Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Job autonomy, trust in leadership keys to improvement initiatives

Date:
November 14, 2012
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Frontline employees will commit to improving their organization if they perceive a high degree of autonomy in their jobs and trust their leaders.

Frontline employees will commit to improving their organization if they perceive a high degree of autonomy in their jobs and trust their leaders, says research from University of Illinois business professors.

According to a soon-to-be-published study by Gopesh Anand and Dilip Chhajed, professors of business administration at Illinois, a flexible work environment plays a significant role in increasing employee commitment to continuous improvement initiatives.

"Continuous improvement initiatives are typically bundled with employee empowerment techniques," Anand said. "We always hear, 'If you empower employees, they will take care of the improvements.' But what happens repeatedly is that this employee empowerment is management-driven, and it does not work."

"It's a paradox -- employee empowerment being forced upon employees by management," said Chhajed, who also is the director of the technology management program in the College of Business. "What usually ends up happening is that employees feel they are being forced into doing something that they may not even see as being very useful."

The research, co-written with Luis Delfin, a former graduate student, advances three arguments on how employees' commitment to continuous improvement in the workplace can be enhanced:

  • The day-to-day work environment needs to be perceived by employees as autonomous.
  • As continuous improvement involves making changes to the very practices that frontline employees use in their day-to-day work, trust in leadership is critical.
  • A higher degree of trust in leadership further leads to proactive behaviors by frontline employees, encouraging them to use the autonomy in their day-to-day jobs to seek out and make systematic improvements to work practices.

The researchers tested their hypotheses on data collected from individual employees working for Christie Clinic, an outpatient health care organization based in Champaign, Ill., that has actively engaged in continuous improvement based on lean management principles over the last six years.

While previous research on continuous improvement initiatives focuses on constituent elements such as rewards, leadership and training opportunities that are explicitly tied to generating employee participation, this study focuses on the association of commitment to continuous improvement with the context of every employee's day-to-day work.

"Many times, employees end up working on continuous improvement projects simply because the CEO is telling them to participate in the initiative," Anand said. "But they aren't really sold on this idea of making an effort to improve their workplace and work practices."

"Workers need to have a sense of control over their work environment," Delfin said. "They need to be able to decide how and what to do in their day-to-day work. And that's actually what motivates them to improve. Their buy-in becomes even stronger when leadership provides them the support to do this."

Employees shouldn't end up thinking of improvement initiatives as extra work as such an attitude ultimately leads to "change fatigue," the researchers say.

"Employees can't think of it as, 'This is something being brought down upon us by upper management,' " Anand said. "If they do, it becomes extra work that they're not compensated for."

"The big one for employees is, 'What's in it for me?' " Chhajed said. "Management is trying to make things more efficient, so what does that mean for my job, my work hours? That's why employees need to trust that management is looking out for their best interests. If they don't have that trust, then even autonomy is not going to help as much. Trust is huge, because you don't want the perception that management is coercing employees to do this."

Management shouldn't be the sole driver of change in an organization, and the process for implementing a continuous improvement initiative likewise shouldn't be a top-down mandate.

"There should be some top-down direction in terms of where the initiative should go and what are we in business for," Anand said. "But there needs to be balance between the top-down goals and the bottom-up improvements.

"It's like building a bridge from both sides," Delfin said. "Upper management usually has the vision, but at the same time they're not the experts on how things get done on the ground. So you need to have frontline employees who have some freedom because you are trying to get all of this to meet in the middle. That means that the leaders in management need to act more like coaches, and less like dictators. You need a cooperative environment where leaders are guiding and coaching, and employees are participating."

Although their empirical context is a health care organization, the researchers say that their results are applicable to most organizations that are deploying continuous improvement initiatives.

"The problems that we look at in this paper are prevalent across industries," Chhajed said.

"If you talk to people in any industry who are deploying continuous improvement initiatives, they are facing these issues," Anand said. "That's why you see new iterations of these types of initiatives over and over, because organizations often fail at sustaining them over long periods of time."

The paper will appear in the journal Operations Management Research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gopesh Anand, Dilip Chhajed, Luis Delfin. Job autonomy, trust in leadership, and continuous improvement: An empirical study in health care. Operations Management Research, 2012; DOI: 10.1007/s12063-012-0068-8

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Job autonomy, trust in leadership keys to improvement initiatives." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114143338.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2012, November 14). Job autonomy, trust in leadership keys to improvement initiatives. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114143338.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Job autonomy, trust in leadership keys to improvement initiatives." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114143338.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new protocols for healthcare workers interacting with Ebola patients. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Researchers in South Korea are developing a robotic pilot that could potentially replace humans in the cockpit. Unlike drones and autopilot programs which are configured for specific aircraft, the robots' humanoid design will allow it to fly any type of plane with no additional sensors. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Tens of thousands of doses of experimental Ebola vaccines could be available for "real-world" testing in West Africa as soon as January as long as they are deemed safe in soon to start trials, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins