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Impact of human resource interventions on quality of work life: an exploration.

INTRODUCTION

In recent years, the quality of work life (QWL) has increasingly been identified as a positive indicator related to the function and sustainability of business organisations. QWL is a philosophy, a set of principles, which holds that people responsible and capable of making valuable contributions and they should be treated with dignity and respect (Straw & Heckscher, 1984). It encompasses mode of wage payment, working conditions, working time, health and safety, financial and non-financial benefits and managerial behaviour towards employees (Islam & Siengthai, 2009). A high QWL is perceived to be essential for organisations to continue to attract and retain employees. It requires a comprehensive program designed to improve employee satisfaction, strengthening workplace learning and helping employees through change and transition. Dissatisfaction with the quality of work life is a problem which affects almost all workers regardless of position or status. According to Gadon (1984), QWL programs have two objectives: (a) to enhance productivity; and (b) to increase the satisfaction of employees. Thus QWL provides healthy, satisfied and productive employees, which in turn provides efficient and profitable organisation (Sadique, 2003).

QWL is an umbrella term which includes many concepts. Because the perceptions held by employees play an important role in their decision to enter, stay with or leave an organisation, it is important that employees' perceptions be included when assessing QWL (Yoder, 1995). Improved quality of work life promotes the best use of existing workforce skills and increases employees' involvement. Most importantly, it encourages and supports the enhancement of the internal skills base to create a more professional, motivated and efficient working environment. Thus, QWL is defined as the quality of the relationship between the employees and the total working environment. It is concerned with the overall climate of work and the impact on work and people as well as on organisational effectiveness.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

The evolution of QWL began in late 1960s emphasising the human dimensions of work that was focused on the quality of the relationship between the worker and the working environment (Rose et al., 2006). But the term 'quality of work life' was first introduced in 1972 during an international labour relations conference. The selected participants assembled there concluded in their final remarks that "improving the place, the organisation, and the nature of work can lead to better work performance and a better quality of life in the society" (Gadon, 1984; Sadique, 2003; Rose et al., 2006; Islam & Siengthai, 2009). QWL received more attention after the United Auto Workers and General Motors initiated a QWL program for work reforms. Robbins (1989) defined QWL as "a process by which an organisation responds to employee needs by developing mechanisms to allow them to share fully in making the decisions that design their lives at work". QWL is the perception to which the organisational environment meets the full range of employees' needs for their well-being at work (Cascio, 2006). Katzell et al., (1975) viewed quality of work life more broadly as an individual's evaluation of the outcome of the work relationship. They observed that an employee may be said to enjoy a high quality of working life when he or she has positive feelings towards his job and its future prospects. As a result of this, employees are motivated to stay on the job and perform well, feeling that their working lives fit well with their private lives, affording a balance between the two in terms of personal values.

Walton (1975) proposed eight major conceptual categories relating to QWL as: (1) adequate and fair compensation; (2) safe and healthy working conditions; (3) immediate opportunity to use and develop human capacities; (4) opportunity for continued growth and security; (5) social integration in the work organisation; (6) constitutionalism in the work organisation; (7) work and total life space; and (8) social relevance of work life. According to Gadon (1984), QWL efforts include the areas of personal and professional development, work redesign, team building, work scheduling, and total organisational change. The key elements of QWL include job security, job satisfaction, better reward system, employee benefits, employee involvement and organisational performance (Havlovic, 1991). Skinner and Ivancevich (2008) urged that QWL is associated with adequate and fair compensation, safe and healthy working conditions, opportunities to develop human capacities, opportunities for continuous growth and job security, more flexible work scheduling and job assignment, careful attention to job design and workflow, better union-management cooperation, and less structural supervision and development of effective work teams. QWL is defined as the favourable condition and environment of employee benefits, employees' welfare and management attitudes towards operational workers as well as employees in general (Islam & Siengthai, 2009).

Rice et al., (1985) emphasized the relationship between work satisfaction and quality of people's lives. They concluded that work experiences and outcomes can affect person's general quality of life, both directly and indirectly through their effects on family interactions, leisure activities and levels of health and energy. Singh (1983) conducted studies in chemical and textile factories in India, stressing the reorganisation of work and the introduction of participatory management to improve employees' quality of work life. Bhatia and Valecha (1981) studied the absenteeism rates of textile factory and recommended that closer attention should be paid to improving the quality of work life. Cascio (2006) defined quality of work life as a set of objectives, organisational conditions and practices designed to foster quality relationships within the organisation. Therefore, employees perceive that they are safe, relatively well satisfied, they have reasonable work-life balance and they are able to grow and develop as human beings.

