‘Employee voice’ suggested by Geoff Armstrong (cited in Armstrong,2001) in the recent issue of Industrial Participation Association (IPA) Bulletin, historically meant collective bargaining, and that this ‘chosen method of joint regulation became a straitjacket inhibiting the very things we needed to be doing to win and keep customers! ’ Win and keep the customers because feedbacks and suggestions came from the employee who deals with the customers every day of their work.
Companies are able to get the facts from how the customer complaint about their product and to what satisfies them. The word ‘voice’ was popularized by Freeman and Medoff (cited in Freeman & Medoff, 1984) who argued that it made good sense for both company and workforce to have a ‘voice’ mechanism. This had both a consensual and conflictual image; on the one hand, participation could lead to a beneficial impact on quality and productivity, whilst on the other it could detect problems which otherwise might ‘explode’.
Dundon et al (cited in Dundon, 2004;MC Cabe & Lewin, 1992; Wilkinson et al,2004). The four principal strands of the thought or forms of ‘voice’ that are available to employees are: an articulation of individual dissatisfaction; existence of a collective organization; a form of contribution to the management decision-making; and as a form of mutuality in the organization. In the articulation of individual dissatisfaction, the employee aims to address a specific problem or issue with the management that is usually presented in the form of grievance procedure or ‘speak up’ program.
An opportunity for employee representatives – union or non-union – to communicate the views of the workforce to managers either through partnership or collective bargaining is the form of collective organization. As a form of contribution to the management decision-making its purpose is concerned with improvements in work organization and efficiency more generally, perhaps through quality circles or team working. It is achieve by a dialogue with employees providing ideas to improve the organizational performance.
The last form is the mutuality in organization in delivering long term viability for the organization and its employees, often through joint consultation, collective bargaining and or partnership. In an article by Sharon Shinn (2004,p 18), The Maverick CEO, he asked Ricardo Semler that if business students were reading a case study of Semco what was the valuable lesson they would they take away and he answered that, “the main lesson is that freedom is a prime driver for performance. ” Through my research I believe that all of the employees’ benefits from ‘employee voice’ just revolve around Semlers’ idea.
When an employee has the freedom to express himself it empowers him to decide the courses of action that must be done to achieve a certain objective of the company according to his ideals in work and life in general. When one has the freedom to say what for him is wrong or right it gives him the dignity of not only a worker of the company but someone who can make a change and influence people on top for the better future of the company. A sample of the ideal is displayed in Semco where employees can vote to veto new products or new product ventures.
At Semco, (cited in Samler, 2004) “workers approve their own bosses and people only attend meetings if they think the meetings are important. It works because of peoples’ self-interest. Nobody wants to stay in boring meetings or work for bosses they didn’t choose. ” Furthermore, “of course, you can make people come to meetings and look alert, but it’s more difficult to get them to perform what was decided at the meeting. We want people to follow their instincts and to choose as bosses people they respect – even if they don’t like them.
This often happens at Semco. ” ‘Employee voice’ can be channeled between union and non-union voice. Comparison of benefits between union and non-union voice has been noted. (cited in Freeman and Medoff, 1984) argued that only union forms of voice would result in voice benefits for workers and management. The reasoning behind this argument is that without a union to ensure fair treatment and an equitable distribution of the fruits of success, individuals lack the incentive to pursue public goods.
Union voice promotes ‘independence’ unlike direct voice mechanisms’ where its effectiveness is challenged in their capacity to transform the power relations in an organization due to lack of sanctions for non-compliance, collective power and access to independent sources of advice or assistance, non-union voice mechanisms are more susceptible to managerial influence and control (cited in Golan,2009; Terry,199; Wilkinson et al, 2004).
On the contrary, non-union or direct voice has been also argued to be superior to union voice for 2 reasons: first, barriers between employers and employees can be disintegrated by dealing directly with employees rather than through an intermediary (cited in Bryson, 2004; Storey, 1992); and second, direct voice allows managers to better respond to the heterogeneous interests of workers (cited in Storey,1992).
