LINKING HIGH INVOLVEMENT ENVIRONMENTS TO THE ORGANIZATIONAL
LIFE CYCLE: A DESCRIPTIVE AND PRESCRIPTIVE APPROACH
MARK A. CIAVARELLA
Terry College of Business
University of Georgia
A considerable amount of research has been devoted to the importance of employees in the
success of organizations. Largely affecting this research interest has been a rise in the service
economy, downsizing, and global competition (Mohrman & Lawler, 1997) resulting in attempts
to find the determinants of internal resources and capabilities that maintain organizational
success. Moreover, the 1990s have brought to the forefront topics such as customer satisfaction,
worker knowledge, empowerment, and worker effectiveness vis-a-vis traditional manufacturing
emphasis normally placed on production processes and efficiency in the 1980s (Hoskisson, Hitt,
Wan, & Yiu, 1999; Lawler, Mohrman, & Ledford, 1995). Organizations entering the new
century confronted by global competition and increased customer expectations must increase
their efforts to understand the operation of internal processes that increase overall worker
One of the most cited streams of literature elucidating the processes that improve worker
effectiveness has been that of employee involvement (EI) (Lawler, 1986). The central idea
behind the movement is to push high involvement work processes (HIWP) comprised of power,
information, rewards, and knowledge down the organization to lower level employees who deal
with customers on a daily basis (Lawler, 1986; 1992).
refers to giving lower level
employees more leeway in making decisions, and as such, is often synonymous with
participative decision making.
Giving employees more authority over how and what decisions
are made is posited to lead to higher motivation and job satisfaction, as well as better decision
making, coordination, and communication.
refers to sharing information with all
employees with respect to business performance, plans, and goals.
Providing information to
employees is not only necessary to provide a foundation for higher levels of power and
knowledge in the organization, but it also leads to higher quality decisions and suggestions as to
how work processes can be improved.
are designed to guide employee actions toward
the benefit of organizational performance and to ensure that they share in the subsequent gains
It is essential that rewards follow and are closely tied to performance in order
for employees to be motivated to improve work processes.
focuses on developing
skills of employees so that they can effectively perform on their jobs, leading to higher quality
Obviously, not being trained with the skills necessary to perform on the job will
minimize the likelihood of performing at or above expectations.
While researchers and managers may realize the importance of these processes in their