Factors leading to building of good working environment

As HR professionals, we know that the real strength of an organization is its people. It is the only asset which cannot be easily copied but management tend to forget that people are not robots. The management is only concern about bring down the cost rather than focusing on improving the work environment in which their employees work in. Lately especially in Mauritius with the new regulations, employees are more willing to invest in their infrastructure so as to create a safe place to work. However, just investing in infrastructure and increasing pay is not the ‘magic elixir’ towards the promoting of a good working environment. There are other factors which are important and they are discussed below.

Culture

The culture of an organization is the typical way of doing things in the organization. It particularly relates to behavioural patterns and relationships. The culture of an organization develops over time. It is created by the people that work for the organization, that is, its workforce and managers. What the organization stands for (its values) and the dreams that it seeks to turn into reality (its vision) are fundamental in creating a dynamic culture. A ‘high performance culture’ exists when everyone in the organization shares the same vision and where they trust and value each other’s contribution. This shared belief and behaviors’ will ensure that the working environment at the firm is stable and consistent.

Schein gives a more precise analysis of organizational Culture based on organizational psychology

Organizational Culture is:

A pattern of basic assumptions

Invented, discovered, or developed by a given group

As it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation an integral integration

That has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore,

Is to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to these problem

According to Schein, there are four dimensions of culture should be present in a firm namely, company practices, company communication, physical Cultural forms and common language.

According to Armstrong .M(1996), Culture management is concerned with:

Culture change: the development of attitudes, benefits and values which will be congruent with the organization’s mission, mission, strategies, environment and technologies.

Culture reinforcement: which aims to preserve and reinforce what is good or functional about the present culture

Change management: This is concerned with enabling the culture to adapt successfully to change and gaining acceptance to changes in organization, systems procedures ad methods of work.

Commitment gain: commitment of members of the organization to the mission, strategies and values

The aims of culture Management are to:

Develop an ideology which guides management on the formulation and implementation of coherent HRM strategies and policies

Create and maintain a positive climate within the organization which indicates the behavior which is expected of members of that organization in the course of their work

The management of the organization’s culture is a central activity for senior management with the advice and help of personnel and HR specialists in their increasingly important role as internal consultants. Culture provides a sense of direction and is an unwritten form of norms which guides the employees in their everyday’s’ work at the workplace. It is this shared belief which guides and binds each individual at the workplace so that they form part of a family. Moreover, it is this shared belief which helps to form and maintain a good working environment.

Each individual is unique in his or her way. It is the employers” role to provide and sustain a culture which will be beneficial for each of the firm’s strategic partners. An employee spends most of his time at the workplace consequently the latter should feel at ease. He should feel that he is valued and not neglected by the company.

Leadership

Alan keith of Genentech states that, ‘Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.’ According to ken “SKC” Ogbonnia, ‘effective Leadership is the ability to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organizational or societal goals.’

Good management brings about order and consistency by drawing formal plans, designing organizational structures and monitoring results against the plans. In other words, the role of management is in the area of planning, implementation and control. In contrast, leadership involves developing a vision and inspiring people to achieve that vision. This leads to Shackleton’s definition (1995) ‘Leadership is the process in which an individual influences other group members towards the attainment of group or organizational goals’.

The modern Leaders should be more of an employee oriented rather than production oriented. The statement ‘You manage things, you lead people” from Grace Murray Hopper demonstrates the importance of the behavioural dimensions of leadership . It involves the concern that the leader has for the feelings, needs, personal interest, problems and well being of followers. This is such as employees are the human capital which contributes to the success and development of a company to a great extent. Thus, these days, companies do not see them only as factors of production from the classical perspective, but have started to value them as stakeholders and strategic partners with who long term goals are achieved together.

