the literature suggests the majority of people would like to be involved on the day-to-day issues: in Telecom this should be deeply improved.
  2. Moving to NumeroBlu, it seems: to take employee engagement in account and quite open in reacting to what employees say. Perhaps a great value to the organisation would be given if some “unions” or employees representatives could participate and being involved also in strategic issues and decision. Only in this way it can go over the fact that actually Unions are often a channel that helps in the effective issues’ resolution.

Question 3: Account for any variation in effectiveness of different mechanisms

Since Telecom, as an enormous company, can count on resources and funds I’d suggest introduce some classical HR tools that give more effectiveness to employees’ voice like: “management open doors” days, executives’ web pages where employees can directly write…

NumeroBlu seems to believe in advantages of managing without unions (i.e. speed of change thanks to the fact that managers are not obliged to perform time-consuming negotiations with unions’ representatives[1]). I’d suggest them that this is not what seems to happen in practice: Unions are important in obtaining a meaningful employee voice in any change process[2]. As stated by Storey (1992) if they still impose change from above a lack of participation and of commitment from lower levels of managers, supervisors and employees, may occur.

[1] Flood and Toner, 1997.

[2] McLoughlin, 1993.
  • The Warwick MBA for IBM – Human Resource Management, Lesson 4
  • Mick Marchington and Adrian Wilkinson, Human Resources Management at Work.     People Management and Development, Third Edition, CIPD, 2007

- 2 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Andrew Charlwood

    This is a good, interesting answer. You could think again about question three, as you haven’t really done what the question asks you to do, which is to explain why employee involvement works better or worse in one organisation than the other.

    06 Oct 2008, 22:44

  2. It’s not easy to define which employee involvement works better in one organisation than in the other.
    First because the two analyzed organizations are very different one from the other, secondly because employees involvement is very different (as described above) and also the employees themselves are different:
    • telecom ones are quite “old”, they strongly believe in unions and use to have that strange approach “almost everything is due to me by telecom since I’ve been working here from 15/20/25 years. They also have fewer opportunities to change.
    • NumeroBlu ones are younger, “aggressive”, have several opportunities to change and more aspirations for growth
    Both the involvement seems to work effectively compared to the contest they’re inserted in.

    17 Oct 2008, 11:53

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