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The Hawthorne works of General Electric Company, Chicago, manufactured equipment for the Bell Telephone System and employed nearly 30,000 workers at the time of experiments . Although, in all material aspects, this was the most progressive company with pension and sickness benefit schemes along with various recreational and other facilities, discontent and dissatisfaction prevailed among the employees.
After the total failure of the investigations, the company asked for assistance from National Academy of Sciences which initiated it’s experiments with a view to examining the relationship between workers’efficiency and illumination in the workshop. The researchers manipulated the independent variable i.e. illumination to observe it’s effects on productivity. Earlier Relay room Experiments To study the effects of changed illumination on work, 2 groups of workers were selected. In one group ( control group) the illumination remained unchanged and other group, the illumination was enhanced.
The productivity in the enhanced illumination group improved. However, the output of former group also went up. Then the researches decreased illumination. The output went up once more. This showed that some other factors were responsible for increased productivity, regardless of increase/decrease illumination. These experiments paved the way for Hawthorne studies, which demonstrated that there was something more important than wages, hours of work, working condition, etc. This something was the complex human variable. Despite negative results, the illumination experiments did not end up in the wastebasket but instead provided a momentum to the relay room phase of Hawthorne studies.
Relay Room Experiments Taking a clue from preceding illumination experiment, the researchers attempted to set up a test room and selected 2 girls for the experiment . These girls are asked to select another 4 girls, thus making a group of 6 girls. This group was asked to assemble telephone relays. It was observed that 1. Under normal conditions and time, each girl produced 2400 relays in a week. 2. These girls were then placed on piecework basis for 8 weeks and productivity was observed increased. 3.Two 5 minutes rest breaks were introduced and the break time was extended to 10 minutes, which resulted in sharp increase of productivity.
4. On changing the break time to 6 minutes , there was a slight fall in productivity as the girls complained that their work rhythm was broken because of these breaks. 5. The system no. 3 was restored with hot meal provided by company free of charge and productivity increased. 6. They were allowed to disperse at 4.30 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. and productivity remained the same.
7.They were allowed to disperse at 4 p.m. and productivity remained the same.
8. All amenities were withdrawn and the girls returned to the original normal working conditions with 48 hours work per week, including Saturday, no rest break, no piecework and no free meal. This remained over for 12 weeks and productivity was the highest ever achieved with average of 3000 relays per week. Implications of the Results : 1. Productivity increased basically because of a change in the girl’s attitudes towards work and their work-groups. 2. They made to feel important by soliciting assistance and co-operation.
3. They were no longer cogs in the machines but formed a congenial group attempting to assist the company to solve a problem. A feeling of stability and a sense of belonging grew. Therefore they work faster than past.
4. Medical examinations conducted regularly revealed no symptom of fatigue and absenteeism declined by 80%.
5. It was also observed that the girls employed their own techniques of putting together components of relay to avoid monotony. They were given adequate freedom. Under the circumstances the group developed a sense of responsibility and self-discipline. 6. The independent variables viz. Rest, etc. were not causing the variation in the dependent variable i.e. productivity.
2nd Relay and Mica splitting Test Room Experiments : A 2nd relay assembly group was set up to assess the effect of wage incentives on productivity. 5 workers with adequate experience were shifted from similar position in regular department. The nature of supervision, working conditions and work settings were similar to those workers in regular department. The difference was that the assemblers in the 2nd. Relay group were engaged on a different small group piece rate scheme. This led to 12% increase in productivity of the experiment of the experiment group.
In the mica splitting study, although the isolated test room conditions of the original relay study were reproduced, the workers were engaged under their normal individual piece rate plan rather than small group incentive scheme employed with the relay room experimental subjects. The result revealed 15% increase in productivity in 14 months period. The outcome of these 2 studies was vague. There was no evidence to support the hypothesis that the constant rise in productivity in relay assembly test room during 1st. 2 years could be attributed to wage incentive variable alone. It was also concluded that the efficacy of a wage incentive scheme was so much dependents on other variables as well that it could not be considered to be the sole factor to have affected the workers .
Mass Interviewing Programme : Another major aspect of the Hawthorne studies consisted of 20,000 interviews conducted in 1928-30. On the basis of interviewing programme the following inferences were drawn: 1. In case an employee is given opportunity to express his grievances, his morale is improved. 2. Complaints were not necessarily objective statement of facts. They were more symptoms of deep-rooted disturbances. 3. Workers were governed by experiences gained both inside and outside the company in respect of their demands.
4. The workers were satisfied or dissatisfied depending upon how he regarded his social status in the company and what he felt he was entitled to rather than in terms of objective reference. Bank Wiring Room Study : The objective of the study was to conduct an observational analysis of informal work groups. 14 men were employed in bank wiring including 9 wireman, 3 solder man and 2 inspectors. The job involved attaching wires to switches for certain parts of telephone equipment. The problem was to observe precisely what was going on. Due to some practical difficulties the study was to observe precisely what was going on. Due to some practical difficulties the study was conducted in a separate test room.
It was carried out by 2 persons – 1 observer and 1 interviewer. The observer sat in the wiring room behaving friendly but appearing quite non-challenging and noncommittal. He won the confidence of the group and was accepted as a regular member. The interviewer remained as outsider and his task was to find out workers thoughts and feelings and their values and attitudes, etc. he carried out his work in strict confidence, privately and in a different part of the factory. Although he never entered the wiring room, he kept in constant touch with the observer. All other conditions were identical to those of bank wiring department including the supervisors.
The result was opposite to relay room. The group was indifferent to financial incentives of the factory wherever any worker attempted to produce more he was compelled to come back to his normal level of production. Group norms were important to workers than incentives. The reasons for restriction of production was fear of unemployment, possibility of rising standards, protection of slower workers and attitude of contentment among mangers.
There was unwritten code of conduct of fair day’s work. A member should not turn out too much and too little work. There existed a highly integrated group in bank wiring room which had it’s own social norms contrary to factory norms. This indicates that attempts should be made to ensure that informal groups facilitate achievements of the organization’s objectives rather than obstructing them.
Implications of Hawthorne Study : 1. Contradictory results : Contradictory results were obtained in the relay room and bank wiring room experiments due to implications of organizational behaviour. In the relay room experiment, production constantly increased and relay assembly was greatly motivated and equipped with +ve attitude. Whereas in bank wiring room study, there was restriction of production among the dissatisfied workers who displayed –ve attitude towards the factory. 2. The answer to this questions were found in case of girls working in relay room where they preferred to work in small groups, nature of supervision, earnings, novelty of the situation, interest in experiment and attention received in test room.
3. The role of supervision : The quality of supervision plays a vital role in determining productivity. Conclusions of Hawthorne Study :
1. The need for recognition, security and sense of belonging exert greater impact on productivity than physical working conditions. 2. Attitudes and effectiveness of workers are determined by social requirements obtained from inside and outside factory environment.
3. Informal groups operating within work settings
exert strong social control over work habits and performance of individual workers. 4. Supervision has a great impact on the behaviour of group in determining as to whether they will react +ve.ly or –ve.ly while working towards the organizational objectives.