Joint Consultation and Participation

Introduction and definition.

The terms involvement and participation are sometimes used synonymously to cover all forms of individual and representative information, consultation and participation.  Collective bargaining does not form part of participation or involvement. The terms refer to any processes in organizations, which are introduced by management to convey information to employees on business initiatives, decisions and results.

Employee involvement consists of those practices, which are initiated by management and are designed to increase employee information about and commitment to the organization.

Participation is any process through which a person or group of persons determines what other person or group of persons will do. Participation is about employees playing a greater part in the decision making process.

Consultation is the most familiar method of participation. It is a means for management and employees to get together in consultative committees to discuss and determine matters affecting their joint or respective interests. Participation of non-managerial employees in the decision-making processes of an organization is what constitutes employee participation. The current options for employee participation in organizations may include among others share ownership and job enrichment.

Involvement and participation differ in the sense that involvement seeks to increase information given to employees and thus enhance their commitments. It treats employees as individuals, addressing them directly rather than through their representatives.

Participation on the other hand refers to collective rather than individual processes that enable employees through their representatives to influence decision-making.

Aims of Employee Involvement & Participation.

  • Generate commitment of all employees to the success of the organization.
  • Enable the organization to meet the needs of its customers.
  • Help the organization to improve performance and productivity and adopt new methods of working – drawing on the resources of knowledge and practical skills of all workers.
  • Improve the satisfaction of employees get from their work.
  • Provide all employees with the opportunity to influence and be involved in decisions that are likely to affect their interests.

Joint consultation seeks to provide a means of jointly examining and discussing problems, which concern both management and employees. This seeks to generate acceptable solutions via the exchange of views and information. Joint consultation allows management to inform workers of proposals, which affect them, and lets the workers express their views about the changes. It allows the workers to contribute their own views on such matters as: –

  • How work is organized
  • Working conditions
  • Operation of personnel policies and procedures
  • Health and safety

Joint consultation acts as a safety valve, relieving the pressure from grievances, which, if not settled by some process of discussion, may escalate to a dispute.

Issues in Participation.

  • Mode of Representation – deciding the means by which worker representatives should be nominated to the forums. This is contentious when union strength is considered.
  • Scope of Forums – what issues should be covered via joint consultations. Most forums exclude interest related issues but cover most work related issues.
  • Level of Participation – board-level participation is supported by few companies. Most companies advocate shop floor participation.
  • Voluntarism – since the issues of joint consultation are not part of employment legislation, most of them are founded on the spirit of voluntarism.

Requirements for Successful Involvement and Participation

  • The success of employee – management joint consultation depends on:
  • Building trust.
  • Eliminating status differentials.
  • Committing the organization to vigorous training and development.
  • Breaking down barriers to change the organizations culture.

The Most Basic Requirements for Success Are:

  • Having well defined objectives in participation that have been discussed and agreed by all concerned.
  • The objectives must relate to aspects of the job, management or policies that affect the interests of the employees.
  • The need to begin with areas where it is relatively easier to have successful experience.
  • Management must believe in and must be seen to believe in involving employees.
  • Unions must believe in participation as a means of advancing their interests of their members and not simply as a way of getting more power.
  • Joint consultation should be in line with existing systems of negotiation and representation. It should be seen as a form of integrative bargaining.
  • Consultative committees should always relate to a defined working unit.
  • Employee and management representatives should be properly briefed and trained and have all the information they need.
  • Consultation should take place before decisions are made. Communicate after this.
  • Since participation takes place through councils, develop guidelines for decision-making by the councils and fix responsibility and time frame for implementation of the decisions.
  • Need to identify the centre of responsibility for decision implementation in the existing organizational structure so as to avoid situations where management may give priority to their own tasks over the council’s decisions.
  • Define roles, status, authority and facilities for members and office bearers of the council in relation to the trade unions.
  • The need to keep employees informed of the decisions arrived at, their implementation and the outcome so that the workers are able to develop confidence and faith in the forums.
  • Continuous evaluation of the functioning of these councils through employee opinion polls, meetings, suggestion boxes, etc.
  • Managers and team leaders should be kept in the picture, and as appropriate, involved in the consultation process.


Employee participation can be ensured through representative system or through direct participation and involvement of all employees. A representative system, usually the elected or nominated representatives of one or more employee groups sit on committees that discuss work related issues.