Another distinct benefit of ‘employee voice’ is evident in the ‘monopoly face’ of unionism, whereby unions seek to restrict the supply of labor to the irm in pursuit of higher wages and benefits. In a general point of view because of the ‘employee voice’ managers give more positive responses to employee needs, greater levels of control over the work process and increased influence over job rewards. In relation with the benefits that can be gained by employees’ through ‘employee voice’ the said firms that practices this kind of system have a lot to gain out of it. One important factor that affects the companies’ profitability is its labor cost.
Voice is considered important, in their classic work on US trade Unionism, (cited in Freeman and Medoff, 1984) post it that it is theoretically possible for trade unions to enhance the productivity of firms because they provide voice to workers. They argue that union voice can be productivity-enhancing where voice costs are lower than the costs of dissatisfied workers quitting, and lower quit rates encourage firms to invest in human capital, resulting in a more skilled and productive workforce.
In union voice it may also reduce the transaction costs that employees face, for example, by enforcing and monitoring contracts (cited in Booth, 1995; Kaufman, 2004; Kaufman and Levine, 2000). The company of Semco is a great example of this, (cited in Shinn, 2004) Semler and a radical management team completely upended traditional business theory at Semco, doing away with conventional organizational charts while allowing employees more and more freedom to choose what products they would work and how they would produce them. Many employees were eliminated by job reconstruction or left because they couldn’t handle the turmoil.
But those who remained became passionate about Semco and their place within it. At Semco they also believe in continuous growth and development so (cited in Samler, 2004) “people at Semco, by setting their own timetables and workloads, are more apt to take time out for learning. ” He said that there were also sabbaticals, and a system whereby people can diminish and increase their work weeks by arrangement with their teams. They also have Retire-a-little where people can take a day, or half-day, off every week, to do what they would when they retire.
Because of such changes, (cited in Semler, 2004) noted that it have raised Semco’s revenue from a $35 million to $160 million in the last six years. In addition, (cited in Shinn, 2004) Semler is deeply involved in promoting a workplace where freedom and flexibility is celebrated that he established a school in Sao Paolo practicing his values. (cited in Samler ,2004) “the school is in place and has started enrolling two-to-ten year olds. We want to change things at the starting point. At this school, our kids determine the rules and makes decisions ever week at a school meeting.
We don’t want to holler and point fingers at kids. They are perfectly able to settle disputes and regulations alone. We do sit in to facilitate, when they want. ” Furthermore, “at the Lumlar Institute, which runs the school, we develop a mosaic technology to teach free children effectively, something that the educational world knows nothing about. Since our kids are obliged to be in school but not in class, it behooves us to interest them – and we do. Children are already staying 1. 84 times longer at our school, out of free will, than at other schools in the system.
After defining that there were two system of ‘employee voice’ which are non-union (direct) and union, in addition reviewing the benefits of implementing ‘employee voice’ to both the employees and company, Australia seems to place more importance to non-union voice that than union voice. Result from the studies of researchers proves that, for example, AWIRS (the Australian Workplace Industrial Relations Survey) shows that only 16% of work places were there employee representatives on boards in 1995. (cited in Morehead et al, 1997; 506-67).
Moreover non-union of employee representation was not institutionalized as they are in EU (European Union). With the Decline of Union membership, with 22% of employees now being unionized (and only 17 percent in the private sector), there is a growing ‘representation on gap’ for employees’ with some academic experts arguing that works councils could fill that gap. (Knudsen & Markey, 2002). However, there seems little political will to progress this issue at the moment, with major interest focused on the recent Work Choices Legislation, rather than a broader discussion of work place governance.
Thus, it appears that for the most part, participation in Australia will remain a matter for the firm rather that a broader social issue and its extent will be largely governed by management strategy and enthusiasm for the various direct participative approaches. Pyman et al (2006) In practical sense, the effectiveness of employee voice in Australia workplaces is dependent on a plurality of arrangements, that is multiple, mutually reinforcing channels.
While achieving this is likely to present challenge for employers, employees and unions, the findings to do highlight the significance of labor- management interaction and thus the value of a union-employer partnership approach predicated on mutual benefits. Such an approach is seriously threatened by the recent changes embodied in the Work Choices Act 2005. This legislation unequivocally privileges direct or non-union representative voice mechanisms, while undermining union voice and multi-channel voice arrangements.