Direct Participation

Main forms of direct participation

individual consultation

  • 'face-to-face': arrangements involving discussions between individual employee and immediate manager, such as regular performance reviews, regular training and development reviews and '360 degree' appraisal;
  • 'arms-length': arrangements which allow individual employees to express their views through a 'third party', such as a 'speak-up' scheme with 'counsellor' or 'ombudsman', or through attitude surveys and suggestion schemes

group consultation

  • 'temporary' groups: groups of employees who come together for a specific purpose and for a limited period of time, e.g. 'project groups' or 'task forces'
  • 'permanent' groups: groups of employees that discuss various work related topics on an ongoing basis, such as quality circles

individual delegation

  • individual employees are granted extended rights and responsibilities to carry out their work without constant reference back to managers - sometimes known as 'job enrichment'

group delegation

  • rights and responsibilities are granted to groups of employees to carry out their common tasks without constant reference back to managers - most often known as 'group work'.

epoc logo Over a six-year period the Foundation’s EPOC (Employee Participation in Organisational Change) research project charted developments in the changing world of work, most significantly in the area of work organisation. The focus of the investigation was to show the extent of direct employee participation and to illustrate the role played by such participation in the modernisation of work organisation.

The research revealed that the introduction of direct participation is shown to have a positive influence on business performance in terms of output, quality, and reduction in throughput time, while also reducing sickness and absenteeism. While enterprises engaging in direct participation may suffer some employment loss in the short-term, in the medium and long term there are likely to be gains.

The EPOC survey

The earlier research in this project identified an information gap in the knowledge about practices in European enterprise so the Foundation undertook a postal survey of European workplaces during the Autumn of 1996 to examine the extent of direct participation in Europe.

What is direct participation?

The research defined direct participation as: 'Opportunities which management provide, or initiatives to which they lend their support, at workplace level, for consultation with and/or delegation of responsibilities and authority for decision making to their subordinates either as individuals or as groups of employees, relating to the immediate work tasks, work organisation and/or working conditions.'

The key distinguishing features of direct participation are consultation and delegation:

  • consultative participation: management encourages employees to make their views known on work-related matters, but retains the right to take action or not.
  • delegative participation: management gives employees increased discretion and responsibility to organise and do their jobs without reference back.

Online Publications

The results of the EPOC project are summarised in the following online publications (click on the language icon to download). Details of printed publications can be obtained from the publications catalogue.

imageUseful but unused - group work in Europe - the delegation of decision making to work groups or teams, is a central component of direct participation. How is it used in European workplaces?

Available in EN, FR, DE, IT and ES

imageDirect employee participation in the public services
An overview of the implementation and effects of direct employee participation in social public services.

Available in EN, FR, DE, IT and ES

imageParticipating on equal terms?
Innovations in the workplace raise important issues for equal opportunities. However, the gender division of labour is often overlooked when organisational change is in discussion.

Available in EN, FR, DE, IT and ES

image Direct participation and the modernisation of work organisation
A report highlighting key findings from the EPOC research project which charted development in the changing world of work, most significantly in the areas of work organisation.

Available in EN

imageNew forms of work organisation: can Europe realise its potential?
An overview of the main results of the EPOC survey.

Available in EN, FR, DE, ES, IT and PT

Employment through flexibility: squaring the circle
An examination of the impact of new forms of work organisation on employment - examines the links between workplace flexibility and innovation in EU enterprises.

Available in EN and FR