To date, no legislation on ‘employee participation’ has been put forward in Kenya.

 Forms of Employee Involvement and Participation

There are several employee participation options for companies.

  • Downward Communications – takes place from managers to employees in order to inform and educate staff so that they accept management plans.
  • Upward Problem Solving – designed to tap into employee knowledge and opinion, either at an individual level or in small groups. It seeks to increase the stock of ideas in an organization, to encourage co-operative relationships at work, to legitimate change.
  • Task Participation – and job redesign processes engage employees in extending the range and type of tasks they undertake.
  • Consultation and Representation Participation – enables employees to take part through their representatives in management decision-making. Joint consultation has been introduced by management in some businesses to hinder trade union recognition, or even to undermine their activities. Employee consultation may take several forms:
  • Consulted before a decision is made, but management is not bound by their views, though it usually tries to take them into account.
  • Employees are informed of decisions and are consulted about their effects. The decisions may be modified in detail.
  • Employees are informed of decisions and negotiations take place between them and the management about implementation.
  • Financial Involvement/Participation – takes the form of such schemes as profit sharing and employee share ownership. The employees thus become part owners of the company and receive all information normally made available to shareholders.
  • Job Enrichment – employees are given greater discretion over immediate work decisions. It increases their responsibility for their work outputs and increasing job interest.
  • Empowerment through Delegation – all employees are encouraged to play a part in the decisions affecting their work.

Collective bargaining

  • Works Councils

These are joint bodies of managers and employees established to consider and agree on key matters effecting employment within the organization. They are not for union-only employees as would be the case in collective bargaining.

Work councils are bodies comprising representatives of management and employees who meet regularly to discuss matters of mutual interest. Work councils have the authority to take decisions on particular topics effectively giving employee representatives the right to veto on managements proposals in specific fields. Decision-making powers vary from internal works rules – operation of grievance procedures to recruitment methods.

Works councils have a statutory right to receive and discuss large amounts of important management information regarding the work of the firm; including financial structures and plans, new investment, acquisitions, mergers and divestments, working practices, introduction of new technology etc.

Advantages and drawbacks of works councils


  • Management is compelled to seek a consensus with unions on fundamental issues, hence avoiding many sources of conflict.
  • Works councils come to execute certain management functions (allocation of overtime, decisions on working methods, determination of promotion criteria etc) that otherwise would have to be undertaken by alternative (or even costly) management committees.
  • Discussion between management and labour encourage the employees to propose new ideas, offer alternative solutions to problems and generally adopt constructive and useful perspectives.
  • Change can be introduced more easily.
  • Management benefits as it is quickly made aware of any problems related to intended developments that are likely to provoke hostile opposition from the workforce and hence alter its plans in order to remove/minimize employee resistance.
  • Improves management – labour relations: fewer costly stoppages and delivery dates are met.
  • Contributes to a country’s competitive advantage.
  • It makes use of the knowledge and experience of employees
  • Employees are motivated in their work if they can take part in decisions affecting their work. If they think that decisions are unfair to them, they will be less motivated.
  • The greater the number of people involved in a decision the less the possibility of important factors being overlooked.
  • Unworkable impractical decisions are avoided.
  • Many decisions impinge directly on employee’s lives; it is only right they should help to make them.
  • Modern educational methods and policies encourage independent informed thinking. Employees should be encouraged to apply this to their work.


  • Takes time, adding working days to the time taken to communicate and makes management more demanding than usual.
  • Efficiency improvements that involve shedding labour might be resisted by the committees composed of worker’s.
  • They are financially expensive to operate (time, costs, rooms, secretarial support etc)
  • Decision taking can be slow and many employee representatives may not have the technical knowledge upon which they can base decisions.
  • Employees may adopt short-term perspectives and might oppose decisions that would benefit the company in the long term, but do not offer many rewards to employees in the immediate future. Innovation and enterprise may be discouraged.
  • Councils can easily degenerate into vehicles for plant level collective bargaining, undermining normal management – union negotiation machinery.
  • Some employees argue that it is the responsibility of the management to make decisions, not the workers.
  • Participation at policy level may be cumbersome and only possible in small companies.
  • There is a fundamental conflict of interest between employers and employees; negotiation is more realistic than participation.
  • Board Representation – the appointment of rank-and-file employees to non-executive directorships on the company’s board. Where there is s two-tier board system, the employee-directors sit on the supervisory Board, but not on the smaller Executive Board.

