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Quality management and job satisfaction
An empirical study
Simon S.K. Lam
Department of Management Studies, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Introduction During the past decade, managerial concern for quality has reached unprecedented levels. The present “quality revolution” has been fired by increased international competition and many companies have now accepted the challenge of improving quality and have recently begun extensive total quality management (TQM) programmes. Most of the TQM programmes claim to help a company to increase customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and productivity[1]. Research has confirmed the strategic benefits of quality programmes and better quality has been shown to contribute to greater market share and return on investment[2,3], as well as lower manufacturing costs and improved productivity[4]. There is a widespread consensus that TQM is a way of managing organizations to improve their customers’ satisfaction[5] but there is less agreement as to whether TQM programmes can help organizations to improve their employees’ satisfaction. This study examines what effects workers see TQM programmes having on their jobs and whether workers perceive an increase in job satisfaction because of TQM. Total quality management and human resources management A considerable amount has been written about TQM, both conceptually[6] and on a practical level[7]. Most of the TQM programmes aim to: q understand and improve the organizational process; q refocus the company on the customers’ needs; and q involve and motivate the people in achieving quality output. TQM programmes have both “hard” and “soft” sides[8]. The former involves the improvement of the production process and can include a range of process design and control tools like quality function development (QFD), just-in-time inventory and statistical process control. The soft side of TQM is concerned with creating customer awareness among employees and enlisting their commitment to improve quality in the organization. For a TQM programme to be successful, the commitment to total quality needs to encompass the whole workforce who must be encouraged to participate actively in the search for

Received January 1994 Revised April 1994

International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, 1995, pp. 72-78, © MCB University Press, 0265-671X

continuous quality improvement. The soft side, thus, emphasizes the management of human resources. Seddon[9] argues that the waning of employee support for TQM can be attributed to management’s focus on the hard side and the relative neglect of the soft side; when managers give little attention to examining the underlying values and resulting behaviour of employees and to managing the cultural change which is necessary, if TQM is to be successful. Employee satisfaction Extensive research has been conducted on the subject of job satisfaction over the last quarter century[10]. Research findings suggest that job satisfaction is not a static state but is subject to influence and modification from forces within and outside an individual, that is his or her own personal characteristics and the immediate working environment[11]. The introduction of total quality management is likely to affect many different aspects of the employees’ jobs and work. The results of a TQM programme are usually new quality, policies, new organizational structures, new operations processes, and new ways of evaluating performance outputs and these changes may have an effect on employees’ daily work and their job satisfaction. While the employees are encouraged to take the responsibility for quality in their hands, it is not possible to expect quality service and reliable products if the work becomes unsatisfying. A review of empirical studies of job satisfaction[10,12,13] indicates that working conditions which help in attaining interesting work, reasonable workload, pay and promotions, and in minimizing role conflict and ambiguity, will lead to job satisfaction. There is a widespread consensus that TQM is a way of managing organizations to improve their customer satisfaction. But there is less agreement whether TQM results in an improvement of employees’ working conditions that leads to job satisfaction. It should not be assumed that a workforce would necessarily welcome TQM. What is seen by TQM trainers as an unambiguously positive impact on employees may be seen by others as increasing pressure on employees by getting them to take on more work and responsibility. This study looks at what changes employees see TQM programmes having on their jobs and whether they perceive an increase in job satisfaction because of TQM. Survey considerations Research question This article reports the results of a survey that was designed to answer a general question: How do workers perceive the change, if any, in job satisfaction as the result of a total quality management programme? Past research provides very little evidence concerning this question. When, however, preliminary interviews were conducted in preparation for this survey, the author was struck by the number of negative responses he encountered.

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The workers in the survey reported that TQM programmes had generally led to a variety of changes in the nature of their jobs, but these changes did not necessarily enhance their job satisfaction. Front-line supervisors’ perceptions Since front-line supervisors have often been identified as the workers likely to be most influenced by TQM they were chosen as the targets for this survey. A major responsibility of front-line supervisors is to oversee the production process of the final product or the sales process to the customer, and their work is likely to be affected strongly by TQM. They also occupy a central position in the quality process and are likely to be well aware of the impact of various changes on the TQM effectiveness of the organization. Front-line supervisors should, therefore, be able to give a clear picture of the changes resulting from the introduction of TQM programmes. Perceptions of job satisfaction To determine the full range of potential changes, the job satisfaction[12,13] and work design[14,15] literature within the field of organizational behaviour was consulted. The job descriptive index (JDI) was selected to measure job satisfaction in this research because it is the measure of job satisfaction used most widely and it is applicable across a wide variety of demographic groups[16]. The 72-item instrument was designed to measure five theoretically and practically useful dimensions of job satisfaction – satisfaction with work itself; with supervision; coworkers; promotion opportunities; and pay. Research methodology Subjects and procedure Questionnaires were sent in September 1993 to 462 front-line supervisors from eight diverse organizations which had been running a TQM programme for more than two years. Included were the head offices of one conglomerate, one international bank, two major manufacturers, two retailing companies and two construction companies all located in Hong Kong. Contacts within each organization distributed the questionnaires and the researcher emphasized to the contacts that they were to distribute questionnaires to all qualifying frontline supervisors, defined as front-line operational staffs with supervisory responsibilities. From 23 to 94 questionnaires (depending on the size of the organization) were distributed by each contact. Each respondent was guaranteed anonymity and provided with a stamped, pre-addressed envelope. Of the questionnaires, 220 were returned for analysis (47.6 per cent of those distributed) – a reasonable return rate for a survey of this type. All but nine of the returned questionnaires were usable. Thus, a final sample of 211 front-line supervisors was obtained and used in the analysis. The respondents ranged in age from 20 to 59 years with a mean age of 32.5 years and 68 per cent were female. Of the sample, 75 per cent had a high school education; 23 per cent had some university education or an undergraduate


