Information Technology, Business Strategy and the Reassignment of Work from In-House Employees to Agency Temps
Litwin, Adam Seth, and Sherry M. Tanious. “Information Technology, Business Strategy and the Reassignment of Work from In-House Employees to Agency Temps.” British Journal of Industrial Relations, Forthcoming
36 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2021
Date Written: December 2020
Though we now understand how information technology (IT) influences work, we know much less about how it reshapes the actual relationship between workers and their employers. That is, to what extent do employers deploy new technologies towards the erosion of traditional employment relationships? This study relies on a cross-section of British workplaces to provide statistical evidence that IT actually facilitates managers’ reassignment of work once done by in-house employees to those working instead for a staffing agency, an effect that trebles in magnitude where managers have simultaneously cut employment. Furthermore, IT differentially serves opposing business strategies. Whereas employers electing to compete on price rather than quality are more likely to reassign work, managers enacting quality-centred strategies are more likely to rely on IT to avert work reassignment. The findings demonstrate that new technologies may facilitate this form of externalisation, but they do not unilaterally drive it. The estimates also illuminate IT’s indirect impact on workers via managers’ use of it as a tool for restructuring employment.
Keywords: technological change, information technology (IT), information and communications technologies (ICTs), business strategy, human resource (HR) strategy, temporary help services (THS), alternative work arrangement, employment relations, industrial relations
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