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The quality of work life (QWL) has been described in various ways since its inception in the 1960s. It has been defined as the level to which the employees and workers of any given firm can improve their own lives, and their level of satisfaction, through their work experiences and environment (Rossi, Quick, & Perrewe, 2009).QWL is a sub component drawn from the broader and wider concept of "quality of life"; which impacts on work performance and its quality, in addition to QWL. QWL has been also described as a "set of principles" which hold that people, the workers and employees, are the most vital and essential resource in the company, firm or organization (Rose et al, 2006). It is a philosophy that highly regards the employees of the organization, as their valuable contribution forms the basis for its survival and success, and as such, they should be treated with respect and dignity.
Implication of QWL
Through QWL, the various elements and aspects surrounding individuals, at the place of work and their home are analyzed to find ways of enhancing their performance and quality of the executed tasks. Not an easy task though, as this is a wider area impacted by many factors, acting separately or in interrelation with each other, on which the organization may have little influence (Silva, 2009). Examples of such include personal stress management skills and social attitude of individual employees. QWL is always considered in relation to workers' job satisfaction, stress experienced at their work place and their bigger concept of quality of life. These are essential and greatly impact the degree to which employers can improve the conditions of life at the work premises, and further provide indications on what should be done by the management team. Understanding of the clear interrelations existing between all the involved facets of QWL, following their identification, and appropriate incorporation into management practices, is of essence to the success of organizations (Steenkamp & Schoor, 2001).
Elements vital to an employee's quality of work life include the physical environment at work, "social environment within the organization," assigned tasks, "administrative system, and the "relationship between life on the job an off (Rose et al, 2006)." Having a positive social environment within the organization greatly enhances the workers capacity, encouraging them to do more of the work through cooperation and mutual agreement. Working situations that enhance cooperation of all involved employees, improve their efficiency and productivity; on individual basis and as a group (Silva, 2009). Employers generally understand the profound effect of having a comfortable physical environment, not inhibiting the each worker's potential and capabilities relevant to the jobs they are assigned to perform (Penn, 2007). Jobs are usually assigned to individuals who have the required skills, knowledge and experience to perform such. Assigning relatively complicated tasks to workers, who do not have the recommended credentials, only exerts undue pressure on them negatively affecting their QWL.
Such negative working environment impairs the performance of all its workers, not just a section of the affected employees, and as a result reduces their quality of work (Rossi, Quick, & Perrewe, 2009). Relationships are of essential significance; both at the workplace and away. Workers with poor communication and relationship skills at most times find themselves ill at ease during working hours, with fellow colleagues and their bosses; a personal trait that will inadvertently affect their QWL (Rose et al, 2006). The profound effect of the working place on the QWL is clearly evident. It is also however noted that personal attributes also play a large role on the same; especially in circumstances were the negative QWL is compounded with other factors at work and away (Silva, 2009). Simplifying the factors affecting QWL has revealed the main factors as economic adversities, with employment difficulties and the nature of the job, through aspects such as work load, the pay and working hours (Steenkamp & Schoor, 2001). Management practices come out as having the strongest effect on the QWL, and as a result, they also form the foundational basis for any intervention measure targeted at boosting QWL. Social science researches have indicated that the involved factors impact on the QWL at varying degrees, with some, particularly management style and administrative systems, being of huge impact on the QWL.
Advantages of QWL
Organization's intervention measures in improving the QWL are of great importance to its overall performance (Steenkamp & Schoor, 2001). Benefits of applying the strategies advanced towards enhancing QWL within the company or business are of immense significance in relation to attaining the set goals and targets. Consequently organizations have sought to improve working conditions and relevant aspects within these environments with the recognition of the advantages made available by the indispensable concept of QWL (Rossi, Quick, & Perrewe, 2009). This need has led to implementation of critical programs, practices and working policies that encourage positive, productive, creative and industrious working environments, and experiences. Large organizations set up QWL departments within their structures to effectively carry out these programs (Penn, 2007). Organizations, in realizing the crucial role QWL plays in their overall performance, have sought to benefit from advantages accrued by ensuring critical changes needed for improving QWL are made and enhanced (Penn, 2007).
QWL consists of various "opportunities for active involvement in group working arrangements" as reported by Rose et al (2006). These opportunities also provide social forums geared towards a mutual tackling of problems facing the organization by all the relevant working groups. Having such forums of greatly improve problem solving skills within the organizations which are of mutual benefit to all; both the employers and the employees. From the forums, social relationships within the organization are enhanced; a great advantage afforded to organizations for adopting QWL practices (Silva, 2009).
Ensuring cooperation in labor management greatly boosts the working morale, enhancing QWL and subsequently improving the overall performance of the organization. Mutual participation of the workers in all issues relevant to their positions within the organization would be achieved thought the various programs and policies focused on increasing the levels of quality attached to their work life (Rose et al, 2006). Tasks assigned to these motivated employees will be effectively executed within the required period, probably at the best level of their individual performance.