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A positive working environment is critical no matter how many employees the firm have. It is management that fosters the work atmosphere so they are responsible for conducting things in a way that helps raise people’s spirits. The statement from David J. Schawartz which states ‘big thinkers are specialist in creating positive, forward looking, optimistic pictures in their own minds and in the minds of others’ is significant because people generally need some sort of challenge to motivate themselves. Effective leadership means offering people the chance to grow. The management should recognize their contribution through positive feedback and advancement to more challenging positions.

Norman Allan statement ‘Skill in the art of communication is crucial to a leader’s success. He can accomplish nothing unless he can communicate effectively’ is indeed true since an organization will experience a good working environment only if the management and the employees are engaged in a collaborative and participation relationship. This reminds us of the statement from Mary D. Poole ‘Leadership should be more participative than directive…”.If the employees do not trust the management then this will create conflicting relationship between both parties and this is a major barrier towards the promotion of a good working environment. Thus communication is indeed a powerful tool which can align both partners towards the same goal.

The leaders should do their best to create an atmosphere that is conducive to trust and provide the necessary infrastructure for the personal growth of its workforce. The leaders should do their best to create an environment where the workforce will feel at ease and can thus be more productive. The management should not forget that by creating a good working environment it will be a win situation for both the workers and the employers as this will enable the firm to be more competitive and productive.

2.3 Organisational justice

Distributive justice

This type of justice refers to outcomes being distributed proportional to inputs like the so-called equity principle (Adams, 1965). Outcomes in a work context might take the form of wages, social approval, job security, promotion and career opportunities, while inputs would include education, training, experience and effort. As it can be difficult to determine what constitutes an appropriate level of reward for a particular degree of input, people tend to make this judgement in relative terms, looking for a contribution-outcome ratio that is similar to that of their peers. For instance, if two employees have the same qualifications and experience but only one of them gets a promotion, the one who did not get promoted might feel that he was the victim of an unfair decision from the management. Consequently, such injustice might create a havoc in the firms’ working environment.

Procedural justice

Procedural justice is concerned with the fairness of the decision process leading to a particular outcome. It can outweigh distributive justice, in the sense that individuals might be willing to accept an unwanted outcome if they believe the decision process leading up to it was conducted according to organizational justice principles. For example, Greenberg (1994) found that smokers more strongly accepted a smoking ban at their workplace when they felt they had been given thorough information about the change of policy, in a socially sensitive manner. The same principles might apply to the hypothetical promotion scenario given above. An unpromoted worker may be placated if he is convinced that the system used to decide promotions is transparent and free from bias. Thus, if the employees trust the procedures adopted by their managers, they will readily accept them and the good working environment will be sustained at the workplace

Interactional justice

A third type of justice has been proposed by Bies and Moang(1986), which they call Interactional justice: the communication of fairness. This perceptive argues that people are sensitive to the quality of interpersonal treatment they receive during the enactments of organisational procedures. Researchers treated this as a third type of justice but recently researchers now treat it as one component of procedural justice. Colquitt (2001) divides interactional justice into two components: interpersonal which compasses respect and propriety and informational, which encompasses truthfulness and justification.

Positive effects of organisational justice

Well-designed systems that promote distributive, procedural and interactional justice profit both the individual, who will be satisfied that they have been fairly treated, and the organisation, which will maintain control over potential challenges and threats from its staff while reaping the benefits of being an employer of choice. Numerous gains can be observed. For example, Sheppard et al . (1992) state that ‘equitable pay improves individual performance, equal treatment raises group spirit, voice creates commitment to a decision, and access creates a loyal ally’ (p. 102). Justice promotes positive attitudes of job satisfaction, commitment and trust, in turn breeding healthy and constructive professional and interpersonal behaviour. In particular, perceptions of procedural justice have been associated with the termed ‘organisational citizenship behaviour’ (OCB) that is, informal, prosocial acts that go beyond the immediate remit of the job description and encompass such outputs as courtesy, conscientiousness, altruism and sportsmanship (Organ, 1988; Skarlicki and Latham, 1996). If employees feel that there exist organizational justice at their workplace, they will feel more secure and the wok environment will be more friendly between the management and the employees and this will drive the company towards achievement of its goals and objective.