Involvement and participation takes various forms at different levels in an organization.

  • The Job Level – Involves team leaders and their teams, and the processes include the communication of information about work and interchange of ideas about how work should be done. These processes are essentially informal.
  • The Management Level – Involves sharing information and decision making about issues, which affect the way in which work is planned and carried out, and working arrangements and conditions.
  • Policy Making Level – Where the direction in which the business is going is determined. This is limited to communication of information about proposed plans, and discussing the implications of the plans.
  • Ownership Level – A share in the equity of the company y enabling workers to have ability to control the organization through voting rights to determine for example, the composition of the Board.
  • Scanlon Plan – a group-incentive plan rewarding all employees with bonuses derived from their cost-saving suggestions. Such are derived from production committees at departmental level. Suggestions accepted and under the control of the department are immediately implemented.
  • Quality Circles – A small group of workers constitute a quality circle on voluntary basis. The circle groups can meet both during and after the working hours and discuss issues & problems relating to their work unit and their own jobs. Quality circles are also known as improvement groups and are associated with a total quality /continuous improvement programme. They aim to improve productivity and quality, improve employee relations and win commitment to the organization.
  • Suggestion Schemes – they enable employees to channel their ideas to management. They succeed where there is an established procedure for submitting and evaluating ideas, with recognition for those, which have merit and an effective system of explaining to the employee without discouraging them that their ideas cannot be accepted. Most common arrangement is the ‘Suggestion Box’

Membership of Joint Consultative Committees.

  • May include union officials where the organization is unionized.
  • They often exclude managers and team leaders.
  • Small companies have one large committee or work council governing the whole organization but larger companies often separate committees for each major division or unit.


Explain the benefits that would accrue to the employees in an organisation that practices joint consultation.

Discuss the main considerations to be put in place before joint consultation is instituted in an organisation.

Participation & Joint Consultation

Aims of participation in decision-making at work place:

  • Workers and working community should have a greater scope for creativity and initiative.
  • It gives independence in carrying out duties

Types of workers participation

There are many types of participation depending on the political, social, economic contexts and variation based on:

  • Moral, ethical, ideological considerations.
  • Social, political objectives.

General Economic Objectives

This is based on the assumption that whenever people are allowed to participate in the preparation of measures and policies which they are called upon to implement, such participation may prove suitable especially when linked with economic advantage.

In some cases, this reduces conflict and enhances the cooperation spirit of all concerned. And in some cases, ease in introduction of technological changes.


Movement in favour of workers participation in decision-making undertaking faces numerous opposition.

It faces many practical problems and these are encountered at both the principle and practical implementation level.

Principles problems

  • If workers accepted involvement with the management Trade Unions are worried about possible weakening of workers organization or solidarity
  • Workers do not have the aptitude to competently dodge and perceive issues involved in participation
  • Workers representative at times are just merely militant and oppositionist not adequately competent

How prepared are workers and their representative to effectively participate in decision making?

For workers participation in decision making to occur there must be a variety of means and those include:

  • Constitutional means
  • Legislature provisions
  • National and industry – wide collective

Effective participation

This would require:

  • The objective: – these must be shared between management and worker. The objective must be known
  • Institutional framework must be in place for example constitution, labour laws, industrial court
  • People must be able to understand the subject matter. It must be clear to the participants. This must be defined clearly by statutory or other instruments.

The types of machinery for participation vary according to:

  1. Their particular objectives
  2. The opposition encountered
  3. Economy
  4. Political systems
  5. Industrial relations machinery

Workers participate in decision making:

This varies from one palace to another. They therefore include:

  • Workers management.
  • Participation through membership of management.
  • Participation through statutory boards.
  • Voluntary consultation.
  • Participation through Trade Unions Activities.

Critics of participation

  • There’s a break on efficiency.
  • Leads to other costs of redesigning jobs, retaining the supervisors.
  • Workers capacity to contribute usefully to managerial decisions maybe questioned particularly on technical and financial matters.
  • There are doubts as to workers interest in such matters.
  • Others see a desire to participate but fear that its aims or objective is solely to advance the interests of the management.

