The Drivers Behind Emerging Views on Employee Relations
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Even as the issues like employee involvement and employee well-being lead the list of HR agenda, the drivers of them have changed from the earlier time, if the views of the book Human Resource Management by Torrington, Hall, and Taylor (2005) have anything to go by. Therefore this paper briefly reviews the chapters 20, 21, and 22 of the above book to underpin the new drivers of change that are gradually changing the perception of employer-employee relations as well as employee welfare.
The dominance of trade unions in directing the course of employee relations through collective bargaining started declining since 1979, due to the emergence of new types of industries based on new technologies as well as new laws for employment practice. The new characteristics of the organisations such as size, job definition and scope of jobs coupled with powerful laws on employment practice started providing alternative ways to resolve work-related problems. These forces gained momentum in the private sector, thereby enabling management to control the directions of employment relations at individual levels. Such practice in turn diminished the movements for collective bargaining such as strikes and consequently enabled the HR personnel to focus more on legislation, recruitment, employee retention, and performance management. Such state of affairs brought forth the issue of employee involvement under new circumstances.
Emerging Concept of Employee Involvement
Consequent to the above situation, a developing state of psychological contract between employees and employers is emerging, besides the increasing degree of employee involvement in the decision making process especially in the individual capacity. The management now appears to be keen to satiate the employee desire of participating in the decision making process, because it has already identified the correlation of such desire with smooth change process, employee job satisfaction and employee retention. Thus activities like intra-team communication and inter-team communication are on the rise, besides brainstorming or masterminding (e.g. quality circle in Japan or newsletter) processes. Attitude survey is also a part of it. Thus be it in Britain or in other countries, employees are now strategically being influenced to become involved in the decision-making process, though the mechanisms differ due to unique requirements of a particular region.
The State of Traditional Practice of Employee Involvement
Public sector still carries the traditional practice of employee involvement though its influence is diminishing in wake of the trend of seeking justification against the rights enjoyed by the trade unions. The legislation in 2001 eased the process of recognition of trade unions in UK, which in turn increased the number of voluntary agreements, since the law has made collective consultation a legal obligation for non-union firms. However, the emergence of new technology and new working situations has been forcing the norms of negotiation to be more flexible and realistic in nature.
The Changing Perception of Employee Well-being
The enforcement of laws since 1974 in UK regarding employee well-being can be underpinned as the driver of the emergence of new concept of employee welfare. These laws aim to be more comprehensive in approach by taking issues like stress, alcoholism and counselling under its wings, besides strengthening the legal framework for health and safety by including both criminal and civil laws.
The emerging trends in HR such as prioritising legal affairs and employee engagement and retention are caused by the drivers like new technologies, changed characteristics of organisation (shape, size, job definition), new management vision to utilize human potential more than before, and introduction of several laws that aim to comprehensively safeguard the employee interest and foster individual development. As a result, collective bargaining through unionism has taken a backseat and the employees are now increasingly being identified as unique individuals and potential contributors toward the sustenance and development of their respective organizations.
Torrington, D., Hall, L., and Taylor, S. (2005). Human Resource Management (6th Ed). Prentice Hall.