The Impact of Quality Control Circles and Education on Organizational Commitment in Northern Mexico Assembly Plants

Article excerpt

The number of assembly plants in Northern Mexico, also known as maquiladora, has grown over the years. However, expatriate managers in Mexico face major challenges including the building of an appropriate relationship and developing and maintaining organization commitment among the Mexican workers. It is reported that job turnover in the maquiladora ranges from 120 to 150 percent annually in many assembly plants. This study investigated the impacts of quality control circles and worker education on perceived organizational commitment in the Mexican workplace. It also examined the generalizability of Meyer, Allen, and Smith's three-component model of organizational commitment.

Introduction

The number of assembly plants in Northern Mexico, also known as maquiladora, has grown over the years. Our interviews with managers in the maquiladora showed that monthly job turnover in the maquiladora was between 10 to 20%. Stoddard (1987) reported that job turnover in the maquiladora ranges from 120 to 150 percent annually in many assembly plants. As a result, expatriate managers in Mexico face major challenges including "building an appropriate relationship in a host nation such as Mexico and developing and maintaining organization commitment among the country's employees" (Harrison & Hubbard, 1998:609). This study is an attempt to help fill this gap in the literature on the maquiladora industry. Briefly, we focused on the impacts of Quality Control Circles (QCCs) and worker education on perceived organizational commitment in the Mexican workplace. QCCs are small groups of employees and their leader from the same work area who voluntarily meet on a regular basis to study quality control and productivity improvement techniques.

Research Questions

Meyer, Allen, and Smith ( 1993, 1997) developed and improved scales to measure three components of organizational commitment: affective, continuance, and normative commitment. Affective commitment refers to attachment to the organization such that the strongly committed individual identifies and enjoys membership in the organization. Normative commitment refers to commitment based on a moral belief or obligation that it is the right and moral thing to remain with the organization. Continuance commitment refers to a tendency to "engage in consistent lines of activity" (Becker, 1960:33) on the basis of the individual's awareness of the costs.

Although recent studies of the psychometric properties of the three-component organizational commitment have been supportive, generalizability and applicability of Meyer, Allen, and Smith's (MAS's) scales across cultures is not well examined (Ko, Price, & Mueller, 1997). One purpose of our study was to use MAS's scale in the Mexican workplace, a society quite different from the Western context in which the majority of research using the scales has taken place. We proposed the first study question: "Does the three-component of organizational commitment proposed by Meyer, Allen, and Smith apply to the Mexican workplace?"

Mexican workers typically value social networks and relationships and expect group members to support and sustain one another (Stephens & Greer, 1995). It is reasonable to expect that social support systems increase organizational commitment (Ko et al., 1997). This leads to another research question: "Do the members of QCCs report more commitment to the organization than non-QCC members in the Mexican workplace?"

Education may be related to a particular type of work but does not prepare a person for employment in a specific organization or position. Seldom are there practical programs that would provide specific skills in the formal education system in the advanced nations. Therefore, we raised the next question: "Do the workers with higher education experience more commitment to the organization when compared to those with lower education in the Mexican workplace?"

The QCCs members' abilities and skills may be enhanced through quality control circle activities when compared to non-members. …