What Is Best for Workers? The Implications of Workplace and Human Resource Management Practices Revisited



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       The author’s affiliation is School of Business, University of Manitoba. E-mail: godard@ms.umanitoba.ca. The research for this article received funding support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada) Standard Research Grants Program and from the Interdisciplinary Research Centre on Globalization and Work (CRIMT).


Drawing on a 2003–2004 random household telephone survey of 750 Canadian workers, I explore the implications of work and human resource (HR) practices for six aspects of the quality of working life. I find “traditional” HR practices, associated with the bureaucratic model predominant after World War II and with union representation, to have strong positive implications for workers. Participative workplace practices also have strong positive implications, although these are largely limited to information sharing in the union sector. The actual organization of work (e.g., teams), contingent pay, and “new” HR practices, associated with the “new” HRM of the 1980s, all make little difference. Comparison of these findings with those from a comparable 1998 survey of 508 Canadian workers and a parallel 2003 survey of 450 English workers suggest, however, that the implications of work and HR practices may be historically and institutionally contingent and thus should be interpreted using a historical/institutional perspective.