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The impact of employee participation on organisational productivity at a university of technology in the Western Cape, South Africa
Broadly speaking, employee participation is the totality of forms, either directly (personal or by employees themselves) or indirectly (through employees’ representatives) by which individuals, groups, and/or collectives secure their interests or contribute to the decision making process. Employee participation has often been heralded as a solution, if not the panacea for low institutional effectiveness, efficiency and productivity. Institutional productivity is a basic goal of management in today’s highly competitive HE institution environment. This is because higher productivity signifies that the employees are rendering services of good quality and this will attract new students. The primary objective of any public HE institution is to render services of good quality to the students (inputs) so as to produce more graduates (outputs or productivity). Employee participation in decision making beyond collective bargaining is relatively new in South African civil service. Recognizing the need to supplement CB and for South African civil service to be more competitive, the LRA of 1995 No 66 introduced the system of Workplace Forums. A Workplace Forum is an in-house body, which is intended for the promotion of participative management through consultation, cooperation, joint decision making and information sharing. This new dispensation was mainly aimed at improving the effectiveness, efficiency and productivity of South African workplaces. More so, the new dispensation also aimed to promote shop floor democracy, and to encourage power sharing in South African workplaces. However, the uptake of this new dispensation in the public HE institution for this study is slow due to the adversarial relationship between the unions in the HE institution where this study was conducted. The reality is that, there are platforms in the Faculty for this study through which employees can voice their opinions. This notwithstanding, the respondents for this study stated that this platforms are not effective because management most of the time uses its prerogatives (Executive Ruling) to decide on issues under debate for the interest of the Faculty. The fact that there is an adversarial relationship between the unions in the institution for this study and the fact also that management most of the time uses its prerogatives to ignore the inputs of the employees means that meaningful employee participation is a “show” and not “real” in the institution and Faculty where this study was conducted. This study investigates the impact of employee participation in decision making on a Faculty’s productivity. A qualitative method was employed, and face-to-face semi-structured interviews were used to collect data for this study. The data that was collected for this study was analyzed qualitatively by using themes. The overall finding shows that it is perceived that employee participation has a positive impact on the Faculty’s effectiveness, efficiency and productivity. This is because the respondents stated that they render effective and efficient services to the students because there are more than enough opportunities or platforms where they can contribute to the Faculty’s decisions and management. However, the respondents also indicated that they would be more effective, efficient and productive if the management of the Faculty should translate their inputs into practice. The study also found that employee participation is still in its infancy in the institution and Faculty owing to the three main factors below: Lack of management commitment in the process. This is as a result of fear on the part of management to loose its managerial prerogatives and control over the Faculty; and Lack of trade union support. This is because there is an adversarial relationship between the unions in the institution for this study; and Lack of employees’ commitment. This is due the fact that employees see no commitment on the part of the unions in the institution and management of the Faculty for this study. In order for there to be any meaningful or effective employee participation in decision making in the institution and Faculty for this study, the above obstacles should be overcome.