Contemporary Trends in Employee Involvement and Participation
Employee involvement and participation have been at the heart of industrial relations since its inception, although much of the contemporary terminology has moved away from 'industrial democracy' employed by the Webbs in 1898. The labels and terms for employee involvement and participation have expanded and varied over time, reflecting different disciplinary bases (industrial relations, human resource management, psychology and political science), changing socio-economic contexts, competing goals between management, labour and government, and a variety of practices. This complexity has become problematical because not all terms are equivalent in their meanings and their different parameters are not always clearly defined. We attempt to provide some clarity by defining 'employee voice' or 'participation' as umbrella terms denoting a wide range of practices. The article also clearly delineates direct and representative approaches to employee participation, and their interrelationship. Two critical contemporary issues are the role of the state and the link between participation and organisational performance. The article concludes that the sphere of employee involvement and participation is likely to remain contested, but that its strategic viability is enhanced when linked with employee well-being as well as performance. Successful state intervention requires public policy integration and dialogue between government, employers and employee representatives.
Journal of Industrial Relations