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Not Featherbedding, but Feathering the Nest: Human Resource Management and Investments in Information Technology


  • Adam Seth Litwin

    1. Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD and Employment Policy Research Network
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    • He acknowledges the UK Department of Trade and Industry; the Economic and Social Research Council; the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service; and the Policy Studies Institute as the originators of the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey data, and the Data Archive at the University of Essex as the distributor of the data. The National Centre for Social Research was commissioned to conduct the survey fieldwork on behalf of the sponsors. None of these organizations bears any responsibility for the analysis and interpretations of the data. John Forth, in particular, has been extremely helpful in shedding light on the intricacies of these data. The author would also like to thank Ariel C. Avgar, Alex Bryson, and Jody Hoffer Gittell, as well as seminar participants at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the 2011 annual meeting of the Labor and Employment Relations Association for their constructive feedback.


This study draws on employment relations and management theory, claiming that certain innovative employment practices and work structures pave the way for organizational innovation, namely investments in information technology (IT). It then finds support for the theory in a cross-section of UK workplaces. The findings suggest that firms slow to adopt IT realize that their conventional employment model hinders their ability to make optimal use of new technologies. Therefore, the paper advances the literature beyond studies of unionization's impact on business investment to a broader set of issues on the employment relations features that make organizations ripe for innovation.