Organisational understanding constitutes a critical aspect of every organisational manager’s work. It involves the scrutiny of an organisation to establish why people behave in the manner they do and/or why some individuals and processes are effective than others. The goal is to envisage organisational success and the expected behaviour of people. It also entails strategising on how to improve the performance of individual employees, work teams, and the entire organisation (Freshwater, Sherwood & Drury, 2006).
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Understanding an organisation involves an examination of work structures or work designs, performance management systems, and working conditions. This paper discusses organisational understanding from the context of working condition in three different industries. It compares working conditions at McDonald’s that operates in the fast food industry, Qatar Airways, which operates in the airline industry, and Nike, Inc., which operates in the footwear, apparels, and sporting paraphernalia industry. However, a discussion of the background of the three organisations is considered first.
Background to McDonald’s, Qatar Airways, and Nike, Inc.
McDonald’s stands out as one of the biggest global fast food retailers offering fast foods in more than 119 countries across the globe. McDonald’s restaurants and franchises, which now stand at about 33, 500, continue to grow as the organisation penetrates new markets in Asia. This immense success is attributed to a number of factors among them being the incredible emphasis on consumer engagement, appropriate leadership that fits well with the business of the organisation, and exceptional investments of the organisational resources in brand management.
The franchise business model of the company has managed to ensure that the products and services that are offered at the franchises are consistent with the services offered at the company-owned restaurants. The company also organises its success around its employees by endeavouring to provide accommodative workplaces to people from all diversities. It also engages in design and production of new product line as new consumer needs arise, especially in the wake of the high sensitisation of people by healthcare professionals on the impacts of eating foods that have high calories.
With its main offices at Doha, Qatar Airways, which was established in 1993, is owned by the state of Qatar. It has more than 125 travel destinations that are spread across Africa, Europe, South and North America, the Middle East, Oceania, South Asia, and central Asia among other regions. The organisation employs an excess of 30,000 people. The company employs 17,000 people directly while the rest are employed through its subsidiaries.
Skytrax ranks Qatar Airways one of the five star airways around the globe (Al-Baker, 2005). Following a surveys that involved 12 million air travel customers across the world, the cabin team for Qatar Airways was also ranked the fifth best in the world and the best in the Middle East region by the same organisation (Al-Baker, 2005). Qatar Airways enjoys monopoly in funding since it is the only established organisation in the state of Qatar. Amid the success of the company, which accrues from first-class service delivery by its committed workforce, the company has come under criticism after fostering harsh working conditions that are dominated by intensive scrutiny of its workers and exploration of policies that discriminate its female cabin crew workers.
Nike, Inc. is a multinational organisation that is based in the US. Its main offices are in Oregon. The organisation was founded in 1964, although it was incorporated as Nike, Inc. in 1971. It trades in footwear, accessories, and apparels. It also sells sports equipment. It falls in the category of the largest supplier of sports equipment, apparels, and training shoes across the globe. In 2012, the company recorded over US$24.1 billion in revenue (Todd, Mottus & Mihlan, 2012). By the end of 2012, it had engaged 44,000 persons across the globe. Due to the increasing manufacturing costs in the US in the recent past, the company has sought outsourcing in nations that have low labour costs, especially in Asia such as Indonesia and China. This move has come with a lot of criticism amid allegations of the provision of poor working conditions and involvement in child labour.
Working Condition in the Three Industries
In several years, Nike, Inc. has been accused of employing children in its Cambodia plants. However, it cites that people in Cambodia can buy fake age evidence at very low rates of about $5 (Boggan, 2001). While the stalemate of the company’s accusation for employment of children remains unresolved, according to Boggan (2001), there are immense concerns that the company makes use of a minimal portion of the cost of production of its pair of shoes (70 pounds) in the payment of labour.
Nevertheless, amid the high call for Nike, Inc. to ensure that workers within its Asian production plant are remunerated accordingly, the company does not consider allegations of sweatshops as constituting a problem of public relations. Rather, it sees it as a challenge that involves human rights (Boggan, 2001). Measures to provide good working conditions at the Nike, Inc. plants in the Asian countries face challenges that emanate from the managers and employees.
Relying on media reports, the problem of poor working conditions or sweatshops at Nike’s foreign production plants is created by managers and employees. For instance, managers bribe auditors so that they can report on lesser working hours and higher pay rates. Workers, particularly the immigrants, are normally willing to work longer hours so that they can maximise their savings and return home.
