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Reorganization of Workplace

Job Quality and Economic Opportunity in the Service Sector

As part of its focus on work reform, IEE conducted an important three-year research project funded by the William T. Grant Foundation. The project examined how restructuring by firms in the service sector is affecting job quality and the advancement opportunities for young workers.

Americans have witnessed striking changes in their workplaces during the last three decades. New technology and the globalization of markets have resulted in transformed jobs, skills, and work schedules. Employers and employees are both working under new rules that are only now being established, and this turbulence has had its costs. As we move into the next century, it is important that we develop an employment policy that is built around the emerging post-industrial economy. Yet although most Americans work in the service sector, there is surprisingly little research which comments on trends in job quality and economic opportunity in service industries. The research project attempted to answer the following questions:

  • How will the service sector be able to absorb workers without a college education and provide them with good jobs, ones that allow for upward mobility into the middle class?
  • What types of service companies are taking the "high road," combining high productivity with quality employment, and can such models be adopted by other companies?
  • Can training programs and school-to-work partnerships strengthen the skills and opportunities of young workers, especially those from the inner city?

The project consisted of detailed case studies of firms in a variety of service industries. Our goal was to understand the ways in which these businesses and their employees are responding to an increasingly competitive market and to rapid technological changes. At several major national companies, we interviewed human resource personnel, managers, and front-line employees, and gathering background information on broader industry-wide changes. Taken as a group, the case studies allowed us to chronicle a wide range of production and workplace reforms, and their consequences in terms of productivity, training, skill acquisition, and wages.

Publications

It's Not Just the ATMs: Technology, Firm Strategies, Jobs, and Earning in Retail Banking
Larry W. Hunter, Annette Bernhardt, Katherine L. Hughes & Eva Skuratowicz – Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 54(2A)

Supermarket Employment: Good Jobs at Good Wages? (IEE Working Paper 11)
Katherine L. Hughes – April 1999
Abstract | Download PDF

The Future of Low-Wage Jobs: Case Studies in the Retail Industry (IEE Working Paper 10)
Annette Bernhardt – March 1999
Abstract | Download PDF

Market Segmentation and the Restructuring of Banking Jobs (IEE Working Paper 9)
Katherine L. Hughes & Annette Bernhardt January 1999
Abstract | Download PDF

Making Careers Out of Jobs: Policies to Address the New Employment Relationship
Annette Bernhardt & Thomas Bailey – 1998
IEE Brief Report | Download from ERIC

What Technology Can and Cannot Do
Annette Bernhardt & Doug Slater – 1998
Proceedings of the Fiftieth Annual Meeting of Industrial Relations Research Association, Chicago, IL

In Search of the High Road in a Low-Wage Service Industry
Thomas Bailey & Annette Bernhardt – Politics and Society, 25(2)
Abstract

The Reorganization of the Workplace in Service Industries: Effects on Job Quality and Organizational Performance
Thomas Bailey & Annette Bernhardt – National Center for the Workplace, University of California, 1996

Are American Firms Creating a More Segmented Labor Market? Issues and Preliminary Evidence (IEE Working Paper 1)
Annette Bernhardt – 1995
Download PDF

Contact

Katherine Hughes
hughes@tc.edu


Technology and the Transformation of Employment in Banking

IEE completed a qualitative research project that examined how firm restructuring has affected the nature of work and career mobility in the retail banking industry. The research consisted of an in-depth case study of a major North American retail bank, coupled with background data on trends in the banking industry. We asked several questions: How has the bank reorganized retail banking over the past two decades, and why? What role has technology played? And what have been the effects on skill requirements and job quality within the branch system, especially for tellers? Our findings are that reengineering at this bank has had important effects on the staffing, task content, and quality of jobs at the branch level. In simple terms, a market segmentation approach by the bank has led to a corresponding segmentation of work into high quality and low quality jobs.

This research was presented at the annual meetings of the Industrial Relations Research Association, January 2, 1998 in Chicago. Dr. Annette Bernhardt, former Senior Research Associate at the Institute, helped to organize a session with a focus on firm restructuring in the service sector, one of the first ever sessions on this emerging field of inquiry. The session was titled The Impact of Restructuring on the Labor Market: Evidence from Firm-Level Studies in the Service Sector.

Publications

It's Not Just the ATMs: Technology, Firm Strategies, Jobs, and Earning in Retail Banking
Larry W. Hunter, Annette Bernhardt, Katherine L. Hughes & Eva Skuratowicz – Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 54(2A)

What Technology Can and Cannot Do
Annette Bernhardt & Doug Slater – 1998
Proceedings of the Fiftieth Annual Meeting of Industrial Relations Research Association, Chicago, IL

Market Segmentation and the Restructuring of Banking Jobs
Katherine L. Hughes & Annette Bernhardt – February 1999
Download PDF | Brief Version

Contact

Katherine Hughes
hughes@tc.edu


New Employment Policies for the Emerging Post-Industrial Labor Market

In conjunction with the William T. Grant Foundation, IEE convened a group of academics and representatives from business, labor, government and foundations to discuss the need for new labor market policies in the emerging economy.

The workshop, held in 1997 in New York City, focused on identifying programs and proposals that go beyond education and training and address demand-side issues of job quality and career opportunity. The workshop started with an overview of the problems surrounding work in the new economy. Participants then discussed in detail the various labor market solutions that have been proposed or are currently being implemented. The initiatives that were considered form a diverse group, and include union-run programs, industry trade group and multi-employer alliances, worker-owned businesses and organizations, job-matching agencies, and public-sector interventions and regulations. The discussion focused on the problems and barriers encountered in implementing the initiatives, as well as the legal and legislative reforms that are required, if such initiatives are ultimately to succeed. IEE has produced a report that examines the issues raised at the workshop and also highlights several of the program discussed (see publications below).

Publications

Making Careers Out of Jobs: Policies to Address the New Employment Relationship
Annette Bernhardt & Thomas Bailey – 1998
IEE Brief | Download from ERIC

Contact

Thomas Bailey
tbailey@tc.edu

 


 

Institute on Education and the Economy, Teachers College, Columbia University
525 West 120th Street, Box 174, New York, NY 10027
Phone: (212) 678-3091 | Fax: (212) 678-3699 | iee@columbia.edu