Since its first conceptualisation in the early 1970s (Chisholm, 1983), the idea of the quality of working life (hereafter referred to as QWL) has attracted the attention of both academics and businesses. QWL refers to a set of HR practices which aim to boost job satisfaction and enhance the overall work experience for the individual, which can also be used as a means to heighten company morale, maximise employee productivity and, in turn, overall organisational performance, which adds to the organisation’s competitiveness (Lau & May, 1998). Noting the relevance of QWL in the contemporary workforce, the first part of the paper will examine the idea of QWL and outline how the implementation of QWL programs contributes in the issue of employee retention. The second part of the paper will propose a QWL program appropriate for DiscPharms, a company operating a chain of 16 discount pharmacies in NSW and Queensland, in retaining Gen Y workers. It will detail the aspects of QWL incorporated and provide justification for the choice.
QWL & Retention
Workers in today's increasingly competitive market are feeling more pressure from their employers to perform than ever before. Managers are expecting employees to work tirelessly for longer time periods while producing high standards of work. With the growing accessibility of work outside the office via portable technology such as smartphones, tablets and PDAs, it is not uncommon for employers to expect their workers to be constantly on-call and even be continually working outside of the office after working hours. This raises the issue of excessive workload. Overworking can build up employee stress which may provoke low concentration levels, poor productivity, higher absenteeism and increasing turnover rates. Differing views have revolved around the contentious issue of the extent to which organisations should enforce policies which attend to their employees’ welfare and broader QWL. Keim (1978, as seen in Mirvis & Lawler III 1984, p.199) presents one side of the argument, suggesting that it is very much in the interest of organisations to cultivate their human assets as a means to amplify the returns of their investments on the human resources. On the other side of the spectrum, Simon and co-authors (1971, as seen in Mirvis & Lawler III 1984, p.199) believe that, in the interest of ethics, it is one of the fundamental responsibilities of employers to see that their employees’ welfare are being looked after. Nevertheless, the general well-being of the employee body is a crucial aspect on the modern manager’s agenda. An effective QWL program that acknowledges the shifts in work culture and attitudes and incorporates the strategic interests of the firm can combat the issues mentioned. It is simultaneously a proactive method in improving the management of employee relations into one of a more cooperative fashion (Oyley & Ball 1982; Oyley & Ball 1981, as cited in Stone, 2011). There have been boundless definitions of what QWL could potentially embody, from the earlier theorists (see Davis & Cherns 1975; Hackman & Suttle 1977) to the more recent studies in the 2000s (see Lau, Wong, Chan & Law 2001; Serey 2006). Serey (2006, as cited in Rethinam & Ismail 2008, p.59) concludes that the QWL in the modern workplace is associated to work that is considered by employees to be relevant and rewarding. This work is seen as gratifying because it allows individuals to reach their potentials and engage in challenging and meaningful tasks, which contributes to some form of accomplishment for the firm and leads to a sense of achievement and self-satisfaction. Mandell (1989, as cited in Stone 2011, p.179) presents a more general criterion for QWL mechanisms: * Adequate and fair pay
* Safe and healthy work setting
* Development and use of human capabilities
* Continual growth and security of career
* Social integration