However, there is no report of any issues that are related to employment of children and/or factors that may make the company tolerate child labour within its factories. Through the company’s watch, Tom Connor, Nike, Inc. holds, “upon finishing work in a Nike contract factory, the great majority of Nike workers will go back to rural areas that are marked by extreme poverty” (Boggan, 2001, Para. 10). Due to poverty, employees have a little bargaining power with employers. Thus, their budgets are likely to be liquidity-constrained.
Budgetary constraints lead to increased child labour at least for the first child in a family (Edmonds & Pavcnik, 2005). For the Cambodia’s Nike plants, this situation may happen in the attempt to garner more financial security in case the contracts are over. Indeed, Boggan (2001) asserts that the company accepts this argument when it reveals that the future economic security of employees in Nike contract factories depends on the amount of money they now make. A survey of three factories based in Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka amplify this argument. According to the study, neither of the factories paid its workers adequate wage to sustain good living standards (Bunting, 2008). However, people reported to work on a daily basis. Thus, in terms of wages and salaries, working condition in these plants is poor and worth improvement. A working environment, which also involves child labour, is not only unfavourable, but also prohibited under international treaties and the US law.
McDonald’s working conditions vary depending on work structures. McDonald’s employees are in three categories, namely hotel workers, corporate personnel, and franchise holders. The most numerous human resource group comprises the hotel workers, which operates in the restaurant with approximately 0.75 as part-time and lowly paid workers. Each MacDonald’s restaurant has one restaurant manager under which there are assistant managers and swing managers down the hierarchy. The company has corporate headquarters and forty regional offices in which the corporate personnel categories of employees work. Having been successful in their services, outstandingly satisfying customer needs, MacDonald’s has remarkably retained its glory in fast food production ranking.
Amid the remarkable growth of McDonald’s, the company is not immune to complains about its working conditions, especially with regard to compliance with the legal provision on fair labour standards (Peterson, 2014). In a bid to increase its profitability, the company focuses on reducing the cost of running business among them being the labour costs. Managers are required to increase employee output levels. Pressure from corporate managers on line managers to ensure higher organisational performance compels line managers in some instances to adopt unfair working practices such as making people work without a pay (Peterson, 2014).
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In fact, two former McDonald’s managers informed the Fast Food Forward, a group that fights for improved pay for all fast food workers, that they have compelled people to work without pay in the past (Peterson, 2014). To ensure higher throughput levels at the organisation’s stores, employees are required to work at excessive speeds in some situations. Although McDonald’s is one of the most successful fast food stores across the globe, these issues among others make the workplace unfavourable and hence the need for rectification.
Qatar Airways has gained immense reputation for offering first-class services to its customers. However, employees’ experience at the workplace reveals varying stories. Acquiring information about the working conditions of the organisation is incredibly hard since employees are forbidden to make disclosures of any information that relates to the work environment and work procedures at the company. Indeed, the organisation does not permit any unauthorised person to address the media or any other agent.
At the cubicles from where the Guards operate, security cameras have been put in place to capture every activity. The captured films or images are directly accessible to managers. Thus, the guards anticipate that everything that happens at the entrances can be reported directly to managers. This information can accompany records of accomplishment for each employee even if some unintentional errors that can damage the records may occur. There are also reports in the media that the organisation’s work conditions interfere with the lives of the employees. For instance, The National Business (2014) confirms that the company prohibits female employees from getting married or having children. However, amid these accusations, the company defends its policies, especially on marriage and pregnancy.
Comparative Review of Good and Bad in the three industries
Qatar Airways, Nike, Inc., and McDonald’s have varying bad and good characteristics of their working conditions. Due to different cultural backgrounds, McDonald’s encounters challenges in terms of putting in place a working condition that fosters multicultural integration. However, this case is not only a concern for McDonald’s, but also for Qatar Airways and Nike, Inc. since the three organisations employ people from diverse backgrounds.
Comparably, low wage and child labour dominate Nike’s production plants in the foreign manufacturing centre. Qatar Airways’ working condition challenges are special compared to Nike and McDonald’s since major complains are mainly related to unfair practices that are directed towards the female gender such as emphasising that women should not marry or have children as suggested by The National Business (2014). Nike, Inc. and McDonald’s have been criticised based on their working conditions, which are associated with efforts to increase output levels while offering low remunerations in a bid to increase profits. Peterson (2014) evidences this assertion when he reports that two former McDonald’s managers came out admitting that they compelled people to work without pay in an attempt to reduce labour costs. However, it is important to note that the allegation is not the policy of the company.
