Labour Education And Extensive Employee Development Schemes Management Essay
I think its possible to examine both perspectives in this paper and then decide where you stand in the debate. In essence the assignment is asking you to consider how the various types of education that happen in unions (labour education – tools courses, issues courses, etc.) and employment development schemes empower workers to participate in decision-making processes in the workplace (i.e. democratic systems). Do these types of education within unions facilitate a more equal relationship between employers and employees than the education or learning that happens in non-unionzied organizations? Is it possible for workplaces to be run democratically? How does education contribute to establishing equity, empowerment and democracy in workplaces (if it does at all)?
Chapter 5 in Bratton et al. discusses many of types of education that unions offer, not only for stewards. While it might be difficult to go into detail about all these forms of education, the question is asking you to think about labour education broadly for workers and the labour movement.
The topic of the strategic relevance of human resource management in organizational strategies and business ideals offers a deep foray into one of the main ingredient that successfully underpins the achievement of leadership and managerial objectives. This insight impels the ongoing scrutiny into one of the key leverage of our current human resource management identified as employee development schemes. This assignment begins with an examination of trade unions and strategic HRM issues, will continue with a snapshot description of labour education and workers empowerment as popular organizational initiative and its objective of combining education as a management’s approach to workers’ empowerment.
Trade unions and strategic HRM
In the literature the new HRM model is depicted as ‘unitary’; it assumes that management
and workers share common goals, and differences are treated and resolved rationally. According to the theory, if all workers are fully integrated into the business they will identify with their company’s goals and management’s problems, so
that what is good for the company and management is perceived by workers as also
being good for them. Critical to achieving this goal is the notion of worker ‘commitment’
to the organization. This HRM goal has led writers from both ends of the
political spectrum to argue that there is a contradiction between the normative HRM
model and trade unions. In the prescriptive management literature, the argument is
that the collectivist culture, with its ‘them and us’ attitude, sits uncomfortably with
the HRM goal of high employee commitment and the individualization of the
employment relationship including individual contracts, communications, appraisal
Much of the critical literature also presents the new HRM model as inconsistent
with traditional industrial relations and collective bargaining, albeit for very different
reasons. Critics argue that HRM policies and practices are designed to provide
workers with a false sense of job security and obscure underlying sources of conflict
inherent in employment relations. According to Godard, historically a major reason
for managers adopting ‘progressive’ [HRM] practices has been to avoid or weaken
unions. However, he does concede that ‘it would also be a mistake to view progressive
practices as motivated solely or even primarily by this objective’ (1994, p. 155).
Yet other industrial relations scholars, taking a more traditional ‘orthodox pluralist’
perspective, have argued that independent trade unions and variants of the HRM
model cannot only coexist but are even necessary to its successful implementation
and development. They argue that trade unions should become proactive or change
‘champions’ actively promoting the more positive elements of the ‘soft’ HRM
model. Such a union strategy would create a ‘partnership’ between management and
organized labour which would result in a ‘high-performance’ workplace with mutual
gains for both the organization and workers (Betcherman et al., 1994; Guest, 1995;
Verma, 1995). What is clearly apparent from a review of the literature is that this
aspect of the HRM discourse has been strongly influenced by political-legal developments
and the decline in trade union membership and power in the US and UK
over the last two decades. Therefore when you read Chapter 12 and the literature, it
is important to remember that the debate is set in the contextual developments in
the USA and Britain.
The idea of embedding worker commitment in HRM model has led to strong argument among writers, that, there is a contradiction between the HRM normative model and trade unions. In the prescriptive management literature, the argument is the collectivist culture, with ‘them and us’ attitude, sabotages the HRM goal of high employee commitment and the individualization of the employment relationship. Moreover, critics argue that, ‘high-performance-high-commitment’ HR strategies provide workers with false sense of job security, by hiding underlying sources of conflict, inherent in employment relations. However, other scholars with pluralist perspective argue that not only do trade unions and’high-commitment’ HRM model coexist but are indeed necessary if an HPWS is tosucceed (Bratton and Gold, 2003: 60). In addition, other researchers like Sparrow and Hiltrop (1994: 25) in
Morley et al., (2006)identified a shift from the HRM function and its associated terrain to a strategic role in other areas of HRM activity. Thus, the greater emphasis on the integration of the human resource function into strategic decision-making, a decentralization of much activity to line managers, and pre-occupation with industrial relations and collective bargaining, has made way for a more SHRM activities such as communications, human resource development, workplace learning, career management and human capital accumulation
Empowerment is a concept that gained immense popularity in the 1990s and looks set
to continue as a popular organisational initiative in the twenty-first century. It is a managerial
ideology in its own right as well as being used with other initiatives and strategies
such as BPR, TQM and the learning organisation. It is strongly associated with culture
change initiatives, delayering and restructuring, and usually involves devolving power
and responsibilities to teams at workplace or customer level (Arkin, 1995).
Various one-dimensional definitions, of empowerment have emanated from the practitioner
literature. Typical of this view is Cook and Macaulay’s (1997) definition of
empowerment as ‘a change-management tool which helps organisations create an environment
where every individual can use his or her abilities and energies to satisfy the
customer’ (p. 54). Its all-embracing nature skirts over issues of how employees use their
abilities, and whether there are boundaries to responsibilities, the degree and type of
power employees enjoy, power relations between employee, managers, individuals,
teams, customers and the context of empowerment. Both Wilkinson (1998) and
Lashley (1997) have commented that empowerment is influenced by historical, economic,
social and political factors, and in attempting a definition the context in which
it is practised must be considered. Wilkinson (1998) defines empowerment as a managerially
Unlike industrial democracy there is no notion of workers having a right to a say: it is employers
who decide whether and how to empower employees. While there is a wide range of programmes
and initiatives which are titled empowerment and they vary as to the extent of power
which employees actually exercise, most are purposefully designed not to give workers a very
significant role in decision making but rather to secure an enhanced employee contribution to
the organisation. Empowerment takes place within the context of a strict management agenda.
Empowerment is thus a managerially controlled phenomenon operating at a workbased
rather than a strategic level within the organisation. Honold (1997) implicitly
acknowledges this by seeing empowerment as ‘control of one’s work, autonomy on the
job, variations of teamwork, and pay systems that link pay with performance’ (p. 202).
She further divides empowerment into five groupings: leadership, the individual
empowered state, collaborative work, structural or procedural change, and the multidimensional
perspective that encompasses the other four categories.
Multidimensional perspectives on empowerment
Honold’s (1997: 206) final category shows that one approach is insufficient for empowerment
to be effective. Others believe that combining education, leading, mentoring
and supporting, providing and structuring is more likely to enable empowerment systems
to be successful. Human resource systems should also be fully supportive of these
components, providing a contextual framework within which empowerment systems are
able to operate. This means linking the empowerment process to the vision, goals and
aims of the organisation, through HRD, reward systems and employee relations systems
combined with adequate feedback measures.
Bratton John and Gold Jeffrey (2003) Human Resource Management: Theory andPractice third edition London: Palgrave Macmillan
Morley Michael J., Gunnigle Patrick and Sullivan Michelle O, Collings David G. “Newdirections in the roles and responsibilities of the HRM function” Personnel Review Vol.35 No. 6, 2006, 609-617
Sparrow, P. and Hiltrop J. M. (1994), European Human Resource Management inTransition, Prentice-Hall, Hemel Hempstead