human resources

No One Reason for It: Workforce Diversity, Cultural Complexity, and Staff Retention at BMW MINI

FIONA MOORE Royal Holloway University of London This case study is based on an ethnographic investigation conducted in 2003 at the BMW Plant Oxford automobile factory focusing on issues of staff retention. The study found that the workforce, as well as being diverse in conventional terms, was also divided in less immediately identifiable ways, and different groups within the workplace had quite different expectations from the experience or working there, and a programme to overcome these problems was developed....

Bringing Attention to Problem Solving and Meaningfulness at Work: How Ethnography Can Help Answer Difficult Business Questions

CAROLE CHARLAND Sapiens Strategies Inc. KAREN HOFMAN Sapiens Strategies Inc. A local division of a multinational manufacturer was experiencing declining enagagement and perceptions of leadership (measured in employee satisfaction surveys). In anticipation of coming waves of organizational change, they asked the research team to explore how “nostalgia” may be contributing to these issues and how they might define the unique culture of the division. Combining ethnographic observations with other qualitative methods, across all levels and departments of the plant, the team uncovered other, more critical issues. Having built a trusting relationship with senior management of the plant, the team used extensive work sessions to help them to understand issues from employee perspectives. This new empathy was conveyed during validation session that spurred initiatives to address a variety of isssues that had been contributing to the problems that initially spurred the project....

Ethnography to the Rescue of Change Management

melanie redman
by MELANIE REDMAN and TANUSHREE BHAT, Steelcase It’s not unusual for challenges to arise when organizations and teams undergo transformation. Whether due to natural growth, global expansion, or shift in focus, confusion and misalignment may lead to poor morale and mistrust. In such cases, Human Resources is typically brought in to manage employee, leader and organizational expectations, applying tried and true approaches under the heading “Change Management.” We believe, however, that ethnography offers a better approach. We were fortunate to work with a Global Procurement Team at a company that was experiencing all of these challenges following a series of organizational changes. The company had tried other, more traditional fixes, including leadership changes and providing a new work space for the team, but the problems lingered. The new leader decided to try something different. He brought in a team of ethnographic researchers who spent a month collecting survey data and conducting face-to-face interviews with as many...

Verfremdung and Business Development: The Ethnographic Essay as Eye-opener

ANNE LINE DALSGAARD This paper discusses the use of essays as tools for communication and reflection in a collaborative research and development process between a philosopher, an anthropologist, and two private companies. Findings from the project “The Meaning of Work Life” will be presented along with a discussion about their relevance for the involved companies. To specify the general anthropological strategy of defamiliarization, the notion of verfremdung1 is used to detail out specific features of the analytical and representational perspective employed. The paper concludes that the meaning of research results cannot be controlled, as they will always be interpreted according to personal or professional agendas, which is why a style of representation that lays bare their status as interpretations is not only appropriate but may even – by way of estrangement - be revealing and innovative. This conclusion is not new to anthropology as such, but within the context of business ethnography (in which more and more anthropologists...