The work of any organization depends much on the management of this organization to find the staff fitting for the job, guide the employees, and organize their work properly. The current stage of the development of human society has posed several new demands for organizations. Suppose it is a universally accepted truth that work specialization and proper distribution of duties facilitate successful outcomes. In that case, the organization’s equipment and making it into a “machinelike” phenomenon demands closer attention from its managers (Cliff’s Notes, N. D. a). Thus, becoming a socio-technical system, such an organization has to balance the relations between its social and technical parts and agree with the performance of both with the needs of employees. To consider how organizations operate as socio-technical systems, the example of Telebank Call Center will help as it provides a clear view of the organization’s structure and reveals the details of socio-technical system functioning (Callaghan, 2001).
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Starting with traditional categories applied to Telebank, the call center under analysis can be called a properly structured organization that includes three levels of employees and distributes tasks and duties among them accordingly: “The organizational structure is flat, with three basic categories – CSR, team leader, and call center manager” (Callaghan, 2001, p. 3). The span of control is flat, with the team leader responsible for the team performance, while computerized systems control the overall operation of the call center (Callaghan, 2001; Cliff’s Notes, N. D. a). The division of labor in Telebank is slightly observed as Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are the bulk of the center. At the same time, there are also call center managers and team leaders. The organizational structure is organic, with control over performance distributed among machines and people, team leaders, and center managers (Callaghan, 2001; Cliff’s Notes, N. D. b). The combination of functional and team structure characterizes Telebank as an organization as there are teams. Still, it this evident the focus of their work is the same function carried out by all groups (Cliff’s Notes, N. D. b).
Drawing from this, Telebank Call Center can be rightfully called a “machine” due to the organizational structure observed in it and the clear division of functions of every employee, who performs their tasks like a detail of a machine does (Callaghan, 2001). However, Telebank is a machine also because its operation is carried out through the combination of machine-driven and bureaucratic activities: “workers aren’t personally directed by management, rather they either conform to norms dictated by machinery or follow behavioral patterns and values nurtured by and through bureaucratic rules” (Callaghan, 2001, p. i). The duties of every CSR include the reception of the call and its entering into the database, and they are both machine-controlled: “Each of these categories is electronically recorded and measured, and this statistical information is produced daily” (Callaghan, 2001, p. 5). Therefore, the term “machine” can be rightfully applied to Telebank Call Center.
The significant elements of the technical and social systems of Telebank Call Center are observed at all stages of work, including recruitment, training, probationary period work, and the actual process of receiving calls as a staff CSR (Callaghan, 2001). The technical system of the center includes telephone interviews, the employees’ training of the equipment usage, and the very work in which technology is vital. Moreover, every step of the employees is recorded by computerized technology which evidences that technical systems are a vital part of the socio-technical system of Telebank (Callaghan, 2001). On the other hand, the social system involves numerous stages of the essential recruitment process that demand communication skills from the applicants (Callaghan, 2001). The social system also manifests itself in training as employees are taught to act and communicate friendly with every client. Finally, the very working process demands communication skills and acting talents. This fact proves once again that the socio-technical system of Telebank is a single whole, and the company’s activities do not go beyond these two systems (Callaghan, 2001).
The company’s management has substantial control over both the technical and social systems of Telebank and its elements (Callaghan, 2001). As for the technical system elements, the management of Telebank controls them almost completely. It is included in the duties of the administration to provide the organization with the necessary equipment and ensure that employees can operate it (Callaghan, 2001). Thus, the management of Telebank implements the procedure of the telephone interview to get the first impression of how applicants communicate through the wire. The training and working processes are entirely controlled by the management that sets the training areas and how training should be carried out (Callaghan, 2001). The technical side of the working process is also under managerial control. The management installs the programs that monitor the CSRs’ performance and are responsible for updating the technology in the call center.
In respect of the elements of the social system of Telebank Call Center, the situation is more complicated (Callaghan, 2001). On the one hand, it is under the managerial control to monitor the communication skills and abilities of the applicants and employees and train them as for the skills they need to acquire to succeed at Telebank (Callaghan, 2001). On the other hand, however, the management cannot control the employees’ attitudes to work and the need to hide their emotions and play the perfect mood throughout the working day. This leads to the frustration of the number of workers who either quit jobs or have to take additional training to cope with the demands of the social system (Callaghan, 2001). Therefore, the management of Telebank controls the elements of the social system only in part, while some employee-related personal aspects of the system are beyond its control.
In any case, the technical and social systems of the single socio-technical system are in rather interesting relations with each other. The most exciting point in these relations is that one system without another is unnecessary for the company. In other words, Telebank can be called a socio-technical system because its operation depends on both technological advances and the social and communication skills of its employees (Callaghan, 2001). Telebank combines human activities and mechanistic technical processes; the former is worth nothing without the latter and vice versa. For instance, an employee with a perfect command of technology cannot succeed in the call center if their communicational skills are questioned and become the reason for customers’ complaints and losses (Callaghan, 2001). At the same time, the person with the gift to communicate with people cannot be a proper Telebank employee without the knowledge of technical system elements as the center’s work is based on technology.
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All this said, it becomes evident that the metaphor “socio-technical machine” about any organization in general and to Telebank, in particular, is rather beneficial. The reasons for this include the perfect balance of human-oriented organizational policies and trying to keep up with the latest technological advances. Moreover, the organization’s technical system ensures that its high-end performance s computerized and modernly equipped. Organizations will perform more effectively. The social element makes it possible for the organization to keep employee satisfaction at work relatively high.
Finally, the clear understanding that these are human beings who control and operate machines and technology helps balance the organization’s goals between improving employment policies and updating the technical equipment of this organization. Telebank is a shining example of an organization that focuses on the balance mentioned above. This helps Telebank to be one of the fastest-growing call centers in the country. The use of technology for instruction, for instance, helps in easing the management pressure upon employees who perceive instruction as a mere technological operation. This allows the company to facilitate the development of its social system. Although the issues in the social system of this organization are reported to be connected with the frustration of employees caused by demands of the work, it is evident that Telebank operates adequately as a socio-technical system.
- Callaghan, G. (2001) Socio-Technical Systems And Call Centres: A Case Study Investigation. ESRC End of Award Report. R000222799. Open University.
- Cliff’s Notes (N.D. a) Concepts of Organizing.
- Cliff’s Notes (N.D. b) Five Approaches to Organizational Design.