Staff involvement is a concept that is gaining more ground in today’s organization and institutions. Churches, schools, firms, and even government institutions are finding it paramount to involve their employees in decision-making process. This paper focuses on the steps necessary in drafting a plan for greater staff involvement in decision making at the work place. It will clearly explore the implementation process, and cite possible barriers and ways of overcoming the barriers. Primarily, it is worthwhile to appreciate the reasons and importance of staff involvement in decision-making. (Flanagan & Finger, 1998, Dubrin & Daglish, 2003).
Involvement means inclusion in the decision making process or having an opportunity to influence decision. These days, employees are more enlightened and hence aware of their rights. They expect to give the employer as much input as well as receive support and recognition from them. Therefore, the need to engage the employees in meaningful discussions and get their input on a subject is rife. At the same time, employees need to receive feedback on the final decision in the decision making process. Information flow between the employer and employees constitute staff involvement. Management communicates trust and respect when it involves its staff in decision-making. However, staff members may choose not be involved in the decision-making process and management should respect that.
Generally, people feel they need to be involved in deciding on issues that affect them directly in pursuing their jobs. This is because mostly decisions made involve changes, which may need more effort from employees, use of resources and facilities, staff arrangement and so on.
Before proceeding further, it is important to acquit us on what proper staff involvement entails. Staff involvement includes two parties i.e. the ‘asker’ and the ‘giver’. These two parties have to understand that they have responsibilities in the involvement process. (Flanagan & Finger, 1998, Dubrin & Daglish, 2003). There must also be a high degree of genuineness, meaningfulness and reality in process. This is to mean no ulterior motives on either party. Employees should not feel fearful or under duress to give input on the decision making process. If this is the case, the essence of staff involvement loses meaning. Similarly, mutual respect is a vital component in staff involvement.
Equally important is the fact that staff involvement should never be a single event, rather an ongoing process. In addition, staff should not be involved when decisions have already been made as this beats the point of involving them in the first place. Management and employees should understand that whatever input is given during the decision making process does not guarantee its adoption in the final decision. Due to this reason, feedback on the rational behind the rejection of some ideas should be given
Staff involvement is a motivating factor among employees. It is evident that people are more likely to support decisions made if they are involved in the decision making process even when the final decision is not in their favour. When staffs are involved in decision making their level of commitment and engagement in their work consequently increases. In addition, staff that is engaged in the organization plans depicts more flexibility in adapting to changes within organization and they feel motivated to bring innovation and ideas into the organization. The result is that productivity within the organization increases and the working atmosphere is improved.
After recognizing the inherent important and benefits accrued from staff involvement in the decision making process the question begs how does one draft a plan for greater staff involvement? The first step to implementing a staff involvement plan at my work place is creating the right atmosphere that welcomes staff to be involved in decision-making. What this implies is refraining from threats when criticisms are aired, being open minded and objective, paying attention to employees’ views and adopting an open door policy in management. This means that human relation skills and leadership skills will come in handy to facilitate this process. Staff should be convinced that they might give their input without fear of repercussions or favour. Equal opportunity to contribute should be accorded to staff. That is to say that any kind of discrimination on basis of gender, race, and prejudice should be avoided.
Secondly is to get information from the employees using information gathering to techniques consultations, surveys, questionnaires, newsletters, staff meeting, email committees, small group meeting and so on (Dubrin & Daglish, 2003, Edmonton public schools, 2000). The idea is to get enough employees input as possible. No employee should be sidelined in the decision making process especially where the decision made is going to impose dramatic changes in the employee’s lives. Consultation should go on extensively at this point. As important to not that consultation is not synonymous to negotiation. Consultation is merely taking into account employees’ views for consideration before reaching any agreement or decision. Effective staff involvement input when proposed changes are still in the formative stages as there is opportunity to influence decision to some desired direction. (Dubrin & Daglish, 2003, Edmonton public schools, 2000) It is also crucial to give enough information and time on which they can respond. Inadequate information and insufficient time inhibits the staff to think through the proposed issues and respond fully and adequately, thus rendering the whole exercise ineffective.
Staff involvement may take the form of delegation as well. Delegation means assigning responsibility and authority to an individual to carry out a task, explaining the expected outcomes and requiring accountability form the individual (Edmonton public schools, 2000). In this case, delegation could mean giving the staff tasks and capacity to undertake them. This implies autonomy and authority to make decision alone and be accountable for the outcomes. In this sense, you transfer the responsibility of making decisions to the employees hence involvement,
The decision making process should involve all staff affected by the decisions directly or indirectly. It should also involve experts in the field. Staff involvement in decision-making should be extensive if it is to be successful. It should not just occur when there are major changes only but even the minor changes are equally important.
Generally the atmosphere of confidence and trust inclusion and openness is what lays ground work to how willingly staff get involved in decision making process and the quality of input given to management during the decision making process.
After gathering the information needed from employees and staff the next step is reviewing the information. Management should appreciate the value of the staffs input on a subject. There should not be any bias and decision makes should be objective in criticizing or appraising on idea. It would be pointless to go through all the trouble of involving staff in the decision making process and then discard their time and money and contributes to low morale within the organization. Obviously, not all the staff ideas will be relevant or valuable to the decision making process thus will not be reflected in the final decision. But that does not imply that the process of staff involvement ends there. Feedback is very important and its function cannot be over emphasized. The feedback helps to enhance openness and confidence in management by employees. (Edmonton public schools, 2000) When giving feedback it is important to provide the rationale behind incorporating some ideas and leaving out others. In some instances ideas given may be excellent but an organization may be limited to implement them due to financial, time or resource constraints. In such cases, feedback communicates the limitations to the staff hence they feel motivated to contribute more in the future. Additionally, feedback gives an opportunity for staff to comment on the decisions arrived at and point out loopholes that may have been overlooked. As such, higher quality decisions are made and mistakes are avoided.