Factors determining participation potential

The principal ones are:

  • The autonomy of the enterprise.
  • The technical factors.
  • The size of the enterprise.
  • The structure of the enterprise.

Benefits of participation

  • Co-operation and reduction of conflict. The expectation being that there’re are going to be fewer strikes in the organization.
  • If workers are involved, then you reduce alienation in the sense that there’s greater worker participation.
  • Participation of workers will lead to industrial democracy.
  • There’s utilization of human resources which increases efficiency and development of this talent and initiative.

Counselling In the Work Place

Counseling is a process that involves listening to people talk about their problems and helping them to work out what to do about the problems.

In the process, the counselor guides the counselor in making alternative choices to either cope or overcome the problem. It refers to not only what’s going wrong but also what’s going better.

Why counseling at work?

In developed countries counseling is given high premium. It’s recognized that there’s need for organization to take an integral approach to the employees well being and to develop an integrated well-ness policies and procedures

Advantages of counseling

These can be measured financially or in tangible ways:

  • Reduction of absenteeism.
  • Making a positive in road to working days lost every year due to stress and mental illness.
  • Creating new working relationships based on counseling skills and approaches based on trust, respect and mutual understanding.

What will organizations gain from counseling?

  • It improves communication between individual and the management.
  • It creates feed back loops back up into higher management levels so that management can benefit form the sights gained.
  • Leads to realizing knowledge and increase business success.
  • It provides a feedback or sensitive issues on individual basis.
  • Counseling breaks barriers between managers and employees and creates mutual trust and respect

 What draws an organization towards counseling?

  • Uncertainty about litigations, industrial tribunals, industrial disputes and stress claims at work.
  • Poor performance counseling systems can lead an organization towards counseling
  • Individual and group performance
  • With counseling you avoid litigation and disputes

Problems in counseling are concerned with the following issues

  • Counseling is about creating better interpretation relationships
  • Counseling is about other types of advice i.e. legal, financial, medical problems. For this to succeed effective communication skills are called for

When life interferes with work/home?

Organization consist of people and there times when sad or disturbing life events cannot be left at home.

It can take extreme forms as assault to it may be illustrated in the following ways: –

  • Absenteeism
  • Illness
  • Accidents
  • Lack of concentration

How to uncover the problems

1) Human problems

Some times an HRM practitioner can do the work (in house) or an external expert might unearth these problems. Counseling is important because many people don’t expose their problems but may release tension to trusted and specialized experts.

2) Signs of problems in the work place

  • Bereavement
  • Illness
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug abuses
  • Marital relationship problems.


With bereavement or loss – the most useful realization with this is that the employee should note it’s a process and not a state. Counselors dealing with bereaved people should make people

  • Accept the reality of the loss
  • Experience the pain of grief
  • To adjust to the new situation

Many people experience a period of fantasy e.g. redundancy leads to unimaginable scenario to many workers

How’s this likely to manifest itself in work place

Losses could be as diverse as having your house burnt or losing a precious object or breaking a relationship/loss of job/ change of career. All these can affect work.

Signs of such people:

  • Workers who are affected can be identified through:
  • Lack of concentration
  • Increase in errors
  • Physical symptoms
  • Over reaction

Experts think that what a worker thinks is to retaliate (talk to others) and let out feelings. This can only be offered through counseling services.

Illness and eating disorders

The out wide sign of illness can mean that someone needs medical attention. The physical appearance may show sudden weight loss or gaining of the same.

Such workers must obtain medical attention at the earliest. In case of terminal illness like cancer and AIDS specialist agencies providing such services must be approached because you might not understand reasons underlying the behaviour. Further more people with such problems are reluctant to seek medical attention.

Signs of sickness and eating disorders

  • weight loss/gain
  • forced vomiting
  • muscle weaknesses
  • persistent stomach pains

Alcohol and drug abuse

These affect productivity of workers. Research has shown that alcohol and drug abuse can lead to absenteeism and presenteeism which can affect productivity

Drug abuse and alcohol can be very costly to companies. To combat the above two it is very difficult

Alcoholism when it gets into the brain system it affect

  • Judgment
  • Skills e.g. driving, operating machines
  • Self-control

Questions for review:

What are the benefits of participation in an organization?

Outline the different ways workers participate.

What will organizations gain from counseling?

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