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Empowerment: the right medicine for improving employee commitment and morale in the NHS?

Ian Cunningham (Lecturer in Human Resource Management at the University of Middlesex, Hendon, UK)
Jeff Hyman (Senior Lecturer in the Department of Human Resource Management at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)

Health Manpower Management

ISSN: 0955-2065

Article publication date: 1 December 1996


In recent years, empowerment of National Health Service (NHS) Trust employees has been given substantial political and managerial support. Examines the extent to which the commitment and morale of staff in two NHS Trust hospitals has altered following the introduction of a raft of techniques under the empowerment label. The researchers interviewed substantial numbers of staff with managerial responsibilities, personnel specialists and conducted written surveys seeking employee opinion. Reports the findings which confirm that, under empowerment, the work of both managers and staff has become more intensive but managers claim that their commitment has risen, while for non‐managerial employees, severe problems of commitment to the Trust, declining morale and high stress were exposed. Identifies reasons for these difficulties which were the salience of budgetary and operational priorities; lack of training; resistance to the implementation of empowerment and recognition that little real authority was being devolved to employees. Concludes that the limited effects attributable to empowerment could be explained by its association with harder‐edged manpower policies introduced to meet financial and competitive pressures. Under favourable contextual conditions, empowerment may exert more positive effects.



Cunningham, I. and Hyman, J. (1996), "Empowerment: the right medicine for improving employee commitment and morale in the NHS?", Health Manpower Management, Vol. 22 No. 6, pp. 14-24.




Copyright © 1996, MCB UP Limited