Shared governance is one of the ideal methods to create an inclusive culture in organizations and institutions. But how exactly does this model work? Read further to find out.
It is commonplace for the workforce in leadership-governed organizations to hear phrases like ‘You don’t have the authority for this’, or ‘We can’t share this information with you.’
These are clear examples of situations where leaders don’t include the workforce responsible for operational tasks in major decisions of the organization.
However, several industries have begun to realize that this isn’t the ideal model to operate a system successfully. Leadership-based governance usually leads to managerial malfunctions and issues that affect the overall output.
This led to the introduction of shared governance.
Apart from introducing transparency and inclusiveness in several industrial sectors, this concept promotes workplace equality and value for individual opinions.
So, what is shared governance, and is it as beneficial as it sounds? Read through my detailed overview to find out.
Table of Contents
What Is Shared Governance?
If you haven’t heard of shared governance, let’s get to the root of the concept with a clear shared governance definition before getting into further details.
Mainly, shared governance is a system that promotes inclusive and shared decision-making based on four principles. These principles include partnership, equity, accountability, and ownership of the service.
At its core, this management process is designed to empower all members of a particular workforce and encourage them to put forward their individual opinions. Using the shared governance model, an organization can push its employees to move the extra mile for the company while contributing to their self-confidence and accountability.
In easier words, If you work in an environment that operates using a shared governance model, you would feel like you have a say in the decision and policy-making activities.
This would eventually lead you to believe in a ‘personal stake’ within the organization promoting its overall growth.
Where Did the Shared Governance Model Originate?
Companies and organizations striving towards workplace equality and ESG compliance have given importance to shared governance during the past few years. However, the concept of shared governance and the basic shared governance model are not new at all.
Organizations from various sectors have benefitted from the idea of shared decision making including education, politics, business, and even religion. But, it was carried out in diverse and creative ways in different cultures and periods until it was strengthened as a specific school of thought in this era.
Nevertheless, to trace the origins of essential business management concepts, we would have to go back to the late 18th century. In this period, shared governance was first mentioned as a favorable idea in business and management literature.
In this regard, the most popular literary works include O’May and Buchan’s discourse published in 1999 and Laschinger’s initial explanation in 1996. These initial discussions prompted organizations to think about developing productive relationships between employees and the leadership.
This resulted in the involvement of the entire workplace structure in the significant decisions of business organizations, improving the accountability and workplace satisfaction for workers like never before.
After this breakthrough, the nursing department embraced this solution globally, creating a paradigm shift in the nursing space.
Most importantly, the introduction of shared governance in nursing brought about rapid advancements in sectors like biotechnology, disease prevention, and the role of patients during treatment.
Since then, the shared governance model has been continually refined and customized to fit the usage of various organizations. Some of the significant results include employee retention and self-satisfaction, among other organizational-scale benefits.
How Does Shared Governance Work?
So, how does shared governance work, and how do organizations implement its techniques in their policies? As I mentioned, the concept works using four basic principles. Only if all four aspects are met would shared governance reach the optimal level for employee empowerment and workplace development in a company.
First comes the integration of the partnership factor between the employees, stakeholders, and organizational leaders. Under this process, a company should develop mechanisms to incorporate every staff member in the essential decisions.
Similarly, it should develop productive professional relationships between the leaders and employees to make the most of their expertise and experiences. Eventually, this would result in each person’s contribution in fulfilling the organization’s final mission.
Secondly, the concept of equity from the shared governance model maintains that no role in the company is more significant than the other. Thus, although there might be differences in the pay scale and benefits range across the workplace hierarchy, it should not undermine an individual’s efforts for the company.
This does not mean that each organization member should be treated equally regardless of their knowledge and responsibility. Instead, each member should work together and play their respective roles to improve the overall outcome.
Thirdly, the accountability factor holds every individual in the organization responsible for the decisions and policies developed. This means the sole responsibility of the consequences does not lie entirely with the leadership.
Instead, every member included in the decision-making process is accountable for the views they expressed. This helps enhance the performance of employees and their willingness to contribute positively to the organization.
Besides that, it also reduces the chances of negative upheavals and inter-organizational disputes creating a balanced, growth-influenced environment.