Social participation of all workers within their places of work is vital for their management and this can be achieved through the QWL programs. Looking at the bigger picture, QWL offers the great advantage of improving the organization's overall performance (Silva, 2009). Through the adoption of the relevant policies and programs, the organization would achieve the desired goals of making positive impact towards achieving them by motivation of the workers. Effectively eliminating work related stress boosts employee morale, increases their job well being, encouraging their autonomous participation within the company in a positive way. Allowing employees to employ their personal skills has been found to be of exceptional benefit to the organizations they work for, and even to greater extent, the employees themselves (Rossi, Quick, & Perrewe, 2009).
QWL also increases the level of commitment exhibited by workers towards their specific work assignments and the organization as a whole. Having this positive attitude and personal commitment to their individual jobs has great impact in increasing the capability of the organization to achieve the set goals (Steenkamp & Schoor, 2001). From the relatively smaller view of individual commitment, comes the broader picture of the organization's commitment to achieving its goals and targets. QWL policies offer great support to the organization's efforts and implementation of programs towards the raising the levels of QWL within these organizations is of profound impact to its operations. Organization's leaders, administrators and the management team are assured of making positive advances towards attaining their goals.
Components of QWL
Before venturing into the areas impacted by QWL within the working environments, its various components and factors influencing its levels will have to be analyzed. The psychological needs of growth and personal development of all workers need to be met at the workplace in order for them to attain higher QWL. These needs include task identity and their significance, variety of skill and experience, equity and fairness, autonomy and individual power of employees, in addition to their participation in decision making and other management issues (Silva, 2009).
Workers should be encouraged to use their skills within the places of work with equal opportunities of improvement afforded to all. Workers who foresee meaningful and prospective futures within their places of work experience high QWL, in comparison to their opposite counterparts, who may view their job with a sense of insecurity, causing undue stress, and consequently reducing the quality of their work life. Another aspect on these psychological needs considers the relevance of the work to their society and family. Higher job satisfaction is attained by employees who view their assigned tasks as being significant in positively impacting the lives of others, subsequently improving their QWL (Steenkamp & Schoor, 2001). It can be clearly seen that QWL does indeed depend on not only what the management does to improve the situation, but also importantly on the perceptions of individual employees. Two different individuals, with the same skills and experience, may be assigned the same tasks but reveal different levels of QWL. This will basically be due to their adopted opinion, attitudes and perception about the tasks.
To add on to the subjective perceptions, is the significance of external factors of stress. Social support offered by the organizations plays a vital role towards meeting these psychological needs and providing a platform for raising relevant matters on the same. Aspects within the place of work are of imperative importance to the quality of work life experienced by the employees, subsequently necessitating much focus on the work environment. A look at the bigger picture identifies the need to consider personal factors, such as character and attitudes, together with external factors outside the working environment. Organizations focusing on improving their workers QWL, have to carry out internal researches of individual needs (Silva, 2009). Application of QWL strategies has to be done with consideration on the unique features within the working environment and the nature of the tasks (Rossi, Quick, & Perrewe, 2009).
QWL: Leadership and Management of Organizations
Adoption strategies aimed at attaining higher levels of QWL impact on all sections of the organization, albeit in a positive way. Leaders of organizations are responsible for the management practices employed in addition to administrative strategies and styles employed. These vary from organization to organization, and also from differences arising from leadership strategies and personal traits of the leaders in charge. Authentic leadership is exemplified by not only achieving company goals and targets, but also making right initiatives towards implementation of best management practices particularly in relation to the workers.
From the initiatives adopted by the leaders come impacts that trickle down to all other divisions, sections and established groups within the organization. Leaders have the obligation of ensuring their employees work in environments that foster their input, which also provide intrinsic motivation for increasing their performance (Silva, 2009). Authentic leaders will focus on ensuring the most important asset to the organization, the employees; have their needs within their place of work catered for (Penn, 2007). Focusing on the workers ensures the leaders are able to make positive advances towards ensuring the organization meets its goals.
QWL practices generate an amiable environment within which all employees feel free to make positive impacts on the company. Achieving cooperation among the staff through QWL enhances the relationships existing among the workers and between them and the management team and leaders of the organization. Via the application of QWL, leaders will improve their relationship with subordinates and al other employees; an essential feature for success of these leaders. Good relationships encourage participation from all sections of the organization.
Workers being able to communicate their challenges to the leaders of the organization, give the management insight into how their issues can be solved by the organization. Effective leadership requires participation from all quarters (Silva, 2009). Allowing workers to present their issues, gives the organization opportunity to alleviate their conditions. Attaining and sustaining positive social environments is a mark of genuine and effective leadership. Communications is vital in management of any company, whatever the scale of operation, compelling the need to have appropriate social environment.
Success in meeting most of these challenges creates a good impression of the organization on the workers. This promotes workers attachment to the organization and ensures their commitment in effectively executing their assigned tasks. It also generates the much needed commitment to the shared organizational values and vision. Authentic leaders who attain instilling the values and objectives of the organization in the employees achieve unification of efforts by all employees. Targets set by the organizations can not be achieved without convergence of individual performance and their dedication to accomplish their tasks as required by the organization.
Through QWL policies leaders find it easier in adopting appropriate labor management strategies due to the positive social environment, which promote mutual agreement and cooperation among employees. QWL also does provide indication towards the impact of the leadership, management and administrative system, on the workers' morale, perceptions, their level of job satisfaction and operations. As seen earlier, this will form the basis for relevant changes to ensure improvements on their quality of life.