Managing Employment Change: The New Realities of Work

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Deregulation and decentralization have placed organizations in the driving seat of employment change. Drawing on seven case studies of large organizations, this book examines how organizations as the architects of the employment system are restructuring their employment practices. Rich data on the experience of work collected from all seven organizations provide clear evidence of a general transformation of the wage-effort relationship based on cost cutting and increased work intensity. This increased work intensity is shown to be a consequence - intended and unintended - of changes to a variety of employment policies and practices, including changes to staffing policies (for example the trend towards 'lean staffing', and the use of new contracts), changes to the skills-mix and training provision associated with policies of 'delayering' and multi-skilling, and changes in working time arrangements towards more flexible and extended working hours. Such trends in employment practices have been interpreted as a return to the market as the institutionalized employment system, characteristic of bureaucratic organizations and strong trade unions, visibly crumbles. The analysis presented here rejects the notion of simple market determination and instead develops an integrated and interdisciplinary framework for understanding the processes shaping employment change. Managers are seeking solutions to increasing market or performance pressures through changes to employment policies. However, these responses to budget cuts and market pressures are shown to be mediated by the institutional, political, and social environment inside and outside the organization. Moreover managers are found in practice not to be able to control their environment or implement their desired policies with the expected outcomes. Despite the increased scope for managerial initiative and the greater opportunities for shifting the risk and responsibility of adapting to new conditions on to labour, the attempts of managers to develop a strategic approach to employment change are proving to be largely unsuccessful. The book ends by calling for a renewal and rebuilding of labour market institutions to kick-start the process of reversing this fragmentation of the employment system.