QWL is the degree to which the organisational environment meets the full range of human needs and provides workers the opportunity to make decisions about their job, the design of their workplace, and what they need to make products or to deliver services more effectively. It also requires managers to treat workers with dignity. Thus QWL is defined as the sum total of healthy and satisfying experiences that individuals experience in the various facets of their life (Sekaran, 2007). It aims at improving the inherent nature of the job as well as the job environment so as to make employees more satisfied in their jobs and productive for the organisation.

OBJECTIVES

The basic purpose of this study is to explore the various factors affecting the quality of work life, impact of HR interventions on QWL and outcomes of QWL (individual employee well-being and achievement of organisational strategic business objectives). This paper contributes to the ongoing discussion of strategic initiatives for better QWL. The objectives of this study are:

* To study the various factors influencing quality of work life.

* To impact on HR interventions to improve quality of work life.

* To validate the outcomes of a QWL model developed from the findings of previous research works.

FACTORS AFFECTING QWL

The nine factors (figure 1) that influence and decide the perceived degree of QWL are discussed below:

Environment

The environment, if positive, prepares a person both mentally and physically to perform effectively and the reverse is true when it is negative. The work environment is relevant to an individual's quality of work life and the relationship between life on and off the job (Cunningham & Eberle, 1990). According to Payne (1987), the physical environment is likely to make an impact upon a person's achievement, affective satisfaction and psychological strain.

Opportunities

Some jobs offer opportunities for learning, research, discovery, self-development, enhancement of skills, room for innovation, public recognition, exploration, celebrity status and fame. Others are monotonous, repetitive, dull, routine, no room for improvement and in every sense boring. Naturally the former are interesting and rewarding whereas the latter are de-motivating and contribute to poor QWL. Workers reporting no opportunities to use their abilities in their jobs exhibited significantly lower satisfaction (Warr, 1987).

Nature of job

The major determinant of QWL is the job itself. A job which is interesting, challenging, that provides status and pride, entails involvement and makes employees feel pride is considered to be the ideal one. Davies et al. (1984) identified jobs with greater variety, challenge, autonomy, future opportunities and contribution to the society as the most significant predictors of quality of work life. Jobs should provide sufficient opportunities to employees for better utilisation of their skills, knowledge and creativity.

Growth and development

The organisation should have the environment for the fulfilment of employees' needs and aspirations. The right kind of practices must be exercised to help the employees in meeting their career goals. Everybody wants to go ahead in the career path, if an organisation does not give chance for growth and personal development it is very difficult to retain talented personnel and also to find new talent with experience and skill (Stein, 1983).

Challenges

The job should offer some challenge to make it more interesting, enabling an employee to upgrade his/her knowledge, skills and capabilities; on the other hand, monotony makes a person dull, non-enthusiastic, dissatisfied, frustrating, complacent, less initiative and uninteresting. The amount of challenge a person has in a job is noticeable in development of abilities, freedom to decide on work control method, degree of interesting work and a chance to see the results of the work (Chelte, 1983).

Career prospects

Competency development is operationalised as the nature of the job that provides opportunities and stimulates growth in skills and knowledge either for a career or organisational development (Javernpaa & Eloranta, 2001). Status improvements plus effective, timely recognition and appreciation from the management are the motivating factors for anyone to take a keen interest in his/her job. The work environment must be conducive to achieve the organisational goal as well as individual development. It is a win-win situation for both the parties where good work, extra efforts and sincerity need to be rewarded.

People and human relations

Almost everyone has to deal with a set of people in the workplace. Those are namely boss, co-workers and subordinates. Many occupations also require interaction with a range of other people, depending on the nature and objective of the organisation. These situations demand a high level of prudence, cool tempered, tactfulness, humour, kindness, diplomacy and sensitiveness to improve human relations. The ways members of work organisation relate to one another about their ideas and feelings can have a positive effect (Walton, 1975). A pattern of reciprocal help, socio-emotional support and affirmation of the uniqueness of each individual can enhance an individual's quality of work life (Payne, 1987).

Risk and reward attached

Generally reward and compensation are directly proportional to the quantum of work, employee hours, nature and extent of responsibility, accountability, delegated powers, authority of position in the organisational chart, the risk involved, level of expected commitment, deadlines and targets, demand and supply of skilled labour, and even political stability and economic policies. Some degree of risk is involved in every job, while rewards should be based on performance indicators that reflect a person's effort and competence (Yukl, 1998). However, both are influences on QWL.

