Digital advancements are already disrupting traditional concepts of work environment and working time, by allowing for greater workers’ flexibility and autonomy in time and place. These developments, potentially satisfying individual orientations, are coupled with increasing organisational requirements for working time flexibility, spurred by fluctuations in demand. Moreover, there is a consensus in the literature on the complementarity between lean manufacturing (in its turn, linked to working time optimisation and efficiency) and Industry 4.0. By drawing on socio-technical studies, various authors sustain the idea that a lean environment (supported by a culture of continuous improvement, which makes workers not only accept changes but also actively drive changes sustainably and efficiently) is an enabler of Industry 4.0, which in turn provides the technological infrastructure (in terms of greater availability of data, interconnectivity, real-time elaboration, etc.) to potentially enhance the lean/six sigma capability of an organisation. As a consequence, flatter hierarchies, workers’ active engagement and empowerment, as well as managers’ efforts to collect and share workers’ knowledge, are expected to grow.
To deal with this challenge and pursue a 360-degree innovation from a technological, organisational and social viewpoint, workers’ reps cannot be excluded. In fact, they should have a say in and lend their knowledge to the configuration of new work environments and working time arrangements which
secure job quality. They should have a role, along with management, in the definition and management of continuous improvement projects, in order to make sure that workers are not simply used but do benefit from the increasing managers’ reliance on their cognitive skills and expertise; in so doing, workers’ reps are expected to enable concrete participation and shared decision-making starting from the operational level.
The Role of a Local Trade Union in the Promotion and Implementation of Organisational Innovation Projects in Italian Workplaces
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