Quality of Work Life

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The term refers to the favourableness or unfavourableness of a total job environment for people. QWL programs are another way in which organisations reocgnise their responsibility to develop jobs and working conditions that are excellent for people as well as for economic health of the organization. The elements in a typical QWL program include – open communications, equitable reward systems, a concern for employee job security and satisfying careers and participation in decision making. Many early QWL efforts focus on job enrichment. In addition to improving the work system, QWL programs usually emphasise development of employee skills, the reduction of occupational stress and the development of more co-operative labour-management relations.

Vigorous Domestic and International competition drive organisations to be more productive. Proactive managers and human resource departments respond to this challenge by finding new ways to improve productivity. Some strategies rely heavily upon new capital investment and technology. Others seek change in employee relations practices.

Human resource departments are involved with efforts to improve productivity through changes in employee relations. QWL means having good supervision, good working conditions, good pay and benefits and an interesting, challenging and rewarding job. High QWL is sought through an employee relations philosophy that encourages the use of QWL efforts, which are systematic attempts by an organisation to give workers greater opportunities to affect their jobs and their contributions to the organisation’s overall effectiveness. That is, a proactive human resource department finds ways to empower employees so that they draw on their “brains and wits,” usually by getting the employees more involved in the decision-making process.

A Rationale

Job specialisation and simplification were popular in the early part of this century. Employees were assigned narrow jobs and supported by a rigid hierarchy in the expectation that efficiency would improve. The idea was to lower cost by using unskilled workers who could be easily trained to do a small, repetitive part of each job.

Many difficulties developed from that classical job design, however. There was excessive division of labour. Workers became socially isolated from their co-workers because their highly specialised jobs weakened their community of interest in the whole product. Deskilled workers lost pride in their work and became bored with their jobs. Higher-order (social and growth) needs were left unsatisfied. The result was higher turnover and absenteeism, declines in quality and alienated workers. Conflict often arose as workers sought to improve their conditions and organisations failed to respond appropriately. The real cause was that in many instances the job itself simply was not satisfying.

Forces For Change
A factor contributing to the problem was that the workers themselves were changing. They became educated, more affluent (partly because of the effectiveness of classical job design), and more independent. They began reaching for higher-order needs, something more than merely earning their bread. Employers now had two reasons for re-designing jobs and organisations for a better QWL:  Classical design originally gave inadequate attention to human needs.  The needs and aspirations of workers themselves were changing.

Humanised Work Through QWL

One option was to re-design jobs to have the attributes desired by people, and re-design organisations to have the environment desired by the people. This approach seeks to improve QWL. There is a need to give workers more of a challenge, more of a whole task, more opportunity to use their ideas. Close attention to QWL provides a more humanised work environment It attempts to serve the higher-order needs of workers as well as their more basic needs. It seeks to employ the higher...
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