Stress level

All factors mentioned above are interrelated and interdependent. Stress level need not be directly proportionate to compensation. Stress is of different types--mental stress/physical stress/psychological or emotional stress. Enjoyable work, better relationships, trust, involvement in decision-making, better wages, etc. reduce stress levels. Pelsma et al., (1989) and Hart (1994) found that stress level is inversely and significantly related to QWL. They determined that in the work climate of an occupation, QWL can be assessed by combining the amount and the degree of stress and the degree of satisfaction experienced by the individual within his/her occupational role.

Hypothesis 1: There is a significant relationship between QWL and factors affecting it.

HRM INTERVENTIONS AND QWL

The functions of human resource management (HRM) are not only to select and recruit people but also to pursue excellence of people through enhancing knowledge, skills and attitudes. The ultimate aim is to seek committed and motivated human resources through intense participation in achieving organisation goals. The human resource (HR) interventions in the organisations should necessarily be directed towards improving the quality of work life of employees. Managers must realize that a dynamic and vibrant organisation is one which is in touch with people and is alive with their aspirations. They have to work like team leaders rather than bosses and must take positive steps for bringing about perceptive improvement in the quality of work life of the members. Emphasis should be given by the HR professionals in the following areas for improving the quality of work life of employees as depicted in figure 2.

Safe and healthy work environment

It is widely accepted that workers should not be exposed to physical conditions that are unduly hazardous or detrimental to their health (Walton, 1975). It is also a fact that safe and healthy work conditions enhance worker's interest in work and improve the performance level (Thurman, 1977).

Adequate and fair compensation

Adequacy of income from work and fairness of compensation are two important determinants of quality of work life. Motivation experts believe that money is still an important motive. However, people also want to see fairness and adequacy in their pay rewards. Equal pay for equal work and pay that is linked to responsibility, skill, performance and individual accomplishment are viewed with great importance. Pay must also be competitive with the external labour market and should be responsive to prevailing practices and changing economic conditions (Warr, 1987).

Promotion prospects

Promotion opportunities have significant effects on outcomes such as quality of work life, organisational commitment, job satisfaction and turnover intent. An employee having the necessary experience and qualification (as per promotion policy) for his/her job is always concerned about the possibilities of promotion. According to Gattiker and Larwood (1988), the frequency of promotion is a valuable indicator for assessing career mobility and success.

Job redesign

Job redesign is the process of deciding on the content of a job in terms of its duties and responsibilities, on the methods to be used in carrying out the job in terms of techniques, systems and procedures and the relationship that should exist between the job holders, superiors, subordinates and colleagues. It is a deliberate and systematic attempt to structure the technical and social aspect of work so as to improve technical efficiency and job satisfaction.

Employee welfare

Top management and HR professionals must take adequate measures for the wellbeing of employees. These measures should include better working facilities, health care programs, employee counselling, information sharing and other benefits. These measures would motivate the employees for better work performance (Herzberg, 1968). Organisations that take care of employees' welfare have benefited from improved morale, increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, and lower turnover rates (Thomson et al., 2004).

Growth and development opportunities

Opportunity for growth is important for achievement-oriented employees. If employees are provided opportunities for their advancement and growth and to develop their personality, they should feel highly motivated. Their commitment to the job and the organisation should also increase. Training and development programs need to be conducted to improve the knowledge, skill and attitudes of employees, as well as to provide opportunities for their continuous growth. To improve QWL, companies should adopt career development policies in alignment with the needs of the employees (Wetprasit, 2006).

Team building

Team building is the greatest task in the organisation which brings up the quality of work life of employees. Team building is an effort which unifies variant individual energies, direct these energies towards valuable goals and outputs and link these results to organisational efforts. It develops trust, cohesiveness and mutual sense of responsibility among the employees (Parker, 2006). Employee talents are also effectively utilized by teams (Robbins, 2003). The organisation should focus on team building interventions to improve its ability to work together, its communication, problem solving capabilities and decision-making (Kouzes & Posner, 2007).

Employee empowerment

This aims at providing better autonomy to the employees through the sharing of relevant information and provision of control over factors affecting job performance and satisfaction (Halvorsen, 2005; Kirkman &Rosen, 1999). Managers can share power with subordinates by sharing resources with them, allowing them to participate in the decision making process, and giving them access to relevant and important information. Empowerment aims at competency development and skill enhancement of employees, creation of facilities for further education and training and also allows employees more control over their jobs. It helps employees achieve job mastery through active participation.

Suggestion system

Marx (1995) defines a staff suggestion scheme as a formalized procedure to encourage employees to think creatively about their jobs and job environment, and to come forward with ideas for which they will be rewarded on a specific basis, if acceptable and to the advantage of the organisation. It creates a climate of trust and confidence, job satisfaction and continuous improvement in the company (Yusof & Aspinwall, 2000).

