Productivity, participation and employee wellbeing in the Residential Aged Care Sector
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The way in which employee participation, productivity and employee wellbeing interact is shaped by power relationships in the workplace and its broader political and economic environment. This thesis investigates the relationship between employee participation, productivity and employee wellbeing at an organisational level. It also examines the role that the external environment has on the relationship between employee participation, productivity and employee wellbeing in organisations. It does that in the context of a highly feminised, low paid sector: residential aged care. The analysis of this specific relationship is guided by a feminist epistemology. This facilitates examination of the role of gender and power. A feminist epistemology focuses the investigation on the experiences of the participants and the formal and informal processes that form the context for that experience. A multiple case study approach of four residential aged care providers is used to gain the contextual information necessary for this research. Sources of information at each organisation include interviews with employees and managers; organisational documentation; and a survey developed specifically for this thesis. The case organisation information is compared with information at a sector level. This includes information from interviews with owners’ associations and union representatives, public reports and academic research. The findings of this thesis show that the relationship between productivity, employee participation and employee wellbeing is one in which all three aspects are integral to each other. In particular, the productivity approach of managers influences the way in which employee participation is implemented in the workplace. Effective representative participation does have a positive influence on employee wellbeing. However, the best employee outcomes resulted from multiple participatory practices including union and non-union, direct, and representative participation. Managers’ choices were pivotal to employee participation but they were guided by organisational structure and external factors. This thesis extends traditional concepts of power which do not pay sufficient attention to the role that gender plays in the relationship between employee participation, productivity and employee wellbeing. Gender regimes in society were found to result in under-valued work. This in turn limited employee participation at both organisational and sector levels. Limited employee participation and associated lack of employee power meant that employee outcomes were continually overlooked in favour of organisational outcomes.