Reinventing the Workplace: How Business and Employees Can Both Win

By David I. Levine | Go to book overview

9
Conclusion

If hard work were such a wonderful thing, surely the rich would have kept it all to themselves.
--LANE KIRKLAND

The new workplace at the NUMMI auto plant combined high-involvement management and former GM workers and UAW union leaders. The system succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. However, tensions have made maintaining continuous involvement difficult.


Successful Employee Involvement

Success at NUMMI allows for an examination of whether theories of employee involvement accurately foretell a raise in productivity. Unfortunately, organizational theories do not provide an unambiguous prediction. Whether participation has a positive effect on performance is an empirical question, not a theoretical one. Moreover, it is difficult to answer. Nonetheless, the literature yields a fairly consistent set of conclusions.

In most American companies, participation plans are introduced without substantially changing the organization of the workplace. The effect on productivity is usually positive and often small, sometimes zero or statistically insignificant, and almost never negative. The size and statistical significance of the effect are contingent on the type of participation involved and on other aspects of the company's management system.

In a minority of cases, employee involvement is implemented as part of a fundamental shift in management strategy. In the high-involvement workplace, workers or work groups have substantive decisionmaking

-164-

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Reinventing the Workplace: How Business and Employees Can Both Win
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • About Brookings iv
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Nummi: a Case Study 10
  • 3 - Employee Support 36
  • 4 - Managerial, Union, and Business Partner Support 63
  • 5 - Profits and Employee Involvement 83
  • 6 - Market Failures and Employee Involvement 98
  • 7 - Employee Involvement in Japan 115
  • 8 - Public Policies 122
  • 9 - Conclusion 164
  • Appendix 175
  • Notes 181
  • Index 212
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