Sub-theme 46: Organizing Work and Labour Markets

Bas Koene
Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Stephanie Anne Tailby
University of the West of England, UK
Lars Walter
University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Call for Papers

The future of twentieth century modes of organizing employment has been the subject of debate for the best part of three decades. Most recently, growing specialization of the workforce and market dynamics have increased interest in 'non-standard employment', most importantly in the form of temporary employment and contract labour (e.g. Ashford, George & Blatt, 2007). Furthermore, organizations more and more embrace hollow, modular and virtual organizational forms, outsourcing key components of their activities (Anand & Daft, 2007). While dealing with the inertial side-effects of traditional employment, these new developments do pose a new set of challenges for the organization of work as well as for the organization of labour markets.

They require the creative reassembling of labour market possibilities, regulations and organizational support structures to create new ways of organizing and managing work, including novel roles for production organizations, employment intermediaries and employees (organized in unions, professions, occupational associations); and new conceptualizations of sustainable work communities that support individuals and provide an inclusive environment supporting work security in the absence of job security for individuals.

This reassembling of work and labour markets provides interesting questions for organization scholars. For example: on a societal level it raises new questions regarding the organization and regulation of labour markets and the role of labour market intermediaries. At organizational level, the increasing and structural reliance on a more fluid and fragmented work force requires rethinking of organizational practices, control, sustainability, and even raises new questions of what an organization is. Organizations move beyond simple core-periphery models (Atkinson, 1984) to re-evaluate their labour sourcing strategies (e.g. Lepak & Snell, 1999) and have to make important choices regarding the operational management of their differentiated workforce (Koene & van Riemsdijk, 2005). For individual employees it creates opportunities for growth and development, but also poses new problems of security and support as the traditional organizational work community is weakened.

At the same time, the idea that affluent economies have entered a new age of employment possibility and insecurity has not gone unchallenged. Some researchers argue that there is no support for changes in long-term employment (job tenure) or a heightened sense of job insecurity and that these may have been more 'manufactured' than reflective of a breakdown in labour market institutions (Doogan, 2005; Fevre; 2007) or that developments rather highlight enduring inequalities: temporary work’s uneven distribution, by gender or ethnicity, in labour markets where it is concentrated (Conley, 2008).

This EGOS sub-theme welcomes papers that engage critically and constructively with the debates on change and continuity in the organization of employment, that contribute theoretically grounded empirical evidence to address specific issues within them or that combine theory and evidence to carve out new positions. The sub-theme aims to attract contributions from across the range of disciplines interested in work, employment and organization and those that are multidisciplinary in their perspective. Research methodologies will span the range – from large scale survey analysis, through organizational case studies to worker or workplace ethnographies – as appropriate to the issues and levels of analysis addressed. Possible topics for contributions include but are not restricted to:

  • Organizational and HR consequences of labour market trends: e.g. incidence of long term employment, self employment and temporary work post-recession
  • Public policy development and impact, i.e. management and organization of 'flexicurity' in theory and practice
  • Organizations' recourse to outsourcing and innovation in the use and management of temporary and agency workers: longitudinal and comparative studies
  • How (and/or to what extent) do non-traditional elements of organizing affect work, employment and the organization of labour markets?
  • The evolving role and possibilities of labour market intermediaries: outsourced employment, the diversification of temporary work agency services, not-for-profit staffing agencies, new roles devolved to / from public employment services.
  • Strategies for organising, representing and servicing the transient workforce (trade unions, occupational associations, etc).
  • Worker evaluations: the components of job in/security, experiences of forms of temporary work, impact on job and work attitudes, preferred forms and sources of job search support, etc.
  • Organization of community and inclusiveness when traditional stable work communities are weakening. How support individuals that need structure and guidance to survive in the workplace?


Anand, L. & R.L. Daft (2007): "What's the right Organization design?" Organizational Dynamics, 36 (4), 329–344.
Ashford, S.J., E. George & R. Blatt, R. (2007): "Old assumptions about new work: the opportunities and challenges of research on non-standard employment." In: J.P. Walsh & A.P. Brief (eds.): Academy of Management Anals, Vol. 1.
Atkinson, J. (1984): "Manpower strategies for flexible organizations." Personnel Management, August 28–31.
Conley, H. (2008): "The nightmare of temporary work: a comment on Fevre." Work, Employment & Society, 22 (4), 731-736.
Doogan, K. (2005): "Long-Term Employment and Restructuring of the Labour Market in Europe." Time and Society, 14 (1), 65-87.
Fevre, R. (2007): "Employment insecurity and social theory: the power of nightmares." Work, Employment & Society, 21 (3), 517-535.
Koene, B. & M. van Riemsdijk (2005): "Managing temporary workers: work, identity, diversity and operational HR choices." Human Resource Management Journal, 15 (1), 76-92.
Lepak, D.P. & S.A. Snell (1999): "The Human Resource Architecture: towards a theory of human capital allocation and development." Academy of Management Review, 24 (1), 31-48.


Bas Koene 
Stephanie Anne Tailby 
Lars Walter