The process of staff involvement should demonstrate genuineness and contribution by employees should have chance of influencing decision. Staff should also have some background information on the subject they are contributing to. Furthermore, employees should be free to consult with others on an issue and approaches have worked well for others. This ensures that ideas tabled by staff are relevant and weighty. It also ensures that management has its time well spent in the long run.
Plans are theoretical and they make hypothetical assumption. Most people would agree that even the most thought out plan meets challenges that need to be faced. An organization is made up of different people from different backgrounds and with different perceptions. These diversity within the staff poses challenge to effective staff involvement because some staff would perceive it as a threat to their job security. Such perception, originate from previous experience where by one face negative repercussions after giving an opinion on a decision or fear that on idea may be rejected or seen as silly. In addition, some staff have timid personalities such people are usually shy to voice their ideas or show indifference when dependence on the management on everything including decision-making. This over reliance on one person to make all decisions regardless of whether they suit you or not kills the spirit of involvement.
The organization structure may similarly be a barrier to staff involvement. A tall structure means a long process before all staffs are consulted. Similarly, an organization structure where one manager has a large span of control inhibits proper staff involvement. This is because employees are too many and getting all their input by one person is next to impossible.
Heavy workloads among staff also contribute to poor staff involvement. This is because the employees lack time to attend consultation forums or even brainstorm on a proposed idea. The many competing demands or the employee heavy workload and limited time makes it a daunting task to get employees involved in decision making process.
Misconceptions associated to decision making also pose a barrier to effective staff involvement. Some major misconceptions are if you involve others in decision making you lose power and autonomy, staff involvement is a time consuming often futile process, it is pointless to involve after when you know what needs to be done and that decision can be made separately inorder to retain control of a situation and then involve other at the later stage of implementation when employers/managers and staff carry such misconceptions it makes the process of staff involvement very challenging.
A seasoned manager understands that the barriers to staff involvement can be overcome by focusing on 3 areas. That is changing staff attitude creating the right atmosphere which encourages involvement organization culture and structure and establish support from top level management. This task is not a one man show and it needs cooperation from management as well as employees. (Zauderer, 2006). Management must be willing to allocate funding and other resources needed to facilitate staff involvement. Support from managers is also necessary. Managers who feel insecure because by involving others they are prone to losing power need to be helped in order to see that leadership is not synonymous to making decisions alone. By soliciting for employee input, it does not mean one is incompetent but rather is a strategy to ensure that employees feel a valued part of the organization. The problem of over reliance on the manager by staff can be overcome by delegating responsibilities to them and giving them enough authority to make decisions. By so doing, staff gets to see that they are capable of handling responsibilities and making decisions on their own. In future, they become more willing to contribute their ideas and opinions.
The organization structure may be a great challenge to a manager. This is where the top managements support becomes necessary. Top management should be convinced that the process of staff involvement is a process that will yield better performance and productivity among workforce. This should make the top management feel inclined to change the organization structure to a more appropriate manner supportive of staff involvement programs. (Burke, 1999)
Similarly, the organization culture should be changed to enhance staff participation in decision-making process. The organization should create a culture of knowledge enhancement and knowledge sharing among workers and between management. People within the organization should be cultured to communicate their opinions and come up with innovations and better ideas of doing things within the organization. If this culture is fostered within the organization, then staff involvement in decision-making is bound to be enhanced.
Misconceptions about decision making should be addressed. For instance managers or staff who think that staff involvement is a futile exercise that is time consuming should be told that time saved by not involving others is often lost in efforts of trying to fight resistance to an imposed decision(Kotter, 2000, Burke, 1999). Similarly, misconceptions about involving others at later stage of implementation should be dissolved by ensuring that managers understand that people are keen on noticing such deceptions and it clouds the fundamental rule that staff involvement should be genuine and have potential to influence decision. If this aspect is absent there is often resistance by staff to implement decision which they were not fully involved in making.
Further, misconception that one is incompetent when he/she involves others in decision making can bee overcome by making staff and other managers understand that two brains are better than one. When more people are involved, the management gets different perspective and more information about an issue or problem and possibly get better solutions to the problem. On another note, staff involvement engenders support from staff making decision implementation relatively easier.
There is a remarkable difference between organizations that involve their staff and those that do not. This is evident in terms of productivity per worker. Most of the problems and difficulties in the organization result from poor communication and feeling of dissatisfaction among employees. When employees feel part of the company, they tend to be committed and happier in their jobs. This translates to reduced turnover from the organization. Similarly, their level of job satisfaction and motivation increases.
As such new ideas and innovation are developed. In addition, staff involvement reduces resistance among workers to implement decisions. Organizations that sideline the importance of involving their staff in decision-making pay a high price for it. The amount of time and energy last in fighting resistance and issuing threats could be put to better use say developing a new product. Therefore, it is recommended that management incorporate strategies of involving its employees at all levels of decision-making process.
Overall, the process of staff involvement is a worthwhile one. Despite the fact that sometimes it may not be possible or appropriate to involve staff in all decision making processes it makes a lot of sense to involve them whenever possible especially when they are affected.