Grievance procedure

Grievance procedures represent a systematic attempt to listen to the problems of the subordinates and take necessary action. It is expected that all organisations would develop their grievance machinery suited to their technology and environment. Grievance handling machinery does not make sense unless the grievances are processed and decisions are taken in the shortest possible time and at the level at which the grievance has arisen. Management and employees have benefited from the effective grievance management system (Gordon & Fryxell, 1993). It creates a condition under which the affairs of the organisation are not interrupted as a result of employee disaffection or dissatisfaction.

Communication

To make QWL worthwhile, effective two way communication is necessary. It is through communication that employees learn what goals they are to strive for, what is expected of them, how to accomplish these goals and how to get feedback on the achievement of goals. Distribution and reception of information play an important role in organisational life and contribute to the satisfaction of the members of the organisation. Orpen (1997) found that among the managers, both job satisfaction and work motivation were positively affected by the quality of communication within their firms.

Stress management

Stress and strain are incidental to any workplace. Elangovan (2001) has indicated strong causal links between stress and job satisfaction (higher stress leads to lower satisfaction). HR Professionals should introduce such methods and facilities within the workplace which will enable the employees to manage stress.

Hypothesis 2: HR interventions can significantly influence the degree of perceived quality of work life.

OUTCOMES OF QWL

The importance of QWL in most research has been linked to employees' job outcomes such as productivity, job satisfaction, employees' commitment, and increased retention. The research findings from Lau and May (1998) suggest that companies with high QWL can also have high customer satisfaction which will provide higher growth and profitability to the companies. Louis (1998) reported that QWL is strongly related to work commitment and the sense of efficacy. Huang et al., (2007) highlighted that the perception of QWL has a significant impact on organisational commitment. They also show that the perception of balancing family and work life has a very strong positive effect on reducing employee's intention to leave a company. Tang (2007) reported the positive relation between job satisfaction and quality of life. That is, if a person is happy with the job, he/she also enjoys his/her quality of life. Quality of work life is important to organisational performance (Grayson, 1973). Walton (1975) mentioned that dissatisfaction with working life is a problem which affects almost all workers at one time or another, regardless of position or status. The frustration, boredom, and anger common to employees disenchanted with their work life can be costly for both individual and organisation. Thus QWL stimulates employee satisfaction (Ruzevicius, 2007) and is essential for improving organisational and operational productivity (Sink & Tuttle, 1989). QWL programs can improve employee morale and organisational effectiveness (Hanlon and Gladstein, 1984). Moreover, QWL has a direct impact on human outcomes and it significantly reduces absenteeism, minor accidents, grievances and exits (Havlovic, 1991). It is found that employee turnover can be minimized with better QWL (Newaz et al., 2007). Thus it can be said that QWL can develop jobs and working conditions that are excellent for people as well as for the economic health of the organisation (Kanagalakshmi & Devei, 2003). The benefits of quality of work life are summarised in the model (figure 3) given below.

Hypothesis 3: Quality of work life has positive impact on individual employee and organisational outcomes.

METHODOLOGY

The study was conducted in two major industrial units of the power sector in the Indian state of Orissa: Talcher Thermal Power Station (TTPS), a unit of National Thermal Power Corporation, a central Public Sector Undertaking (PSU); and Orissa Power Transmission Corporation Ltd. (OPTCL), a state owned PSU. Orissa has conducted a major restructuring of its power sector. Therefore, it provides an appropriate location to study the factors and HR interventions influencing the degree of quality of work life of employees after such restructuring. During the study 350 interview schedules were administered among the respondents while active responses of 265 respondents were collected. A structured interview schedule administered among respondents for collection of primary data was accompanied by a fivepoint scale, including strongly agree (5), agree (4), undecided (3), disagree (2), and strongly disagree (1). Methods of direct observation and informal focused group discussion with the employees were also followed to know the feelings of the respondents. The responses were recorded and systematically analyzed to draw a clear picture of the study.

ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS

One-way analysis of variance was calculated to find out the factors which are affecting QWL and examined the significance of mean difference. The results of ANOVA are presented in Table-1. This table reveals that, all the nine factors which are affecting better quality of work life are significant as (p < 0.05).

It has been observed in Table 2 that, out of the twelve items, the mean score of the sixth item (employee suggestion) is highest followed by growth and development (mean = 4.359). Similarly, the standard deviation of the seventh item is maximum (1.086), which indicates there is a lack of consistency of respondents' responses. But the standard deviation relating to the item 'communication' is minimum (0.681) reveals that there is a consistency of respondents' views. Further, in Table 2 the t-test has been done on all the items relating to HR interventions those influencing quality of work life of employees. The p-values of the t-test of the twelve constituent variables are significant at 1 per cent and 5 per cent levels. Thus, all the above HR interventions influence the quality of work life.

