Steve Proud gets his biggest promotion as the latest senior executive to run this troubled business. With lots of talent and experience, the organization struggles to meet performance goals. Being on the fast-track, Steve quickly makes significant changes to impress the corporate board. He fires the old managers and surrounds himself with the better talent. His team rolls out a comprehensive strategic plan.
The corporate board starts seeing positive results. However, things change within two years. Many employees view Steve as a ‘paper manager.’ Despite his ‘talk about empowering workers,’ his actions demonstrate he cares little about any worker’s opinions. Steve cannot understand why his strategy failed.
Most organizations move swiftly ahead reacting to market forces without truly empowering workers to make organizational decisions. Managers preach that employees are a critical asset to an organization’s bottom-line. However, few managers ever show it. Given that percept, we will discuss the final component of effective socio-technical systems. It is the human factor buy-in. Organizations must shift their paradigm to viewing workers as more than mechanical parts for their organizational objectives.
According to a USA Today poll, nearly half of those interviewed said that corporations can be trusted only a little, or not at all, when it involves looking out for the best interest of employees. Michael Hackman and Craig Johnson, authors of Leadership: A Communication Perspective, argue that a leader’s credibility is directly related to the quality of his relationship with followers.
Marios Katsioloudes, a researcher specializing in socio-technical analysis, explains that as profitability of mechanization increases, the importance of technology is implied while there is a devaluation of the workers. Clearly, U.S. businesses cannot point to the lack of employee performance for mismanagement errors.
Japan, a long-time benchmark for American companies, is being defeated by American employees. Today, the average U.S. worker puts in 36 more hours than Japanese workers (1,825 vs. 1,789). Over the last two decades, balancing work and home life have been difficult since Americans have added 200 hours to their annual work schedule.
Employees want to be valued. Felix Harris, a financial director with over 8 years in the banking industry, acknowledges the importance of people in a socio-technical system. He states, “When employees are appreciated, they work harder. A machine is only as good as its operator.” Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of The Human Equation, acknowledges that organizational success is directly related to implementation, and this capacity comes from the workers, how they are treated, their skills, and their efforts as it relates to the organization.
Managers should see followers as more than mechanical parts for their organizational objectives. Managers assume that giving employees new technology is enough to keep them happy. Likewise, leaders should view followers as vital components of the socio-technical system.
Today’s managers in technical organizations must understand the delicacy of balancing a socio-technical system. The recent mirage of culture changes such as outsourcing, scandals, and unethical dealings by both governmental and business senior managers have made American employees skeptical about the seriousness of organizations implementing corporate values into their workplace.
Furthermore, today’s executives are falling short in promoting the desired values to support socio-technical systems due to understanding the value of employee buy-in.
In fact, this insight would be valuable to any manager, trying to integrate the man – human interface mechanism. Understanding the uniqueness of the socio-technical system may increase leadership effectiveness and better management strategies for your organization.
How can organizations best gain employee buy-in when they possess less than a stellar track record of worker empowerment?
© 2010 by Daryl D. Green