Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Effects of New Work Practices on Workers

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Effects of New Work Practices on Workers

Article excerpt

The notion that increased worker involvement in workplace decisions improves both the organization's performance and the lives of its employees has been around for some time. More particularly, these "new work practices"--including quality circles, self-directed teams, and the application of total quality management (TQM) principles--have gained prominence in the United States since the recessions of the early 1980s and the concurrent increase in competition from Japan.

Since then, the subject has been studied extensively. Most recently, the editors of Industrial Relations devoted their January 2004 issue to the effects of new work practices on employees. Their introduction surveys the recent literature on worker involvement and its effect on wages. The results vary considerably, but in general, "the effect is a small increase in wages after companies introduce new work systems with higher employee involvement." The January 2004 Industrial Relations also includes nine articles dealing with the effects of various worker-involvement programs on such outcomes as wages, worker satisfaction, and workplace safety and health. Two of the articles are summarized below.

In an article entitled, "How Workers Fare When Employers Innovate," Sandra E. Black and coauthors found "evidence that employers do appear to compensate at least some of their workers for engaging in high-performance workplace practices. …

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