Business & Management Year 1
Module: Organisations and Behaviour
Case study: UNISON
Word count: Minimum 2475
Submission date:27th November 2015
Outcome 1: Explore organisational structure and culture
Outcome 2: Examine different approaches to management and leadership
And theories of organisation
You are required to write a report using 1 ½ or double line spacing and use of Harvard Referencing.
Developing responsiveness through organizational structure
A UNISON case study
UNISON is the UK’s biggest public service trade union. It represents 1.3 million members who deliver essential services to the public. These are services that protect, enrich and change lives. Its members work in all areas of public service. They work in hospitals, town halls, universities, colleges, schools, social services and clinics. Most people in the UK rely on these services. There are UNISON branches in all sorts of organizations in the UK.
Role of a union
As a trade union, UNISON represents and supports its members in issues at work. It looks after their welfare and campaigns for changes on their behalf. UNISON also has a role in local and national negotiations and in collective bargaining. This is where UNISON negotiates with employers and groups of employers for all of its members collectively.
One of its key roles is in campaigning on behalf of members. This could be for changes that will benefit members such as better wages or working conditions or against policies that threaten members’ jobs. UNISON therefore campaigns against government spending cuts that will have a negative impact on public services and those employed in this sector
UNISON, on behalf of its members, has concentrated its campaign efforts over the past two years on the future of public services and the challenges that they face from government cuts. Public sector cuts planned by the coalition government in 2012 would mean more than 730,000 public service job cuts.
UNISON has a complex structure that reflects the complex nature of the work that it carries out. Its structure is split by function and by region. UNISON’s 1,100 staff works in either its new center on Euston Road in London or in one of the 12 UK regions.
Within each region there are employees responsible for different areas of the union’s work. These areas include health, learning and development, and local government and education. The members are organized into branches throughout Britain and Northern Ireland.
This tall structure helps it to act quickly and respond to changes:
• The National Executive Council, which is elected by members, can focus on policy and providing leadership.
• The UNISON Centre concentrates on providing a range of services to members and the regions such as legal, financial and personnel services.
• Regional employees can deal with issues particular to their geographical area, e.g. when a local employer announces redundancies
Managing organizational structures
The type of structure that a business has reflects how it behaves. It defines its culture or way of working. A highly centralized, hierarchical structure means an organization is run from the top. It may have a well-known person at its head that makes most of the decisions. A decentralized structure is likely to create a much more democratic culture, where everyone’s opinion is valued. Decisions will often be made by groups of people or in consultation with different layers.
The national structure of UNISON is centralized with many decisions affecting the whole union made by the senior members and workers in the new UNISON center. However, UNISON’s culture is one of equality. It is a culture that gives people freedom to express their views and to be part of decision making. Therefore, some power is given to the regions so that they can make decisions. Quite often the people in the regions will have a better idea of local needs. This decentralization helps UNISON to be responsive at all levels.
‘I feel there is a genuine ‘no blame’ culture at UNISON. I am able to contribute my opinions to the highest level and be listened to and complimented on my work.’
Whatever the structure, there are certain key features that are common:
Span of control – the people for whom a manager is directly responsible. A narrow span means tight control; a wide span can provide more opportunity for employees to contribute. This can lead to better motivation. There are narrow spans of control in tall structures and wide spans of control in flatter organizations.
Chain of command – how authority passes down the organization. It also shows who has power delegated (or passed down) to them.
Accountability – who makes decisions and takes responsibility for outcomes.
Communication channels – the way in which messages are passed up, down and across an organization. It is also vital that the message is spread outside the organization. For this, UNISON uses cutting-edge communication techniques. At the UNISON Centre for example, there is a media center, plus television and radio recording facilities
Job roles within a trade union
Within most large organizations there are roles at different levels within the hierarchy such as directors, managers, team leaders, supervisors and operatives. UNISON is no different. The qualities and skills needed for these roles are different. For example, those at the top of the hierarchy will have to think more strategically and may need greater leadership skills than those lower down. UNISON’s job roles are specific to the aims of the union.
The local organizer reports to the area level. This post recruits and supports members at a local level. Personal qualities needed include:
• problem-solving skills
• communication skills
• ability to act on own initiative
• resource management
• General understanding of issues facing trades
unions and employers.
The area organizer reports to the regional level. This post organizes work across branches as well as region-wide campaigns and events. Responsibilities include representing members in negotiations and claims and helping the region to deliver its operational plan. Personal qualities required also include skills in research, analysis and developing materials as well as communication and negotiation skills.
‘The best part of my job as an area organizer is supporting members and giving them the skills, tools, knowledge and confidence to stand up for themselves and others. I get a real sense of pride when I am supporting branches and members through difficult times.’
The regional organizer reports to the regional manager. This role builds and organizes branch memberships. Key responsibilities involve supporting and mentoring activists, running regional projects and managing the team. Regional organizers require strategic thinking skills. They will also need to be able to manage resources and teams of people.
