«To make the best use of people as a valuable resource of the organisation attention must be given to the relationships between staff, and the nature ...»
Thus, we might conclude that the answer to the question set is that ‘it depends’. Motivation and commitment can flow from downsizing practices provided the people left in the organisation perceive the changes to have been favourable, the rewards for commitment to be high, and that organisational support is to be made available to make sure that they will be able to perform to the required standard. However, to the extent that downsizing leads only to ‘horizontal’ job changes and/or leaves people feeling very insecure about their status and tenure, then it is likely to be demotivational – people may well perform but only because of fear of the consequences of not doing so, and without any real commitment to the organisation’s cause.
(From Administrator, August 1995, pp. 39–40.) 246
Case study 1: The wide open spaces
Possible suggestions as a basis for discussion include:
(a) Review policy of short-term profit maximisation and consider diversification through increasing range of products.
(b) Consider using own staff for television advertising.
(c) More detailed examination of customer complaints to find out exactly what is going wrong.
(d) Make clear that disciplinary action/possible prosecution will be taken for pilfering.
(e) Offer workers a quantity of the product at a specially reduced price.
(f) Set production targets at every level linked to an incentive scheme. Also incentive scheme for good attendance/timekeeping.
(g) Staffing – Review recruitment procedures for both male and female workers.
– Employ more part-time staff.
– Provision of crèches for workers with young children.
– Examine training for, responsibilities of, and promotion opportunities for supervisors.
(h) Work organisation and job design – Examine nature of tasks and job characteristics; scope for individual job restructuring, use of autonomous work groups and teamworking.
– Consider shorter working hours, shift work, flexible working hours, pattern of lunch and tea breaks, music while they work.
(i) Discuss nature of the problems/possible solutions in consultation with line managers, line workers/union representatives, personnel department, sales and production departments.
Consider implementation of quality circles. Suggestion schemes, properly monitored and with financial rewards/prizes.
(j) Exit interviews with staff leaving.
Case study 2: Managing supervisors This case study relates to the changing role of supervisors, their training, and the allocation of new duties and responsibilities following a productivity improvement programme.
Responses should indicate a clear diagnosis of problems, and a coherent strategy and set of advice to the organisation for dealing with the situation.
Main points to consider could include the following:
(a) The motivation and job satisfaction of supervisors.
(b) The requirements for skills training, and valid and meaningful information.
(c) Development of the supervisor’s role in communications.
(d) The transfer of learning from a course to practical work situations.
(e) Encouragement, support and feedback from their managers.
(f) Recognition of the personnel function as a shared responsibility (discussed in Chapter 19).
How much understanding do supervisors need of, for example, employment legislation, and how far does their training reflect this need?
(g) A supervisor is a typical example of a person ‘in the middle’ who faces role conflict because of opposing expectations from managers and from subordinates. (Role conflict was discussed in Chapter 13.) Changing patterns of work organisation require a review of the scope, nature and content of the supervisor’s jobs. Management then need to give attention to development and enhancement of the job. This demands a better understanding of objectives and processes through which to develop the role and behaviour of supervisors in the organisation.
Attention might be given to such features as the meaningfulness of the supervisor’s jobs, job design, socio-technical approaches, task and job characteristics, management style, and quality circles. It is important, however, to focus attention on the wider organisational context, improving the effectiveness of the organisation, and helping in the development of skills and resources to manage successfully changes in the way the organisation functions. Recognition should be given to the importance of the role of supervisors. Their training should help them to move to ways of working that are more satisfying, and help them to become skilled and experienced in the joint management of change.
Additional seminar activities Case study: A nasty shock for Eric Evans ABC Ltd: A study in (lack of) job satisfaction ABC Ltd is a private sector organisation which manufactures air-conditioning systems and sell them worldwide. Its head office is located in the north of England, although there are outposts of ABC in Spain, Norway, Australia and Japan.
ABC has always been run as if it were a small organisation even though its founder sold it to a big electronics concern some five years ago and it has grown from an original staff of twenty at the outset to employ 500 people at head office and something of the order of 3000 across all locations. It has never had a personnel department, therefore there are very few policies and procedures governing the organisation. Decisions regarding employees (for example, hiring and firing) are usually taken on an ad hoc basis by the relevant manager(s), with the particular circumstances of the case being taken into account. Furthermore management have always refused to recognise trade unions, believing that relations within the organisation are good enough for employees to be able to air grievances without the need for formal representation.
Indeed employee relations have never been seen to present a problem for ABC; the only area that management sees as cause for concern is the shop-floor, where the systems are actually manufactured. The unskilled and repetitive nature of the work in this department is recognised to make unrest more likely and indeed several attempts to unionise this staff group have been launched in the past. Other sections, by contrast, are considered not to be in any need of special monitoring – the service maintenance department, for example. The staff in service maintenance are highly skilled engineers who are employed to maintain and repair the systems that ABC sells.
They are available between 6.00 a.m. and midnight should any of ABC’s customers require them.
