Organizations recognize the importance of continuous innovation to grow revenues.
As a result, many organizations have experimented with “high-commitment work systems (HCWS)” described by Harvard’s Richard E. Walton, as a “lever” to positively influence employee productivity, retention, and innovation.
High-commitment employee benefits are designed to elicit employees’ reciprocal commitment and intrinsic motivation to support the organization’s objectives.
These programs may include:
- Employee participation initiatives,
- Team rewards,
- Profit sharing,
- Career development training,
- Internal transfer opportunities,
- Internal advancement opportunities, with preference over external candidates,
- Employment ”security.”
Organizations with these high-commitment employee programs, measured by High Commitment Work System Scale, had highly innovative and creative employees when they worked with cohesive teams on complex tasks in a study of more than 50 technology firms in China by Song Chang of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, with Nanjing University’s Liangding Jia and Yahua Cai, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Riki Takeuchi.
“High-commitment work systems (HCWS)” can occur in organizations with varying approaches to human capital management, described by China Europe International Business School’s Zhixing Xiao and Anne S. Tsui of Arizona State University:
Mutual-investment (or organization-focused) strategies combine:
-Specified, closed economic exchanges with
-Unspecified, open-ended social exchanges that include implied trust and reciprocity leading to
–Expectations of employment security,
- Quasi spot-contract (or job-focused) philosophies based on
-Economic-exchange model with
-Market-like flexibility that
-Enables employers to easily hire and discharge employees.In the United States, “at-will employment” permits employers to terminate any employee at any time for any reason or no reason without warning, noted Miami University’s David Walsh and Joshua Schwartz.
Although this job-focused approach does not imply trust or reciprocity, many contract employers offer employee benefits similar to those in “high-commitment” workplaces.
This contrast between employers’ implied social contract by offering high-commitment benefits with at-will employment may appear incongruous to employees.
The result may be confusion, cynicism or disengagement.
Despite these contrasting approaches to employee relations, high-commitment benefit programs can enable “creative situations,” described by Harvard’s Teresa Amabile, in which individual motivation can contribute to commercial innovation.
Organizations that establish creative work situations, she noted, typically offer some high-commitment employee programs:
- Job rotation,
- Training to increase subject matter expertise,
- Job autonomy,
- Working in teams to solve problems and deliver products,
- Participative management.
Despite not guaranteeing employment tenure, these programs were associated with:
- Egalitarian culture,
- High trust,
- Support for disrupting status quo.
However, organizations that adhere to at-will employment practices and offer high-commitment benefits can benefit from clearly communicating the limits of their commitments to avoid adverse employee reactions.
-*What are most effective ways to balance and integrate coexisting at-will employment policies with “high-commitment work systems”?
- Working toward Goals with “Implementation Intentions”
- Five Steps and Exercises to Drive Breakthrough Creativity
- Crash Course on Innovation, Creativity
- Paradoxical Bias against Innovative Ideas in the Workplace
- Innovators’s Personality Characteristics and Shibumi Principles Drive Innovation
- STEAM-powered Innovation: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics
- Does Workplace Co-Location Increase Collaboration and Innovation?
- Effective Questions as Change and Innovation Catalyst
- How and Who of Innovation