The regional secretary is the senior official in the region. As regional manager, he or she leads the Regional Management Team and sits on UNISON’s Senior Management Group (SMG). The SMG is chaired by the General Secretary. The role here is one of strategic and national development and communication of policies. This person needs leadership qualities to go with the high level of responsibility. He or she needs high level problem-solving, critical thinking and communication skills. The post holder will typically have worked as a senior manager to develop these skills.
All roles include the need for some physical skills (such as lifting or ability to travel) but, in accordance with equality policies, these can all be modified for anyone with a disability. Having a disability is no bar to employment with UNISON.
Careers and training at UNISON
At the local level, a recent addition has been the role of ‘fighting fund organizers’. Faced with huge cuts to public services, UNISON is recruiting over 100 such fighting fund organizers. These people need to have good analytical and presentation skills. They will undertake an induction training programme which prepares them to go into workplaces and recruit members.
These fighting fund organizers may come from a range of different backgrounds and are central in taking the union in new directions. Their jobs will include using new methods such as social networking to keep in touch with members. New roles such as this are helping UNISON to change its structure to focus more at the local level. This makes the organization more decentralized.
UNISON is also building clear career paths for organizers. Local fighting fund organizers will recruit members, mentor stewards and help branches to grow. To step up to area level management means more responsibility.
Area officials provide representation for members. They also carry out bargaining with employers. These two activities and experience provide a good launching pad for a regional role. At regional level, jobs involve responsibility for large-scale negotiations, leading projects and managing teams of organizers.
‘There are always new challenges, sometimes outside my comfort zone, but training and support is given for this. It makes me feel good about myself when I have tried something different.’
This career path was designed to provide greater flexibility. It helps the union to direct resources to where they are most needed. When an employer suggests changes that will harm members – such as redundancies or a transfer of services into the private sector – a team of organizers can be on hand to work with the branch, supporting members in their workplace.
UNISON, as the UK’s largest public service union, has a responsibility to support its members in the face of current challenges. These include massive cuts to public services. This means supporting not just members, but also their families and all those who rely on public services.
To meet these aims, UNISON has a clear structure. Within this, there are defined roles and responsibilities at each level. As a person rises through the structure, they are expected to take on more responsibilities. They will also have more authority – the right to make decisions. There is also a clear career path from one level to the next so that organizers can rise through the organization.
UNISON makes a valuable contribution and difference to the lives of working people, often at the most difficult times of their professional lives.
‘I find it rewarding to work for an organization whose aims I share and for whom I am prepared to go the extra mile.’
UNISON is keen to provide a good working environment, but also to face the challenge of supporting members. Its Investors in People Award shows its commitment to quality
Adapted from: The Times 100 (1995-2012) Business Case Studies.The Times 100 ‘Available online’ http://businesscasestudies.co.uk/unison/developing-responsiveness-through-organisational-structure/conclusion.html#axzz2WfM5DQTd> [June 19th 2013]
Further reading around UNISON is advisable to support your answers
You are required to write a report on the following:
• Briefly explain what is meant by the term Organisational Behaviour and discuss the perception and behavior of individuals within UNISON, and how this could influence individual behavior and their overall performance.
• Define and discuss the term organizational structure. Compare and contrast the different types of organizational structures including the current structure at UNISON.
• Define the term ‘culture’ and your overall interpretation of the term. Explain the different types of culture that may exist within as organizational (please include supporting theoretical model/s). Briefly discuss UNISIONS current corporate culture and its potential effectiveness to the business. What potential problems could be involved in a change of corporate culture? Do use examples and relevant theoretical underpinning to support your answer.
• Based upon your previous discussion of UNISIONS organizational structure and cultureanalyze the relationshipbetween its structure and culture and then suggest how they may influence business performance.
• Examine and compare different theoretical management methods (models) which underpin organizational practices. You also need to discuss the current management approach evident at UNISON making recommendations where appropriate for change/improvement. This answer should include discussions relating to the following management approaches:
• Systems and Contingency Approach
ORGANISATIONS AND BEHAVIOUR 2015 – ASSIGNMENT 1
Student’s name …………………………………………………….
Available Marks Allocated Marks Comments
Analyse the factors which influence individual behaviour at work
Compare and contrast the different organisationalstructures
Compare and contrast the different organisational cultures
Your analysis of the relationship between an organisation’s structure and culture. Suggest how each organisation’s culture might influence their structure and their business performance.
Examine and compare the different theoretical approaches to organisation management, which underpin organisational practices
Report structure and presentation with use of
References and Bibliography (Harvard method)
(Referral 0 – 39 Pass 40 – 49 Merit 50 – 69 Distinction 70+) TOTAL
Assessor: ………………………………………………………. Date ……………
Cross marked …………………………………………………. Date ………………
Business & Management Year 1