Employee participation refers to the practice of involving the employees in the decision-making, as well as the general management of an organization (Heery & Noon, 2008). Participation can either originate directly from the employers (direct participation), indirectly from the workers (collective bargaining), or even the government through the work councils. Notably, employees can participate either directly as individual or through their elected or appointed representatives. Additionally, the participation can either take place within the work system of the organization or in the industrial sector and political systems. The participation of the employees can be in the form of communication, consultation, codetermination, or the workers control.
The participation of the employees in the decision-making and management of business enterprises serves a variety of purposes. First, according to Heery & Noon (2008), it is meant to legitimate the decisions made through acceptance by all the stakeholders. Secondly, it is an act of capturing knowledge by the managers as the employees give their opinions. Thirdly, the participation of the employees enables the management to incorporate their interests in the decisions that make. The ultimate effect of this participation is increase in productivity, increase in the trust that they have on management, reduction in world related stress, ease of the implementation process as well as the improvement in the commitment of the employees towards their mandates.
Collective labor laws give pressure to the employers to involve the employees in decision-making. Specifically, the trade unions impose a duty on the employers to allow their unionized members to participate in the management and decision-making. Additionally, the Work Councils area mandated to ensure that employers inform and consult employees on particular decisions that are likely to affect them. For instance, The European Works Council Directive categorically states that the representatives of the employees have a right to meet with central management at least once per year. Additionally, Information and Consultation Directive provides the right to information and consultation on decisions that are likely to lead to substantial changes in the operations of an organization. Participation can also be informed by normative reasons such as employees rights, and reactions to the interest of the stakeholder. More importantly, it can be the case that the collective bargaining agreement requires their participation.
Employee involvement, as differentiated from employee participation, involves the Use of management techniques that involve employees through information sharing and participation in management-decision-making. Specifically, employee involvement originates from the management, involves the employees directly, focuses on strategic operational decisions, and is not based on power. The involvement of employees can be achieved through direct communication, direct consultation, task based involvement, or financial involvement. As opposed to worker participation, employee involvement is more direct. Although involvement of employees is fundamental, it might face resistance from unions, employees and union mangers who feel that the participation is detrimental to their interests.
Despite the major benefits of employee involvement in decision-making, there are several criticisms that can be noted. Firstly, the involvement of employees in decision-making is time consuming as it involves consultations and discussions (Russell & Levine, 2008). Secondly, most employees are not well informed as their managers and may, therefore, lead to absurd decisions that will lead to the downfall of the organization. Thirdly, employees can unite against the management to stifle any changes in the operations. Finally, according to Russell & Levine (2008), once a culture of involvement and participation has been established, the withdrawal of the same may be hard and costly to the organization.
Heery, E., & Noon, M. (2008). A dictionary of human resource management. OUP Oxford.
Russell, R., & Levine, D. (2008). Reinventing the Workplace: How Business and Employees Can Both Win. Administrative Science Quarterly, 43(1), 222. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2393608
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