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1 - What Works at Work: Overview and Assessment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 February 2010

Casey Ichniowski
Affiliation:
Columbia University, New York
David I. Levine
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
Craig Olson
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, Madison
George Strauss
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
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Summary

The past two decades have witnessed considerable experimentation and research on new work practices and human resource policies. Why have businesses adopted them? What has been their effect on performance?

This study has two primary goals. The first is to review features of the research methods employed in studies on workplace innovations. This review of methodological issues serves as a framework for evaluating existing studies and to encourage new research on workplace innovations to incorporate the most persuasive research designs possible. The second goal is to review the findings from a broad set of studies that employ different research designs. Because different research designs have their own particular strengths and limitations, we highlight those results that emerge consistently from different studies. Much more than a typical volume introduction, this chapter presents a critical review of the strengths, weaknesses, and results of research on what works at work.

The Nature of Workplace Innovations

The term “innovative work practices” has no settled meaning. For many scholars and practitioners it refers to employee involvement efforts such as work teams (e.g., Katz, Kochan, and Gobeille, 1983). For others, it means employee participation in the financial well-being of a company such as profit-sharing, employee stock ownership, or pay-forperformance. Still others have in mind flexible and broadly defined job assignments, employment security policies, or improved communication and dispute resolution mechanisms. Often, managers and workers refer to a special workplace “culture” that is not easily captured by the measurement of a single work practice.

Type
Chapter
Information
The American Workplace
Skills, Pay, and Employment Involvement
, pp. 1 - 37
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2000

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