Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

Socio-Technical Analysis of Firm Level Executive Jobs: A Comparative Study in Indian Organizations

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

Socio-Technical Analysis of Firm Level Executive Jobs: A Comparative Study in Indian Organizations

Article excerpt

Review of Literature

The term 'socio-technical system' (STS) was coined by Eric Trist (Trist & Bamforth 1951) to describe a method of viewing jobs, which emphasizes the interrelated functioning of the social and technical subsystems of the jobs in relation to the organization and environment in which it operates. Through continuous research and industry applications socio-technical system had emerged as an established methodology that provides a structured approach to redesign of job related processes (Pasmore & Sherwood 1988, Taylor & Felten 1993, Fox 1995, Eijnatten 1998). It holds that jobs in an organization can be conceived in terms of a combination of the social and technical subsystems factors.

The social subsystem of a job includes attitudes and beliefs, contracts between employers and employees, reactions to work arrangements, and the relationships between individuals and among groups (Pasmore & Sherwood 1988). The social subsystem of an organization consists of the people who work in the organization and the relationships among them (Trist & Bamforth 1951, Emery 1959, 1962, Trist et al. 1963, Pasmore 1978). Broadly, the social subsystem includes the profile and expectations of organizational members, patterns of supervisory--subordinate relationships, interpersonal relationship of employees and the nature and interaction of subgroups within the population. The socio-technical system theorists contend that the needs, which people bring with them to the workplace, have to be identified and ways have to be made to meet those needs through the design of the technology and the work. At the micro level, the social subsystem embodies characteristics such as individual motivation, group performance, communication, flexibility, involvement, autonomy, commitment and satisfaction (Pasmore 1988). At a macro level, the social subsystem represents organizational culture and social integration of workforce. It emerges through the people working within a particular work setting (Eijnatten 1998).

The technical subsystem of a job comprises the structures, tools, procedures, knowledge, and support necessary to perform the work (Fox 1995). It consists of the tools, work techniques and procedures, skills, knowledge and devices used by members of the social system to accomplish the tasks of the organization (Trist & Bamforth 1951, Thompson & Bates 1957, Woodward 1958, Emery 1959, Trist et al. 1963). The technical subsystem holds the tools, knowledge base, and technology required to acquire inputs, transform inputs into outputs, and provide outputs or services to customers in the organization (Pasmore 1988, Hendrick 1991). According to Pasmore (1988) at the individual level, the technical subsystem affects work design, productivity, self-perceptions, and psychological contracts. At the functional unit or department level, the technical subsystem affects roles structures, physical layout, interaction patterns, and supervisory behaviour. At the organization level, the technical subsystem affects relationships among departments, organizational structure, reward systems, organizational flexibility, and overall competitiveness. Therefore, at each level of analysis the technical subsystem has a different type of interaction with the social subsystem.

STS theory seeks to enhance job satisfaction and improve productivity through a design process that focuses on the interdependencies among people, technology, and the work environment (Emery & Trist 1969). New technological designs could not achieve maximum results on their own by being separated from the human component with which they have to interact. Technology and people have to be treated as being coupled within a system. Out of these considerations evolved the concept of joint optimization of the social and technical subsystems (Trist Bamforth 1951, Trist et al. 1963). STS theory (Trist & Bamforth 1951, Cherns 1976, Trist 1981, Pasmore 1988) proposes that work design should jointly optimize the social and technical subsystems of an organization. …

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