A new study conducted by two business professors in India suggests that providing a high degree of job autonomy to frontline employees and developing trust in their leaders could make them work harder for their organization's improvement.
The study conducted by Gopesh Anand and Dilip Chhajed, professors of business administration at University of Illinois found that a flexible environment plays a significant role in increasing employee's commitment to continuous improvement initiatives.
Anand said that continuous improvement initiatives are typically bundled with employee empowerment techniques.
He asserted that it's always said that if employees are empowered, they will take care of the improvements, however, this does not work.
Chhajed said that in employee empowerment is being forced upon employees by management.
He said that this makes the employees feel that they are being forced into a job that they may not even see as being very useful.
The research, co-written with Luis Delfin, a former graduate student, has advanced 3 arguments on how workers' commitment to continuous improvement in the workplace can be enhanced.
Firstly, the day-to-day work environment should be perceived as autonomous.
Secondly, as continuous improvement involves making changes to the very practices that frontline workers use in their work, trust in leadership is critical.
Thirdly, a higher degree of trust in leadership further leads to proactive behaviours by frontline employees, which encourages them to use the autonomy in their day-to-day jobs to seek out and make systematic improvements to work practices.
The researchers tested their hypotheses on data collected from individual employees working for Christie Clinic, an outpatient health care organization based in Champaign, Ill., that has actively engaged in continuous improvement based on lean management principles over the last six years.
The paper will appear in the journal Operations Management Research.