Co-created leadership and horizontal structure: hearing the employee’s voice

Promote your employees’ active engagement in your company’s vision and strategy


At the base of every successful company there are always its employees and their satisfaction. Participation of workers in decision-making process has resulted in successful value creation in many organizations. Today more than ever, organizations rely on the energy, commitment and engagement of their workforce in order to succeed in increasingly competitive market.

What is the active participation of workers?

The active participation of employees is a useful tool implemented through organizational schemes that allow workers to be directly and actively involved, on the one hand, in the processes of innovation and improvement of company performance, with increases in efficiency and productivity, and, on the other, in improving the quality of life and work. It represents a basic ingredient of ‘workplace innovation’. Employee active participation refers to the opportunities for employees to take part in decisions that affect their work, either in their immediate job (e.g. task subdivision) or in relation to wider company issues (organisational participation).

What does participation means?

There are different ways through which employees can actively participate to important decision of the company, here are some exemple:

Participation at the Board Level: Representation of employees at the board level is known as industrial democracy. The representative puts all the problems and issues of the employees in front of management and guide the board members

Participation through Collective Bargaining: This refers to the participation of workers through collective agreements and by deciding and following certain rules and regulations. This is considered as an ideal way to ensure employee participation in managerial processes.

Participation through Complete Control: This is called the system of self-management where workers union acts as management. Through elected boards, they acquire full control of the management. In this style, workers directly deal with all aspects of management or industrial issues through their representatives.

Participation through Quality Circles: A quality circle is a group of five to ten people who are experts in a particular work area. They meet regularly to identify, analyse and solve the problems arising in their area of operation. It is an ideal way to identify the problem areas and work upon them to improve working conditions of the organization.

How to promote an active participation…

  1. Deliver a survey to employees: It is important to choose the right employee engagement survey for your needs. You could use an online tool to collect feedback (such as Google Module), a paper questionnaire, or a more complex self assessment survey implemented online in your company web page. The information obtained should be both relevant and valuable. With an accurate measure of employee engagement, HR teams can take meaningful action on working environment and company’s performance.
  2. Take an action: After gathering all of the feedback, the next action is to take a decision. One of the worst things a company can do is never follow-up, after having asked all of the right questions. Employees feel like they’re not being listened to. Therefore, it is important to be clear about the next steps to move forward. And make sure those steps are really realised.
  3. Be communicative: Employee engagement often suffers when people don’t know what’s happening at their company. This relates to everything from new hires, to growth plans, to project updates. If people have not clear information, doubts start and engagement drops. To achieve this transparency, leaders especially should be visible and communicating both in-person and online. It will help employees to have faith in their managers and feel more involved.
  4. Empower managers: Managers, more than anyone else, have the biggest impact on the experiences of their team. This means they’re key of the active participation strategy.
  5. Establish trust: To increase the active participation, employees need to trust in their managers enough to tell them honestly what is going on. The internal communication between different levels can be a vital force in helping contemporary organizations learn and succeed; by speaking with managers, employees can give an effective support, identifying problems or opportunities for improvement, and offering ideas to improve their organizations’ well-being.
  6. Celebrate: Celebrating together allows us to take a moment and recognise ourselves and the people around us for their remarkable work. This recognition and reward communicates to employees that they are valuable, and triggers a desire to do more.

Necessary human resources

Managers implement initiatives that increase employee participation which require employees involvement and collaboration.

Skills that managers & employees need to develop in order to implement the practice

Organizing, facilitating and making in practice initiatives of these kind involves a variety of skills, abilities and attitudes, such as:

  • Communication
  • Proactivity
  • Participation
  • Creativity
  • Team working
  • Organization
  • Active listening skills
  • Trust

Expected impact

Employee participation is considered a key element in the successful implementation of new management strategies and plays an important role in determining the degree of job satisfaction. Eurofound, in fact, states that “growth is more likely to be associated with highly innovative workplaces which consult with their employees rather than delegate responsibilities”. Active participation has good effect on the company, in many field:

Example(s) of prior application

Company name: Elica

Number of employees:3800
Location: Fabriano, Italy

How the WPI was implemented?

The Italian manufacturing company ELICA produces hoods and motors since 1970. The company’s central philosophy is to invest in human capital. ELICA has adopted an innovation strategy through employee participation in all HR initiatives: internationalisation, innovation and brand development. Management has developed a process for bottom-up ‘propositions’ based on the following programs:

Elica Life, a programme that implements employee-driven initiatives to address work-life balance. The main mechanism for collecting employee propositions is through yearly ‘call for ideas’ surveys. The ideas are then selected by the HR team, and depending on the project, are developed with engagement with employees and improved accordingly.

Supplementary Agreement, an agreement developed in conjunction with the Italian unions and employees that addresses well-being and personnel relations. The employees have had the opportunity to improve their production environment and working conditions. As a result, safety, security, and health have improved, while staff grievances and disciplinary cases have fallen dramatically and are now rare.

Matrix Structure, restructuring of departments to allow greater use of autonomous, flexible and informal teams. Employees have greater flexibility but at the same time multiple and changing responsibilities. Employees have greater access to their director and, thanks to the adoption of an open-space, all members of specific teams are physically co-located. The matrix has also led to greater cross-functionality between departments that has developed a sense of community and reduced friction between colleagues from different departments.

Results obtained

The main impact of these innovations is the development of a culture of communication and participation, together with greater productivity, interest and creativity. The employees take greater responsibility because they can lead their own projects and drive mutually beneficial change within the organisation. For example, sickness absence decreased year after year and turnover is now very low. The change in organisational culture to a more participatory one has also improved the organisation’s adaptability and ability to cope with changing economic conditions. Overall, revenues have been increasing year after year.

Reference (website):

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