The path diagram illustrates the multidimensional model of the outcomes of QWL (Table--3). Various HR interventions improve the quality of work life of employees which enhances individual benefits as well as organisational performances. The dimensions of outcomes are measured by a series of indicators such as RMR = 0.165, GFI = 0.281, AGFI = 0.214, PGFI = 0.257 (Table--4). Thus, proper emphasis on better perceived QWL must influence the individual employee expectations and organisational outcomes.

CONCLUSION

Quality of work life is a very broad and comprehensive concept. The scope and sphere of activities cannot merely be confined to a set of programs and processes at the work place. Rather, these activities in essence seek to improve large aspects of quality of life (QL) of human beings as a whole. QWL is the shared responsibility not only of management and employees, but also of the society. As a concept, QWL aims at improving the work environment in which the employees feel satisfied, motivated and committed to work with zeal and efficiency which may lead to greater productivity and organisational effectiveness. To improve quality of work life, management first has to identify and then try to satisfy employees' important needs through their experience in their working environment. This paper has focused on various factors that influence quality of work life and it has also suggested some HR interventions that need to be practised effectively to improve the quality of work life of employees. Concerted and concrete efforts for the enhancement of quality of work life would do a lot to improve the morale and motivation of employees and as a result there would be an improvement in the health of organisations.

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Bijaya Kumar Sundaray

Regional College of Management (Autonomous), Odisha, India

Chandan Kumar Sahoo

National Institute of Technology, Odisha, India

Santosh Kumar Tripathy

Utkal University, Odisha, India

Table 1: Factors affecting QWL based on ANOVA

                 Sum of    D. F.    Mean       F      Significance
                 Squares           Square              (p < 0.05)

Sample between   120.543     8     15.07    239.206      0.000
Sample within    16.089     257     .063
Total            120.606    265

Table 2: HR Interventions and QWL

Sl.   Items                      T     P-Value    Mean     SD
No.                                               Score

1     Safe and Healthy Work    1.253   0.001 *    4.094   0.720
        Environment
2     Promotion Prospect       2.341   0.000 **   3.541   0.802
3     Job Redesign             6.519   0.000 **   3.329   0.902
4     Employee Welfare         1.276   0.003 *    3.75    0.930
5     Growth and Development   2.676   0.008 *    4.359   0.916
6     Employee Suggestions     2.713   0.009 *    4.382   0.934
7     Adequate and Fair        3.872   0.000 **   4.178   1.086
        Compensation
8     Stress Management        7.859   0.000 **   3.526   1.012
9     Communication            6.416   0.000 **   3.878   0.681
10    Grievance Procedure      7.706   0.000 **   3.632   0.925
11    Employee Empowerment     3.234   0.001 *    4.102   0.854
12    Team Building            9.009   0.000 **   3.988   0.863

** Significant at 1 percent level, * significant at 5 percent level

Table 3: Path analysis of SEM for outcome of QWL

Items                        Estimate   S.E.    C.R.     P     Label

HR Intervention (HR_IR)      0.216      0.088   7.754    ***
Quality of Work Life (QWL)   0.068      0.066   9.435    ***
Motivation (MO)              0.09       0.058   10.589   ***
Commitment (CO)              0.071      0.094   3.395    ***
Satisfaction (SA)            0.034      0.061   7.447    ***
Loyal (LO)                   0.14       0.058   5.776    ***
Secured job (SJ)             0.167      0.065   6.406    ***
Higher performance (HP)      0.242      0.093   5.363    ***
Higher profits &             0.071      0.052   7.281    ***
  productivity
Improved quality (IQ)        0.211      0.064   6.926    ***
Satisfied/Loyal customers    0.054      0.073   8.79     ***
  (SLC)
Less absenteeism (LAB)       -0.012     0.063   9.555    ***
Increased retention (IRN)    -0.022     0.072   3.782    ***
Revenue growth (RVG)         0.114      0.087   3.969    ***

*** Significant at 1 percent level

Table 4: Fitness of the Structured Model

Model                RMR    GFI     AGFI   PGFI

Default model        .165   .281    .214   .257
Saturated model      .000   1.000
Independence model   .168   .252    .218   .241
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Author:Sundaray, Bijaya Kumar; Sahoo, Chandan Kumar; Tripathy, Santosh Kumar
Publication:International Employment Relations Review
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 1, 2013
Words:5570
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