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Aligning employee competences with organizational innovation strategy: A case study at B.V. Twentsche Kabelfabriek

Hartjes, B.J.G. (2010) Aligning employee competences with organizational innovation strategy: A case study at B.V. Twentsche Kabelfabriek.

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Abstract:As part of the project ‘competences for innovation’, a question was posed by B.V. Twentsche Kabelfabriek (TKF) aimed at studying if and how the competences of production workers should be realigned with the innovation strategy. TKF strives to become a customer‐oriented solutions provider. A change has to be made from a more commodity‐based organization towards a provider of cable solutions for niche markets. To outperform competitors and to deliver high‐quality innovative solutions, innovation of processes, products and organisation is required. The central question of this research is which competences production workers (i.e. machine‐operators) should possess in order to contribute to organizational innovativeness. And to what extent are these competences possessed by the current machine‐operators? Theory suggests that employees should display innovative work behaviour (IWB) to increase organizational innovativeness. IWB consists of four stages: opportunity exploration, idea generation, championing and application. All stages should be fulfilled to transform an idea into an innovation. A literature review provided various factors that stimulate IWB. The factors that I studied are individual factors and organizational factors. The individual factors can be divided in three categories: task‐related (role‐orientation production knowledge, challenging job), cognitive competence (educational level) and action competence (taking initiative). The organizational factors include leadership (delegating, support for innovation and providing resources) and innovation‐enhancing organizational climate (support for innovation). In order to determine the innovativeness of the current machine‐operators, I developed a questionnaire based on the constructs that could be derived from the literature review. This questionnaire was handed out to the machine‐operators. The answers were anonymous. The response‐rate was 88%, which is remarkably high and provides a solid base for data analysis. Additional data were gathered by observing machine‐operators and shift leaders while they were working, and by informal interviews with the respondents. Based on these data the actual situation was determined. It turned out that machine‐operators find themselves to rarely or sometimes engage in innovative behaviour. The generation of ideas occurs more regularly, while championing and application of ideas scores quite low. Regarding their production‐related skills (task‐related competence) and the willingness to take initiative (action competence), machine‐operators are relatively positive. The group of respondents scores quite low on educational level (cognitive competence). They find their work challenging and are relatively positive regarding the leadership aimed at support for innovation and delegating responsibilities. Providing resources for innovative ideas scores somewhat lower. The most striking result is the low score on (self‐rated) innovative work behaviour. To indicate what the desired situation would be if competences were aligned with the organizational strategy, managers filled out the questionnaire as well. One stating the expected current situation and a second version concerning the desired situation. It turned out that managers’ perception of the current situation differed from machine‐operators. In fact, managers tend to underestimate what machine‐operators think they are capable of. Based on the theoretical framework regarding factors that enhance IWB, some recommendations can be formulated. TKF should start by informing employees about the importance of innovation and the role of the employee in this. Moreover, employees report that they are willing to take initiative. Combining this with the perceived unutilized potential of machine‐operators, a chance would be to increase the responsibilities of these employees. This can be done by delegating responsibilities by shift leaders or by departments such as R&D and process and technology. This will further challenge the employee and enhance innovative work behaviour. Besides, providing resources for innovative ideas might enhance the championing and application of ideas. Furthermore, upgrading employees’ cognitive competences or recruiting new highly‐educated proactive individuals might increase organizational innovativeness. A slightly different, but crucial recommendation that I suggest to improve the current situation, is to enhance the communication throughout the different levels of the organization. Informing shift leaders regarding crucial strategic choices and other decisions that affect the employees within Operations is important. The shift leaders work directly with the machine‐operators on a daily basis. When striving for a change on the shop floor, shift leaders are key persons. TKF should inform about, organize and facilitate for, stimulate and implement innovative ideas.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
B.V. Twentsche Kabelfabriek
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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