Everyone in this division has personal pagers and takes turns being ‘on call’ which, in the main, means attending to out-of-hours calls as the pager records them and telephoning the relevant client to give them advice. If the problem cannot be solved over the phone and it is urgent (for example, the air-conditioning system in a hospital has broken down), the engineer will have to go to the client. Because of the breadth of ABC’s market, the job also involves a good deal of overseas travel. The service maintenance department is considered to be one of ABC’s selling points, as the cover provided by the team enables the company to promise all their customers a five-year warranty. Recently it has also been necessary to provide cover for the overseas branches of ABC – there has been a secondment to the Norwegian office for the last six months and Japan have also requested that a UK engineer go out there to work until they can recruit to their several vacancies. There are twenty engineers in the service maintenance department, as well as the manager and his secretary. All but one are male.
It was only when Eric Evans (the service maintenance manager) realised that he had recruited no less than five engineers in the previous two years, three of whom had left after a very short time and whom he was still trying to replace, that he began to perceive that all was not necessarily well among his team. When he thought back to those who had left he realised that all of them had gone to jobs elsewhere in the local area. In other words, his staff were leaving because they 248
were dissatisfied with the company, not because they were moving away, or retiring, or any of the other reasons why people leave employment.
‘Well, it can’t be the money,’ he thought. ‘Those guys get a good whack out of this place plus a company car. Other places don’t pay so well or offer cars. It must be something else. I’ll have to have a chat with them, see what’s going on.’ At this point, Eric was interrupted in his reverie by his secretary reminding him of his 10 a.m. meeting with the company directors. He made a note to himself to look into the matter before gathering up his files and leaving the office.
In fact Eric didn’t need reminding of the problem he had been considering that morning. He returned from the meeting in the early afternoon to be told that a local customer had called, furious because they had had to wait three hours for an engineer to repair their system. The client’s offices had grown so hot in the meantime that they had had to let their staff go home and by the time the system was fixed it wasn’t worth calling everyone back in. So they had ended up losing a day’s work and were blaming it on ABC.
‘But I don’t understand!’ he protested to Carl Peters, who had the unfortunate task of breaking the news to him. ‘We’ve got enough people in, haven’t we? Why were they kept waiting?’ ‘Well, we’ve got four people sick, Eric, and there’s about five others abroad. We need five people to stay here and cover the phones, so that only leaves three to go out to calls. And it’s been manic these last couple of days ’cos the weather’s so hot. Martin had to drive from here to Glasgow and then on to Manchester yesterday to answer urgent calls. The call from Barnes Brothers just got shoved to the back of the queue. It’s not our....’ Eric broke into Carl’s explanation: ‘Four people sick! Have they called in? I haven’t been told about this, otherwise I would have tried to arrange cover.’ ‘I dunno if they called in or not, Eric, but I know we’ve been down on staff constantly recently.
There’s always someone off, and it’s usually two or three.’ ‘Right, OK, Carl, I’ll ring the customer and eat humble pie. But I want a meeting with the lads tomorrow, 9 a.m. sharp, and we’re going to get to the bottom of this. Can you let them know for me?’ At 9 a.m. the following morning, the service maintenance staff began to gather in Eric’s office.
Eric opened the meeting by telling them that he was concerned about morale in the department and would appreciate any comments they had regarding their own job satisfaction. At first they were reluctant to say anything but Paul Feather, one of the longest-serving members of staff, eventually got the ball rolling: ‘Well, what I hate is never knowing what we’re up to, Eric. I’m getting sick of being called out to places, then having to work really late ’cos the client’s left it till the last minute to call. The times I’ve driven back from London at 2.00 in the morning – and I’ve got a sick wife, as you well know.’ ‘Yeah, and we never know how far ahead we can plan our social lives and stuff,’ broke in Carl.
‘The only way to ensure not being called away is to book holiday time. I remember when I was due to go and see my parents and you wanted me to fly off somewhere – I’d had the trip arranged for months and suddenly find out the day before that I’m supposed to be going to Switzerland.
Then when I wouldn’t go, you got really mad with me.’ ‘Speaking of being called out, I got a page the other night at 3.30 a.m. I didn’t turn my pager off ’cos I was on again at 6.00 and one of the customers thought he’d chance his arm. So I got woken up in the middle of the night. It’s not on – they know when they can get hold of us, and to leave a message if it’s an emergency. This wasn’t even urgent – he was just working late and got a bit warm. It could have easily waited till the morning,’ added Paul.
‘Plus the salespeople always make rash promises to the customer – they say they can get the system installed in such and such a time. They never consult us – they just come back and dump the order sheet on us.’ This came from George Browne, who went on: ‘And what’s more, the job’s actually quite dull, you know. I know it’s good money and everything, and we get a car, but we always go to the same companies, here and abroad. Also there’s very little opportunity to train on any system that you don’t already know. So you end up doing the same work, the same installa
tions and the same repairs, week in, week out. The only training that seems to go on here is for people who come in from outside! Another thing – if we were trained in other systems we could fill in for people more easily.’ At this point Robert Fields was heard to mutter, ‘Yeah and the car thing... that director who bought the flash new company car for herself, fifty grand or whatever it was, when we just got told we had ten grand to spend on our cars, take it or leave it. She doesn’t have to do thirty thousand miles a year for the company, it’s just for posing.’ Everyone murmured in agreement.