Lastly, each organization member taking ownership of their actions is essential within the shared governance framework. This aspect distributes every action’s responsibility among each member and lets the leadership evaluate how well each person is performing his particular role.
Consequently, individual ownership through shared governance ensures that every individual is striving as hard as his co-worker in the holistic development of the company.
How Is Shared Governance Different from Participatory Management?
Shared governance is often confused with a similar process called participatory management. But, you see, the shared services governance framework works by using the people’s decisions that operate the company at the core level.
It does not imply solely asking for suggestions and input while making a particular decision. Instead, it includes increasing the importance and authority of each individual. To highlight this difference, let’s use an example.
Supposing a group of staff members from a single organization is asked to try out a product and submit their feedback to the leadership. Now, the administration reviews the feedback, adds their input, and decides whether to purchase the product or not.
This would seem like a perfect example of shared governance to most people. But, this is clearly a portrayal of participatory management. Shared governance goes far beyond these clauses.
I’ll make it clear. Now let’s say the same staff members are asked to try out some products to pick out which one should be purchased. Again, in the effective implementation of shared governance, the leadership would first identify the products’ requirements to be eligible for the purchase.
On the other hand, the staff would provide their feedback on the products based on the criteria defined earlier. Next, the team themselves would formulate a decision regarding which product should be purchased.
Consequently, the leadership would oblige and order the products immediately while thanking the staff for their help. Points to note in this situation include the provision of set criteria by the leadership and the formulation of a decision by the team.
This is true shared governance. Everyone from the organization provided input and played an essential role in the decision. But, most importantly, one section did not dominate the other.
What Are the Common Applications of This Structure?
Now that you have a clear idea about shared governance, you’re probably wondering where it is applied in today’s circumstances. There are organizations from various sectors that use this model. These include religious, government, and business organizations. However, the two examples below are the ones that stand out.
Most commonly, shared governance is being adapted abundantly in nursing and educational sectors across the world.
Shared Governance Nursing
Shared governance in the healthcare sector first started to be established around the 1980s. Beginning as a form of participative management, shared governance emerged to erase workplace dissatisfaction among nurses and other healthcare workers.
Through this method, bedside nurses can provide opinions on critical matters such as patient health and equipment procurement.
Similarly, the improved relationships between bedside nurses and nursing leaders promote evidence-based research to raise treatment standards in the organization.
Most importantly, the engagement of every nursing personnel creates positive workplace culture and job satisfaction, promoting positive patient outcomes.
Shared Governance In Higher Education
Furthermore, shared governance is also commonly adopted by the educational sector to improve the learning process on the whole. Thus, universities are inclined towards including the students and alumni with the faculty and staff members in policy and decision-making.
Similarly, the shared governance structure in educational institutions aims to tackle issues such as diverse values, finance management, and effective administration. This helps maintain a balance between policy efficiency and fairness in every framework of operation.
Besides that, the system also helps increase confidence and highlight the innate strengths present in members of the hierarchy in an educational institution. This enhances the aspect of accountability and responsibility, which promotes practical exposure and decision-making.
What Are the Major Flaws and Benefits of Shared Governance?
Although it is known to encourage an organization’s well-being and social relevance, shared governance has some flaws. Mainly, introducing the concept and maintaining its four principles takes quite some time and effort in an organization.
This might require extended hours and increased responsibility upon the minimum-wage workers. That might not be seen as a welcome scenario initially. To combat this inconvenience and ensure a smooth transition, organizations need thorough counseling and awareness before implementing the system.
Moreover, applying a shared governance structure is only relevant if the leadership has complete trust over other sections of the organization. If not, the system might prove to be of no use to the company.
However, shared governance has its benefits, which are evident in companies that operate according to it. These benefits include increased professional responsibility, enhanced job satisfaction, and innovative workplace culture, among other positive outcomes.
Is Shared Governance the Best Approach?
Whether it’s corporate governance or other institutionalized organizations, the shared governance model delivers positive implications. However, the said outcome is only possible if the model is utilized following a strict protocol through the proper channels.
Otherwise, shared governance can prove problematic in some situations where multiple hierarchies gang up against each other to achieve a particular decision or outcome. In either case, thorough preparation and strict monitoring are required to ensure the positive outcome of shared governance.