Employee involvement is creating an environment in which people have an impact on decisions and actions that affect their jobs.
Employee involvement is not the goal nor is it a tool, as practiced in many organizations. Rather, it is a management and leadership philosophy about how people are most enabled to contribute to continuous improvement and the ongoing success of their work organization.
My bias, from working with people for 40+ years, is to involve people as much as possible in all aspects of work decisions and planning. This involvement increases ownership and commitment, retains your best employees, and fosters an environment in which people choose to be motivated and contributing.
How to involve employees in decisionmaking and continuous improvement activities is the strategic aspect of involvement and can include such methods as suggestion systems, manufacturing cells, work teams, continuous improvement meetings, Kaizen (continuous improvement) events, corrective action processes, and periodic discussions with the supervisor.
Intrinsic to most employee involvement processes is training in team effectiveness, communication, and problem solving; the development of reward and recognition systems; and frequently, the sharing of gains made through employee involvement efforts.
Employee Involvement Model
For people and organizations who desire a model to apply, the best I have discovered was developed from work by Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1958) and Sadler (1970). They provide a continuum for leadership and involvement that includes an increasing role for employees and a decreasing role for supervisors in the decision process. The continuum includes this progression.
- Tell: the supervisor makes the decision and announces it to staff. The supervisor provides complete direction.
- Sell: the supervisor makes the decision and then attempts to gain commitment from staff by "selling" the positive aspects of the decision.
- Consult: the supervisor invites input into a decision while retaining authority to make the final decision herself.
- Join: the supervisor invites employees to make the decision with the supervisor. The supervisor considers her voice equal in the decision process.
To round out the model, I add the following.
- Delegate: the supervisor turns the decision over to another party.
Read on to see how the supervisor's employee involvement style impacts employee satisfaction.