Employee Contributions to Organizational Decision-Making Processes and Outcomes

Melissa A. Bearth, St. Catherine University

An organizations’ ability to make the right decision at the right time is critical to its success (Wernz & Deshmukh, 2010; Roberto, 2013). Given the importance of effective decision-making to organizations, it is not surprising there is significant research on this topic. However, most analysis and research focuses on the role leaders play in organizational decision-making. I believe a holistic approach to decision-making needs to take into account employees’ contributions to decision-making processes and outcomes. The purpose of my study is to add to the body of literature on organizational decision-making, and provide both leaders and employees with information on which employee behaviors support effective decision-making processes and outcomes. To answer these questions I used a mixed methods approach conducted in two phases. I first used leader interviews to identify which employee behaviors are perceived as most effective in supporting their decision-making. Then, by using those responses to develop a questionnaire, I surveyed both leaders and employees to determine if the presence of these behaviors in an organization predicts a high level of decision-making effectiveness as reported by survey respondents. The results of my research indicate a strong correlation between the presence of certain employee behaviors and decision-making effectiveness. In addition, I was able to theorize which of these behaviors have the greatest impact on decision-making effectiveness. These results have important implications for organizations, leaders and employees looking for ways to improve decision-making processes and outcomes.

In today’s complex fast-paced business environment, organizations need the ability to effectively respond to threats and take advantage of opportunities. This can be accomplished by making high quality decisions quickly and efficiently, and then implementing accordingly. Effective decision-making is well established as a key competency of successful organizational leadership (Ewing, 1964; Norton, Gustafson, & Foster, 1977; Tjosvold, Wedley and Field, 1986 as cited in Caruth, Caruth, & Humphreys, 2009). Decisions must be made on every facet of a business, including strategy definition, capital allocation, and organizational structure. As organizations become larger, more complex and more challenging to control, effective decision-making becomes even more important (Wernz & Deshmukh, 2010). An organization’s ability to make the right decision at the right time is critical to its success (Wernz & Deshmukh, 2010; Roberto, 2013).

In my role as planning and delivery leader in a large financial services company, I was often involved in making and supporting organizational decisions. My organization recognized the importance of making high quality decisions. They invested in a company-wide decision-making model. This model identifies the different roles in the decision-making process; for example, the role of the individual(s) accountable for informing, recommending, and agreeing with the decision. Both leaders and employees are integral in this model. In my experience, this model was familiar to most employees but used inconsistently. In addition, employee survey results and my daily interactions with employees reflected their dissatisfaction with decision-making effectiveness. I saw employees struggle to understand, influence and support key decisions. Employees saw ineffective decision-making as the leaders’ problem. My experience and intuition tell me employees have an important role in decision-making, and their participation increases organizational decision process and outcome quality. I would like to see organizations, leaders and employees increase their recognition of the important role employees play in effective decision-making, and for both leaders and employees to have more tools and training available to support employees’ contributions to effective decision-making. I believe this will improve organizations’ success and effectiveness.