Although Nike, Inc. and McDonald’s face criticisms of putting in place working conditions that seem exploitative to their employees, the companies’ strategy is to raise their outputs and revenues by utilising people as the main source of competitive advantage. In this effort, Nike and McDonald’s focus on creating working conditions that encourage a common organisational culture that recognises the importance of people in enhancing their productivity. Such conditions involve integrating employee diversities to reduce work conflicts (Institute of Leadership and Management, 2007; Johnson & Keddy, 2010).
While work environments that have no conflicts exemplify good working conditions, unlike Qatar Airways, Nike, Inc. and McDonald’s also face common bad attributes for their working conditions. Nike and McDonald’s employees raise complains such as strict opposition to unionisation and complains of low wages within the company-owned stores and franchises. Such working conditions have negative effects on organisations since they translate into low motivation and/or reduced job satisfaction.
Compared to Qatar Airways and McDonald’s, Nike faces criticisms over its bad aspects of working conditions, which damage its reputation as a global brand. For instance, about 25 percent of all Indonesian workers were placed on temporary contracts while the number hiked to 85 percent in Philippines. Worse still, these employees were subjected to compulsory over time. Besides, they were supposed to meet high production targets whilst receiving low wages (Bunting, 2008). At the Sukabuni factory for making converse shoes in Indonesia, workers complained that they had experienced direct abuse from their supervisors, something that Nike, Inc. does not deny. However, the company is quick to claim that it can only do little to stop it (Bunting, 2008).
Qatar Airways provides incredible working conditions that allow people to progress and develop their careers. The input of the employees to the organisation’s success is also well rewarded through a good remuneration. In fact, unlike the case of McDonald’s and Nike, employees at Qatar Airways do not register complains of low pay, overworking, or even allegations of the existence of working conditions that favour child labour as it is evident in the case of Nike in its Asian-based manufacturing plants.
However, allegations of the need for female employees to inform their pregnancy status as soon they gain knowledge on any changes undermine the good fit between work and the life of the employees. Unlike the case of McDonald’s and Nike, Qatar Airways has also come under sharp criticism that its working conditions are dominated by harsh treatment and/or overbearing employee scrutiny (The National Business, 2014). However, the organisation’s management does not verify these claims. Indeed, through the company’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, the management denies the matter vehemently.
Suggestion for improving the Working Conditions
Poor working conditions in the three organisations can be reduced by addressing their underlying causes. However, the best solution is the one which not only resolves complains, but also ensures that parties that are blamed for creating the problems are satisfied with the suggested solutions. This plan can reduce possibilities of the emergence or escalation of organisational conflicts that are associated with complaints of poor working conditions.
For Qatar Airways, guards’ complaints of managements’ excessive scrutiny of their work can be resolved by instilling in them (guards) the right attitude towards surveillance cameras. For instance, instead of the management letting them know that the cameras are meant to track the manner of execution of their work, the guards need to have the mentality that the cameras only help capture false signal, which they may not perceive due to limitations of human surveillance abilities.
The case of women who serve in the cabin crew that is focused on by the anti-pregnancy and anti-marriage policies should be addressed if the nature of cabin crew work does not suit people with their immediate pregnancy or marital status. This move gives them a freedom of choice. Those who consider remaining in the cabin crew will avoid pregnancy or marriage. Thus, instead of seeing the organisation as discriminating, they become aware that the job itself is the one that discriminates them.
Improving working conditions for Nike, especially with regard to complaints over child labour only requires compliance with the law. It is illegal for a US-based organisation to sell products produced with child labour. In case of McDonald’s, compliance with legal provisions on minimum wage is vital for improving its working conditions. Where employees grumble because of working at high speeds to satisfy their targets, a job measurement to determine the amount time required to serve a certain number of customers or finish a certain amount of job is necessary. This strategy can help in the determination of standard times for work. Where higher performance than the standard time is required, it should be accompanied by additional remuneration in the form of bonuses.
The organisations’ common way of improving their working conditions entails implementing principles of good job-life fit. An organisation that provides a working condition that fits with other obligations of people in their lives outside work environment takes advantage of employee commitment in their work. This situation contributes to increased work motivation. Good working conditions help in inducing fun among employees.
Everett (2011) contends with this assertion by adding that workplace fun has a couple of pros. For instance, he posits, “A fun-filled workplace builds enthusiasm, which leads to increased productivity, better service, positive attitudes, and helps in developing talent, loyalty, and longevity” (Everett, 2011, p.5). With this reality, he wonders why many work environments are not characterised by funny cultures. Responding to the question, he asserts that workload in organisations has become heavier as more demands are placed on employees. This claim is perhaps true for Nike, Inc. and McDonald’s. Thus, it is necessary to standardise workloads to avoid overloading employees or failing to remunerate them according to the workload of the day.
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