All business organizations have a strategy for survival and the heart of strategy lies in its competitive advantage (Porter 1980, 1985). When a firm becomes different by offering value, quality and some attributes through which it offers some uniqueness then it will become an above-average performer in its industry. The search for this competitive edge urges strategies in marketing, production, human resource management, customer relationships, supply chain management, and many others.
It has also been said that a competitive edge can be achieved only when all stakeholders are involved as collaborators (Venkataraman 2002). Of the stakeholders, the employee has become a very important factor as it is his/her endeavor and skill that helps to create a competitive edge. Indeed Cummins and Worley (2005:306) state that “Faced with competitive demands for lower costs, higher performance, and greater flexibility, organizations are increasingly turning to employee involvement to enhance the participation, commitment and productivity of their members.”
The role of the employee/worker has come a full circle in the last one hundred years. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the worker was his own master and could dictate quality, value, and output based on his personal skills. The Industrial Revolution relegated him to the role of a subordinate and later in the early 20th century Taylorism introduced the deskilling of labor and made him an operator. He no longer had any part in decision making and became a clog in the whole manufacturing machine. Fordism in the forties gave him back some respect and rights but he still remained confined.