Rhetoric and the Politics of Workplace Innovation

Rhetoric and the Politics of Workplace Innovation

Struggling with Empowerment and Modernization

Martin Beirne

This book provides a critical insight into the ongoing debates and controversies that surround employee empowerment and workplace innovation. It highlights competing interests and conflicting values, and illuminates some basic tensions between confident rhetoric and everyday realities.

Chapter 4: Financial participation

Martin Beirne

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisational innovation, organisational behaviour, innovation and technology, organisational innovation


Financial participation has attracted considerable international interest as an innovation which complements participative decision-making through work teams and user-design groups (Jenkins and Poole, 1990; Poutsma, 2001; de Nijs and Poutsma, 2006; McCarthy et al., 2010; Nuttall, 2012). Indeed, it may be the next logical step, extending the influence of workers beyond task, technology and job-related decisions by ensuring that they have a stake in the ownership of their employing organizations, and with that some say in company governance and direction. Much of the general literature on employee participation considers this level of financial interest to be part of an integrated approach, supporting and sustaining participative decision-making on everyday matters of job performance (Kalmi et al., 2005; Poutsma et al., 2006). There are warnings that participative group working may be ineffective or short- lived in the absence of an ownership dimension, especially if performance improvements at the workplace feed through to higher profits or stock-market valuations that benefit wider interests without delivering reasonable financial returns to those who participated in their development (Levine and D’Andrea Tyson, 1990). Financial participation offers a means of addressing these concerns, presenting employees with formal arrangements that are capable of delivering financial returns over and above their regular wages, either through the distribution of free shares or profit-related payments, or by exercising options to acquire shares on favourable terms. Profit sharing and employee share ownership are now regularly presented as essential parts of a distinctive European approach to participation, which covers every level of organizational decision-taking and combines direct shop floor influence with indirect or representative participation via trade unions:

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