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High-involvement Innovation: Views From Frontline Service Workers And Managers

M. Smith
Published 2018 · Economics

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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the experience of call centre employees who have been involved in high-involvement innovation (HII) activities to understand what frontline and managerial employees think of these involvement activities. Design/methodology/approach A qualitative case study approach is utilised, drawing on evidence from seven UK call centres. Various sources of data are examined, i.e. interviews, observation, call listening and documentary. Findings From the analysis of the testimonies, it is found that job design, the mechanisms and practices as well as other people’s perceptions of involvement influence the experience of frontline and managerial employees. The findings highlight that HII has the potential to intensify jobs (both frontline and managerial employees) when the quantity of ideas submitted becomes a component of the employee performance appraisal system. Research limitations/implications This research has shown that the heightened targets used in many of the cases have reduced the ability of employees to be involved in any innovation activities. What is not clear from the findings is that if performance measures can be used in a more participative way with employees so that they can have less time pressure allowing them to become more involved in innovation activities. Thus, an interesting direction for future research would be to consider the effects of performance measurement systems in the role they play in facilitating HII activities. Practical implications The findings show that HII has the potential to enrich frontline employees’ jobs, making them feel more valued and giving them some variety and challenge in their job. Therefore, practitioners should approach employee involvement in the innovation process as something potentially fruitful and not just wasted time away from the phones. Originality/value This research is important as it explores what effects these involvement initiatives have on the employees and managers involved in them. This is valuable since there is no real consensus across human resource management, labour process and critical management fields resulting in a limited conceptualisation of the relationship between management practices, employee experiences and the outcomes. This research makes a contribution through the elaboration of current theory to understand the complexities and subtleties that exist between the high involvement management practices and the experience of workers and their managers.
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