The working environment has existed at least since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Back in those times however, the working environment was strict, stern and it only represented the place where people went to work to provide for their families. It was the dirty factory that employed hundreds of men and women and had them working long hours, in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, for indecent wages.
Today however, the workplace is a more complex construction, in which people come together to attain common goals, to prove their worth, to get recognized, rewarded and promoted. The workplace is the setting created by the employer in a means in which it fosters creativity and prompts individuals to capitalize on their intellectual capital.
The role of the workplace has as such changed in time and the changes it has encountered are not created by itself, but are responses to the changes in the external environment. And the changes in the external environment continue to occur and force the workplace to develop itself.
In the setting of its own changes, as well as the changes in the external environment, the modern day working climate presents organizational leaders with a wide array of challenges. Some of these include:
Globalization and market liberalization
The increasing diversity of the workforce
The continually changing feature of the legislations
The increasing pressures of the public
The changing role of the organizational staff members
The ongoing nature of change
The development of new technologies.
The list of challenges is however yet to be exhaustive, but the previously enunciated tests are highly relevant in today's dynamic context. The lines below discuss them.
a) Globalization and market liberalization
The forces of globalization allow economic agents to transcend boundaries and this in turn allows them to address a wider consumer market, but also to benefit from the comparative advantages of the foreign regions. Some specific challenges raised by this feature include the outsourcing processes, the need to focus on global operations, the need to overcome the international competition or the need to restructure the internal organizational structures.
b) The increasing diversity of the workforce
The diversity of the workforce is continually changing as a direct result of globalization and market liberalization. In a context in which the circulation of capitals, technologies, resources and people has been enhanced by economic and political movements, the workforce tends to become less local, but more so global. People freely move from one region to the other in search of a better life and this leads to the construction of a diverse workplace. For managers, the biggest challenge is that of integrating all employees within the organizational culture, aligning their goals and overcoming cultural differences.
c) The continually changing feature of the legislations
The legislative domain is continually changing and presents economic agents with the need to develop new strategies and comply with the regulations. Some examples of important regulations include those controlling the working hours, the minimum wage, non-discriminatory practices, the management of international relations or environmental precaution.
d) The increasing pressures of the public
The general public is becoming more and more involved within the operations of economic agents, and this eventually impacts the workplace. For instance, the public often creates pressures for the firms to better protect the environment. This pressure could materialize in new legislations to be followed and as such additional funds allocated in this direction. The challenge is as such represented by the need to cope with the increasing demands of the public, while also striving to attain the pre-established objectives of the firm.
e) The changing role of the organizational staff members
The modern day staff members are perceived as the most valuable organizational assets (Brown, Hesketh and Williams, 2004). They are the ones that create organizational value, that support the company in attaining its objectives and they are the generators of organizational success.
Within the modern day working environment, the adequate management of the people is a key success factor; specifically, economic agents will not be able to attain their goals in the absence of a well developed and implemented human resources management plan. In other words, the adequate management of the people is an essential component of the business success and it is approached through carefully developed strategies.
In this order of ideas, it becomes obvious that the strategic management of the human resource is a complex and intricate effort. Some guidelines to be considered in the management of the personnel include the following:
The analysis of the overall organizational setting, with focus on the organizational strategy. At this level, emphasis is placed on the key driving forces of the business, the implications and the key people
The development of a mission statement with emphasis on the people. Specifically, emphasis would be placed on the need and importance of the personnel contribution
The creation of a SWOT analysis of the organization in order to reveal the place of the employees on the grid of strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats
The completion of a detailed human resource analysis, followed by the identification of the critical people issues
The development of solutions, including elements such as employee empowerment, motivation, appraisal, development, selection and recruitment, planning or communication
The implementation of the solutions devised, followed by their evaluation (ACCEL).
An important element in the management of the labor force is represented by the construction of solid teams. The teams within an organization are essential in influencing the quality of the work performed by the staff members and the quality of the final results. In this order of ideas, some notable considerations regarding the management of teams include:
The establishment of clear team goals
The enforcement of time quality management programs, alongside with programs for self-development, education and improvement
The involvement of the team members in the change process
The empowerment of the team members
The careful construction of the team structure
The emphasis on communication and the promotion of a working environment in which communication is open and valued
The offering of rewards to the team members upon their success as individuals or as part of the team (Bragg, Fiscus and Loliger).
f) The ongoing nature of change
An important feature in today's workplace setting is represented by change. In this order of ideas, change is a constant presence within the workplace and it creates additional pressures.
Change is generated by a wide array of features, such as the organization moving into a new direction, launching a new product, expanding in size, expanding in global presence, facing new competition or several other reasons. And change creates new pressures within the working environment as it forces people to readjust their normal operations in order to respond to the new features.
Change is a business model, through which the economic agents continually evolve and develop new means of enhancing their competitive positions. The employees are however resistant to change and this would be due to an innate resistance and fear of whatever is new and unknown. Still, resistance could also be due to personal characteristics. An older employee for instance, waiting retirement, would be more reticent to change, whereas a younger employee, looking to advance, would be more welcoming of change.
Regardless of the roots of resistance, fact is that it exists and it causes economic agents delays and impediments in efficient change implementation. In order to reduce the resistance to change, several recommendations are formulated:
Providing information on the need for the change, as well as the steps to be taken in the implementation of change
Presenting the change in a positive light by revealing the benefits of the change, the opportunities it would create as well as the personal gains for the employees