An Anglo Swedish comparison of employee participation in the banking sector
The purpose of this research was to compare employee participation practices in a Swedish and a British bank. There has been considerable interest in human resource management over the past decade, of which employee participation forms an important part, but there have been very few studies which attempt a qualitative comparison of international aspects of this subject. By using a wider study, the Price Waterhouse Cranfield Project on . International Human Resource Management, a European context is provided for the case study material, which examines in depth the forms and outcomes of employee participation in a Swedish and British setting. A triangulation methodology was employed using two questionnaires given to employees of each organisation, a series of in-depth interviews, a reading of company documentation and personal visits. This enabled the use of a multiple of approaches with the questionnaires providing a framework for the in-depth interviews. Four hypotheses were posed which offered tentative explanations for the similarities and differences in employee participation practices in Sweden and Britain. The findings were then analysed using Poole's Framework of Participation which proposes a number of contingent factors which influence the outcomes of employee participation. The thesis showed that Swedes allow greater participation in the workplace than the British, explanations of which are rooted in the cultural and ideological differences of the two societies. Secondly, it was shown that the drive for profit or financial stability will override participation mechanisms if it is felt necessary for survival. Thirdly, HRM techniques of employee participation are used mainly at a micro (workplace) level in the organisation as they can safely be distanced from any strategic decision making. Thus the strength of employee participation is very much anchored to the latent power of employees which is influenced by convergent forces such as economic, technological and political factors, and divergent forces such as cultural and ideological factors.