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Psychological contract (PC)

The long term economic health of most organization depends on the efforts of employee with the appropriate knowledge, skills and abilities. One concept that has been useful in discussing employees’ relationship with the organization is that of a psychological contract. Which refers to the unwritten expectation that employees and employers have about the nature of their work relationship because of the PC is individual and subjective in nature, it focuses on expectations about ‘fairness’ that may be defined clearly by employees.

The transformation in the PC mirrors on evolution in which organization have moved from employing individual who perform tasks. To employing individuals expected to produce results. Rather than just paying them to follow orders and put in time, increasingly employers are expecting employees to use their skills and capabilities to accomplish organizational results. Studies suggest that employees do believe in these unwritten agreement or PC and hope their employers will keep their side of the agreement. When employers do not, employees feel a minimal need to contribute to organizational productivity because they no longer trust employers. Thus, employer’s loyalty is necessary and it can be successfully based on a new PC with the following expectation:

Employer’s provide employee provide

Competitive compensation Contribute to performance improvement

Benefits tailored to the workforce Reasonable tenure with the organization

Flexibility to balance work Extra effort when needed

and home life balance

2.4 Personality, Health, Work Environment, and Performance

According to Schneider (1987), “the people make the place,” and people are attracted differentially to, differentially selected, and differentially leave organizations. Costa, McCrae, and Holland (1984) emphasized on the fact that people begin this procedure by choosing into vocations that match their behaviors. Similarity between an interviewee values and the values of interviewers and employees in organizations has been shown to result in enhanced work attitudes and improved performance after organizational entry (Judge and Cable, 1997; Chatman, 1991). Research by Cable and Judge (1994) and Judge and Cable (1997) highlighted that interviewee pro-actively prefer such organizational environments based on individual preferences, as they think that job candidates look for organizations with recognize their efforts and reward them and cultures that fit their behaviors. Of even greater significance is the prospect that the link between personality characteristics and good work environments may have an influence on performance (Hurtz and Donovan, 2000).

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Training and development programs

Employee training programs are an integral part of the HR vision and long term strategic objectives of an organization. Through timely and planned training programs, employees are able to develop their knowledge, skills and capabilities so as to perform assigned jobs consistently and successfully. Ultimately, carefully devised and implemented employee training programs should impact organizational competiveness, long term performance and overall productivity. (By Pallab Dutta, ehow contributor). Nowadays, when we talk of training, employees want to form part of the planning process “….preparation and agreement with the individual of a development plan including formal training and various development activities…'(Baron and Armstrong,2005,p.25). This collaboration ensures that efficient training occurs and ‘…everyone is capable of learning more and doing better in their job’ ( Baron and Armstrong,2005,p.25).

All employees want to work for an organization that will satisfy their need for development as all employees want to develop and acquire new skills so that they are not only efficient but also more employable. Herzberg (1973) stresses opportunities for learning as a motivation factor in a good working environment ‘when employees are properly trained, they become empowered with the knowledge and skills to perform their job functions with confidence. In turn, they will develop a stronger sense of accomplishment, usefulness and loyalty to the organisation’ (Peterson). Consequently, if the management caters this need of its workforce then they will be motivated and committed. This will eventually create a good working environment since both parties will respect their promise towards each other.

2.7 Staff Empowerment

Creating an environment and culture where employees feel comfortable and capable of accomplishing their finest work, is the only means that ensures these organizations are experiencing their employee’s peak potentials. “People are empowered when they are given the authority and responsibility to make decisions affecting their work with a minimum of interference and second guessing” (Maurer, 2000, p.5). Empowerment has received increased attention among scholars and practitioners at the workplace (Donovan, 1994), and an opinion regarding the numerous advantages of empowering employees is shared by both managers and employees. Empowerment has proved to influence both organizational and managerial effectiveness (Spreitzer,1995) and is recognized as a method by which managers can efficiently manage an organization in today’s work environment.

