Workers’ participation in the company
María Escat Cortés
Workers’ participation must be understood from two points of view:
- Participation as motivation: it is rare for people not to feel motivated when they are consulted about actions that affect them, by “taking part in the act”. Moreover, most people at the centre of an operation know both the problems and the solutions to them. Therefore, the right form of participation produces both motivation and knowledge that is valuable to the enterprise’s success.
- Participation as a form of recognition. It appeals to the need for affiliation and acceptance. Above all, it gives people a sense of fulfilment. Employees should be encouraged to participate in matters where they can help, and although they are listened to very carefully, on the issues that require their decision, it is up to them to decide.
But what are the basics of participatory management?
The first thing to note is that participation is closely related to the professional, collaborative and technical opportunities that the environment offers.
Effectiveness is measured in terms of the intermediaries’ quality, the wealth of information processed, the operational value of the decisions taken and their practical application. It cannot always be translated in terms of direct productivity.
People decide to take part in a joint project when they:
- they have the necessary personal means, e.g. trust towards the organisation and management, sufficient knowledge;
- they see the advantages of doing so, e.g. greater recognition, economic benefits;
- the technical structures are adapted to this, in the sense that they make the operation of the project more flexible;
- the organisation allows for this. First of all, there is a criterion of size. If there are too many people working on the same job, it will be useless to call for individual involvement. To encourage all members’ participation and commitment, the maximum number of people in a production unit should be around 150-250. To avoid the problem of hierarchies and level responsibilities, it will be necessary to simplify the organisation charts, such as job development, which is achieved by increasing the qualification of tasks or diversifying activities.
When employees’ autonomy and participation decreases, it means that the influence they have gained is not what they expected. In other words, participation fails when one wants to impose all methods and processes from above.
An appropriate balance must be maintained between mobilisation to encourage participation and the relaxation of participation.
It is also essential to consider the influence of new technologies on participation:
- they have increased the complexity of work. This can only be achieved by making employees more responsible;
- new technologies have changed jobs, making them less flexible. Successive adaptations require exchanges and training courses;
- they also contribute to the autonomy of employees while developing interdependence within the organisation. Computerisation and bureaucracy facilitate networking. Other technologies increase the speed of responses to the environment and the need for interdepartmental consultation and cooperation.
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