degree; a further 2 per cent had at least some graduate training. Respondents had been in their organizations from one to 31 years with a mean tenure of 6.4 years. It would appear, on the whole, that a diverse and representative sample of organizations and individuals was included. Measures Participants were given a questionnaire asking for their perceptions of the TQM programmes in their company and the effects of such programmes on their jobs and work. They were first asked a number of questions about the objectives of the TQM programmes and respondents were also asked to indicate on a scale of 1 (no commitment) to 5 (full commitment) the commitment of their companies to TQM. Participants were then asked to indicate how total quality management programmes had influenced their job satisfaction. The questionnaire incorporated Smith et al.’s[13] job descriptive index ( JDI) to measure the respondents’ satisfaction with five aspects of their job: work; supervision; pay; promotion; and coworkers. Specifically, they were asked to state whether TQM programmes had increased their satisfaction in these five aspects. Each of the items used a three-point scale ranging from “yes”, to “cannot decide” to “no”. Finally, each respondent was asked to give comments on the perceived impact of TQM on each of the five aspects of the job descriptive index (JDI). Results of the survey In the first part of the questionnaire, respondents were asked to indicate the main objectives and the commitment to the TQM programmes in their company. Almost all respondents stated that the main objective of the TQM programmes was to satisfy the customers. Other objectives mentioned were reducing costs and improving process capacity. The commitment of Hong Kong companies to TQM appeared to be high. The average score was high (4.04) and only 33 (10.6 per cent) respondents said their company had no or less than average commitment to TQM. The means, standard deviations and alpha coefficients are presented in Table I. The internal consistency of the five dimensions is very high. All scales have alpha coefficients higher than 0.70. As the ranges of possible values for the five job satisfaction dimensions are different, there is strictly no basis for comparing the mean of one satisfaction dimension with another. However, the
Number of items 18 18 18 9 9 Alpha coefficients 0.72 0.84 0.80 0.77 0.82 Standard deviations 4.56 5.44 7.21 2.31 3.48

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Job satisfaction Work Supervision Pay Promotion Coworkers

Means –7.45 10.45 2.10 0.44 6.34

Table I. Means and standard deviations of change in job descriptive index due to TQM

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negative means of the work dimension indicate that the respondents were much less satisfied with this dimension than with the other JDI dimensions. The large positive means of supervision and coworkers suggest that TQM programmes have improved job satisfaction in these two areas. However, with the means very close to zero, TQM has apparently had no effect on the job satisfaction with regard to pay and promotion. Table II lists the perceived changes in the front-line supervisors’ jobs due to the TQM programmes. The list was culled from the comments made by the respondents. Work seems to have become more demanding because of TQM: 66.8 per cent of the respondents perceived that the workload of the job had increased, 55.5 per cent perceived an increase in skill needed to perform the job and 55.0 per cent felt that the accuracy demanded on the job had also increased. However, only 21.8 per cent and 32.2 per cent of the respondents saw an increase in the importance and interest of the job respectively. Of the respondents, 64.9 per cent claimed to have greater knowledge of their job performance because of TQM; 74.9 per cent claimed to have greater responsibility for the results of their job and 74.9 per cent claimed to have better relationships with their fellow workers. However, only 5.7 per cent of the respondents felt that they had more freedom in performing their jobs. Job security and opportunity for advancement seem to have been left unaffected for most. Only 10.0 per cent of the respondents felt an increase in job security and only 18.5 per cent perceived an increase in opportunity for advancement. Only 16.1 per cent of the respondents claimed that their overall job satisfaction had increased and only 14.7 per cent of the respondents felt that personal effectiveness had been improved because of the TQM programmes.