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2.8 Trust & Respect

“Trust is seen as an important attribute of effective leadership and has been referred to as the glue which keeps an organization together as a functioning unit” (Strasser, 1994, p.181).

In a study, Mishra (1990) concludes that there exist four factors that breed trust within an organization namely:

Communication at all level

Shared decision making

Sharing critical information

Honest sharing of perceptions and feelings

This study also concluded that trust is an element which starts at the top of any organization, then filter sits way down due to the upper management’s hierarchical advantage and greater access to key information.

In a team-based environment, trust is an essential ingredient to the overall success and ensures that there exist a collaborative working environment where all party can cohabit and work together. Grundy (1998, p. 180) concludes that organizations where there are determined levels of trust, employees experience empowerment, satisfaction, and competitive advantage, stating; “For a team to work effectively, its members must trust one another”. “We must be able to assume that we can trust each other, that is we can operate with the same values and purpose, count on each other during tough times, be bone straight with each other and work together with mutual respect and care” (Harari,1999, p. 29)

2.9 Office layout and working environment

Over the years, many organizations have been trying new designs and techniques to construct office buildings, which can increase productivity, and attract more employees. Many authors have noted that, the physical layout of the workspace, along with efficient management processes, is playing a major role in boosting employees’ productivity and improving organizational performance (Uzee, 1999; Leaman and Bordass, 1993; Williams et al. 1985).

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID, 1999) carried out an independent study and revealed that the physical workplace design is one of the top three factors, which affect performance and job satisfaction. The study results showed that 31 percent of people were satisfied with their jobs and had pleasing workplace environments. 50 percent of people were seeking jobs and said that they would prefer a job in a company where the physical environment is good.

Ergonomics of office furniture is important because an employee has to work with them for the entire time that he is on office, and if they are uncomfortable and not user friendly, their working style and efficiency gets hampered considerably, in turn affecting the overall organizations. Non-ergonomic office furniture can also lead to health problems of employees, which again has an adverse effect on the productivity. Ergonomic office furniture ensures that each employee gels well with the things around him, like desks, chairs, computer alignment and even environmental factors. If the employee is uncomfortable due to any reason, his work is bound to get affected. If all factors surrounding the employee are ergonomically correct, then the employee will be comfortable and remain motivated to give his best. Nowier Mohammed (2009)

Barriers towards building a good working environment

The promotion of a good working environment has numerous advantages namely the firm will have a motivated workforce which will work to their maximum level so as to make the organization become more competitive. Moreover, the firm’s reputation will not be affected negatively since it will not suffer from problem like strikes and other major problems. As a result, the organization will be more productive and efficient. However, in spite of these advantages, there exist barriers towards the creation of a ‘great place to work’ namely:

Resistant from both parties

At the workplace, there are often conflicts between the management team and the employees and this is due to the simple fact that no one party wants to listen to the other. For instance, the management usually implements decisions first and then they expect employees to follow. The management tends to use the authoritarian leadership style but employees are against that since they want to have a say. ‘Resistance can be constructive if it forces managers to interact more frequently with subordinate, to review the decision to introduce change, and perhaps to explore alternative ways to meet desired objective. Six approaches have been put forward as ways of controlling resistance to change (kotter& Schlesinger, 1979):

Education and communication

Participation

Facilitation

Negotiating and agreement

Manipulation and co-option

Coercion

If the management uses the above approaches then issues like disagreement can be resolved. For instance, with a proper communication channel, there will be clarification of information and thus both parties will be on the same length. Moreover, by educating the employees, they will be able to see change as an opportunity rather than a threat. Thus, such policies can ensure that the organization will experience a harmonious working environment with very little or no conflict at the workplace.


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