Employee involvement can help solve the productivity puzzle

University of Leicester expert calls for fresh thinking on how to involve employees in the work place

A new report by Professor Stephen Wood, Professor of Management at the University of Leicester suggests involving employees in a greater range of decision-making could improve productivity, reduce stress and support mental health. 

The report for IPA – Britain’s leading organisation delivering employee engagement, partnership, and employee voice in the workplace – could also help to address concerns about excessive stress and mental health problems at work – particularly those generated at the organisational-level such as wage freezes and lack of opportunities for involvement.

The last few years have seen continued slow or even stagnant productivity growth in the UK (0.6% in 2018), a challenge which policymakers have struggled to find a solution to for many years now.

Professor Wood said: “Employee involvement has a key role to play in tackling the UK's productivity crisis. This requires organisations having the right structures and processes being put in place to support and nurture employee involvement.”

“There is little hope, however, of the UK being able to fully seize the opportunities of the technological revolution that the Chancellor talks about while the involvement of users and all employees in the design and implementation of new technologies remains so woefully limited. If we are to seize the coming technological revolution, we first need a revolution in our workplace management. The time for high-involvement design is now.”

High-involvement design firstly includes job- or role-involvement management allowing employees an element of discretion and flexibility over the execution and management of their primary tasks. Secondly, it involves workers participating in decision-making, beyond the narrow confines of the job. Thirdly, it involves putting employee involvement at the centre of Human Resource Management. 

The report suggests that all three elements have been increasingly neglected as the concept and techniques of performance management have taken centre stage.

Nita Clarke, IPA Director, said: “Given all the challenges ahead, a revolution in UK management practice is needed now more than ever. High Involvement design is indeed an idea whose time has come.”