Perceived changes Increased workload Increased skill needed Increased accuracy demanded Increased importance of job More interesting work Increased responsibility for the results Increased autonomy in how to do the job Increased knowledge of supervision Improved relationship with fellow workers Increased job security Increased opportunity for advancement Increased overall job satisfaction Increased personal effectiveness

Number of respondents 141 117 116 46 68 158 12 136 149 21 39 34 31

Percentage 66.8 55.5 55.0 21.8 32.2 74.9 5.7 64.5 70.6 10.0 18.5 16.1 14.7

Table II. Perceived changes in the front-line supervisors’ jobs due to TQM

Conclusion These results suggest that a TQM programme does not necessarily enhance all aspects of employee satisfaction. TQM programmes improve the coworker relationship and the knowledge of supervision about their jobs. However, TQM has made work more demanding – there is more of it and it requires greater individual skill and accuracy. However, most of the respondents do not seem to like this change, stating that TQM programmes do not make their work more interesting and important. In addition, respondents believed that TQM had reduced their autonomy. They stated that they now had less freedom in how to do their job but greater responsibility for the results of their work. While they did not perceive any great change in pay, job security and promotional opportunities, the respondents said that they now had greater knowledge of the results of their work and the working relationships with their fellow employees had improved. As a whole, respondents claimed that TQM had not increased their overall job satisfaction and that their personal effectiveness had not been increased because of TQM. The survey also revealed that the most common objective of the TQM programmes was to satisfy customers’ needs. The companies have included employee training in quality awareness, quality systems, statistical process control, quality circles and other programmes but, while these may enhance the employees’ abilities to achieve the goal of customer satisfaction, they do not necessarily enhance employees’ own satisfaction. In current TQM programmes, employees apparently end up doing more work, which requires more skill and accuracy. Employees may be treated as tools for achieving quality, goals with management trying to make sure they are “calibrated” and ready to do their job. They are trained to produce quality and sometimes this means that they are “programmed” and have little autonomy in how to do the work. Their feelings of satisfaction and importance are a vital part of the TQM objective. Unless the employees are content in their roles, they cannot be expected to satisfy their internal and external customers. How to identify and satisfy customers’ requirements is well elaborated in current TQM literature, but TQM programmes also need to identify and satisfy employees’ requirements. Quality management often fails because it overemphasizes the hard side of quality and neglects the soft side – the people, and forgets that it depends on broad-based employee involvement and commitment. All staff contribute to customer satisfaction through the quality chain and all the people in an organization need to be motivated towards a common goal. To expect the establishment of a magic quality control system to produce all the desired results is naïvely optimistic. The necessary links must be built on people and companies need to realize that a good way to move towards quality excellence is through a concerted effort to improve not only the quality of the product or service but also the quality of the working life of their employees. Since employees’ jobs may become more demanding because of TQM, they need to be equipped to handle the work through training and be motivated to take up the challenges through incentives.

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TQM has far reaching implications for the management of human resources. To ensure the commitment of employees to TQM, human resources management needs must be integrated into the TQM process and the hard side of TQM must be accompanied by equal attention to the soft side of the process. When companies adopt statistical process control tools or just-in-time inventory, they need to think through the organization’s human resources policies, including the organization of work, pay, working conditions, reward systems and the training and development of the employees. The soft side must reinforce the employees’ commitment to quality and enhance their job satisfaction and the extent to which this is done may decide the success or failure of TQM. It is clear that the current TQM programmes fall short of this balance and that we need to be aware that, as Wilkinson[8] puts it, whether we take this issue seriously will eventually determine the future of TQM.
References 1. Wollner, G.E., “The law of producing quality”, Quality Progress, January 1992, pp. 35-40. 2. Cole, R.E., “Improving product quality through continuous feedback”, Management Review, Vol. 72 No. 10, 1983, pp. 8-12. 3. Phillips, L.W., Chang, W.D. and Buzzell, R.D., “Quality, cost position and business performance: a test of some key hypotheses”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 7, 1983, pp. 26-43. 4. Garvin, D.A., “Quality on the line”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 61 No. 5, 1983, pp. 65-75. 5. Lawton, R.L., “Creating a customer-centred culture for service quality”, Quality Progress, Vol. 22, May 1989, pp. 34-6. 6. Ahmad K., Venetta, J.M. and Nael, A.A., “Concepts and attributes of total quality management”, Total Quality Management, Vol. 2 No. 2, 1991, pp. 75-97. 7. Gitlow, H.S. and Alan, R.O., Tools and Methods for the Implementation of Quality, Irwin, Boston, MA, 1989. 8. Wilkinson, A., “The other side of quality: ‘soft’ issues and the human resource dimension”, Total Quality Management, Vol. 3 No. 3, 1992, pp. 323-29. 9. Seddon, P., “A passion for quality”, The TQM Magazine, May 1989, pp. 135-57. 10. Locke, E.A., “The nature and cause of job satisfaction”, Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Rand-McNally, Chicago, IL, 1976, pp. 1308-9. 11. Baran, R., Understanding Behaviour in Organizations, Allyn & Bacon, Boston, MA, 1986. 12. Lawler, F.E., Motivation in Work Organizations, Brooks, Monterey, CA, 1973. 13. Smith, P.C., Kendall, L.M. and Hulin, C.L., The Measurement of Satisfaction inWork and Retirement, Rand-McNally, Chicago, IL, 1969. 14. Hackman, J.R. and Lawler, E.E. III, “Employee reactions to job characteristics”, Journal of Applied Psychology Monograph, Vol. 55 No. 3, June 1971, pp. 259-86. 15. Hackman, J.R. and Oldham, G.R., Work Redesign, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1980. 16. Yeager, S.J., “Dimensionality of the job descriptive index”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 24 No. 1, 1981, pp. 205-12.