The Impact of Work Redesign and Psychological Empowerment on Organizational Commitment in a Changing Environment: An Example from Taiwan's State-Owned Enterprises

Article excerpt

Personnel management in both public and private organizations emphasizes human commitment to organizations. Highly committed employees identify with the organization's goals and values, expend extra effort at work, and are proud of their membership in the organization. (1) In an environment undergoing change, such as during the privatization of state-owned enterprises, employees' commitment to the organization is easily disrupted because privatization is often linked to downsizing. (2) Niehoff and his colleagues (3) noted that downsizing has been found to have a negative influence on surviving workers' loyalty, which is an important element of organizational commitment. It is imperative for both public and private organizations to realize how to maintain employee commitment under changing situations.

In the early 1990s, Jack Welch, then the CEO of GE, commissioned the company to develop a program called the Change Acceleration Process (CAP). The well-known formula of E = Q x A is the heart of CAP. In the formula, the E stands for the effectiveness of change. The Q stands for the quality of the analysis, which is the economic or analytic reasoning leading to a proposed action plan or solution. Last, the A signifies acceptance of the change, signifying attention to process, participation, and the people side of change. (4)

Daft suggested that people's participation and involvement in change program are critical in order to eliminate employees' resistance to change. (5) Niehoff and his colleagues claimed that employee empowerment and job enrichment have positive influences on employee loyalty during downsizing. (6) Mishra and Spreitzer (7) also argued that empowerment and work redesign could prompt positive attitudes in employees experiencing a downsizing situation.

According to Hackman and Oldham's job characteristics model, (8) the five primary job characteristics of skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback have impacts on employees' productivity, motivation, and satisfaction. In the organizational change process, if work characteristics can be changed and redesigned to enhance employees' perceptions of psychological empowerment--which in turn makes them feel the meaning, impact, self-determination, and self-efficacy of their work--employees' loyalty and commitment to their organization can be maintained.

Recently, the privatization or reorganization of state-owned enterprises has been carried out in many countries. Most governments have worried that employee resistance to the change would hamper the effectiveness of reorganization. Providing a way to counter negative attitudes toward change among employees of state-owned enterprises is imperative for governments.

The major purpose of this article is to integrate related theories of work redesign, psychological empowerment, and organizational commitment to provide a research framework that can be used to explain how an organization can apply work redesign and psychological empowerment enhancements to strengthen employees' commitment to their organizations while those organizations are undergoing change. In addition, the locus of control of employees involved is also explored to determine if the locus of control has a moderating effect on the relationship between work redesign, psychological empowerment, and organizational commitment.

Literature Review

Work Redesign

Based on Hackman and Oldham's job characteristics model, (9) work redesign is defined as changes in skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback. Good work performance results from an employee's inner motivation, which can be improved by increasing work responsibility, meaning, and feedback. (10) In a changing environment, employees' work content and mission will become different, and the organizational structure will change. In this situation, work redesign can make employees feel that the organization has provided the necessary resources to help them deal with the stress arising from the change. …