Sub-theme 25: Organizing Work in the Gig Economy: Shifting Responsibilities for LMIs, HRM and Labour Market Institutions

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François Pichault
University of Liège, Belgium
Lars Walter
University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Bas Koene
Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Call for Papers

The context of employment is changing rapidly. The changes in the labour market lead to surprising new ways of organizing work, across boundaries of – and sometimes even ignoring – the traditional organization of work. Whilst not uncontroversial, these new forms of organizing work present unexpected ways of dealing with the issues of productivity, responsibility and collective resilience in the organization of work and Human Resources Management. This sub-theme focuses on the critical assessment of their purposes, limitations and possibilities.
The unprecedented development of information technologies, leading to a growing virtualization of the workplace (Johns & Gratton, 2013) and the global competition on costs and flexibility, in a persistent context of economic and financial crises has led to the development of multiple categories of jobs ranging from self-employment to full-time employment positions (Katz & Krueger, 2016), fragmentation of the work process in specific tasks (Malone et al., 2011) and higher autonomy in the way of doing the job (Fraser & Gold, 2001). Beyond the perpetuation of the standard employment relationship (SER) model in most European countries –with strong variations from one country to another (Schmid, 2015) – an increasing proportion of the workforce operates under conditions in which supervision over the work process is shared with third parties via formulas of co-employment or subcontracting (Havard et al., 2009) or even becomes evanescent (direct contracting) whilst control is more and more focused on the expected output (Cappelli & Keller, 2013).
This growing grey zone of nonstandard work arrangements paves the way for nonstandard job transitions, often associated with precariousness and individualization of career responsibility (Kalleberg, 2009). Indeed, nonstandard career paths not managed by one single company (hierarchical form) could lead to higher job insecurity, discontinuity of income, lack of skills development, restricted access to social security and exclusion from collective bargaining (Davidov, 2004; Havard et al., 2009; Keller & Seifert, 2013; Wears & Fisher, 2012).
More positive job transitions still remain possible, within inter-organisational networks like industrial clusters (Culié et al., 2014), but are highly dependent on institutional solutions to precariousness and inequality (Adams & Deakin, 2014) and individual resources (Fenwick, 2007). Between the ‘hierarchical’ and the ‘market’ forms of career management, more and more creative and surprising initiatives are developed by third party actors (chambers of commerce, regional authorities, unions, quasi-unions, etc.) with the aim to support autonomous workers and make a career through nonstandard job transitions viable. These actors play an intermediary role between individual workers and the end-users of their services, often through online platforms (Stanton & Thomas, 2016).
This sub-theme invites papers that investigate the role of such new Labour Market Intermediaries (LMIs) and the unexpected consequences of their intervention on the HRM function and on the evolution of labour markets. In many cases, for example, the job-matching process is no more under the responsibility of HR managers. Similar evolutions can be observed with career management, skills development, appraisal and/or working time arrangements.
On the basis of previous attempts to characterize the roles and functions of LMIs (Autor, 2008; Bonet et al., 2013; Brulin & Svensson, 2012), we would like to encourage empirical answers to the following questions: where are such LMIs coming from (public/private, users/workers, for profit/non profit, etc.) and with what objectives? What kind of support do they provide to autonomous workers in their job transitions? What kind of evolutions do they favour in the HRM function of user companies? What kind of information do they produce and diffuse on the labour market? To what extent are they stimulating evolutions towards transitional labour markets (Gazier & Gautié, 2011)?
Such questions must be considered in their specific institutional contexts. By, for example, referring to extant literature on labour markets and varieties of capitalism (Hall & Soskice, 2001; Sapir, 2006), contributors are invited to provide conceptual and empirical insight in the various categories of institutional factors (regulatory framework, collective bargaining, political regime, educational system, etc.) likely to shape the emergence and activities of LMIs and, consequently, into their impact on the traditional ways of working of the HR function.
We also invite studies that critically evaluate the kind of support offered to the employability of autonomous workers: what kind of career scripts do they offer (Duberley et al., 2006)? Are they able to maintain collective capabilities and/or to guarantee new forms of collective solidarities (Westerveld, 2012)? To what extent may their initiatives lead to new responsibilities for the HR function (Keegan et al., 2012)?
In a similar vein, we invite studies that scrutinize the relations LMIs develop with traditional unions – that aim to expand in these new segments of the labour market that are traditionally less organized (Benassi & Dorigatti, 2015) – and ‘quasi-unions’– that aim at increasing the voice capacity of workers not represented in traditional unions (Heckscher & Carré, 2006). Should LMIs be considered as quasi-unions? To what extent may interactions between LMIs, unions and quasi-unions transform the classical forms of social dialogue and collective bargaining (Mironi, 2010)?
At the end of the day, could we consider the growing influence of LMIs in supporting nonstandard job transitions leads to better job quality? Empirical contributions are expected on this theme, either with descriptive indicators on job content and work contract (de Bustillo et al., 2009) or with more subjective data on individual perceptions from workers (Burchell et al., 2014).



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  • Autor, D. (2008): “The economics of labor market intermediation: An analytic framework.” IZA Discussion Paper n° 3705.
  • Benassi, C., & Dorigatti, L. (2015): “Straight to the core – Explaining union responses to the casualization of work: the IG Metall campaign for agency workers.” British Journal of Industrial Relations, 53, 533–555.
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  • Brulin, G., & Svensson, L. (2012): Managing Sustainable Development Programmes – A Learning Approach to Change. London: Gower.
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  • Culié, J.-D., Khapova, S., & Arthur, M. (2014): “Careers, clusters and employment mobility: the influences of psychological mobility and organizational support.” Journal of Vocational Behavior, 84 (2), 164–176.
  • Davidov, G. (2004): “Joint employer status in triangular employment relationships.” British Journal of Industrial Relations, 42, 727–746.
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  • Grimshaw, D., Rubery, J., & Marchington, M. (2010): “Managing people across hospital networks in the UK: multiple employers and the shaping of HRM.” Human Resource Management Journal, 20, 407–423.
  • Hall, P.A., & Soskice, D. (eds.) (2001): Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
  • Havard, C., Rorive, B., & Sobczak, A. (2009): “Client, employer and employee: Mapping a complex triangulation.” European Journal of Industrial Relations, 15 (3), 257–76.
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  • Kalleberg, A.L. (2009): “Precarious work, insecure workers: Employment relations in transition.” American Sociological Review, 74 (1), 1–22.
  • Katz, L.F., & Krueger, A.B. (2016): The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States, 19952015. Washington, D.C.: National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Keegan, A., Huemann, M., & Turner, J.R. (2012): “Beyond the line: exploring the HRM responsibilities of line managers, project managers and the HRM department in four project- oriented companies in the Netherlands, Austria, the UK and the USA.” The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23 (15), 3085–3104.
  • Keller, B., & Seifert, H. (2013): “Atypical employment in Germany. Forms, development, patterns.” Transfer European Review of Labour and Research, 19 (4), 457–474.
  • Malone, T.W., Laubacher, R. & Johns, T. (2011): “The big idea: The age of hyper-specialization.” Harvard Business Review, 89, 56–65.
  • Mironi, M. (2010): “Reframing the representation debate: Going beyond union and non-union options.” ILR Review, 63 (3), 367–383.
  • Sapir, A. (2006). "Globalization and the reform of European social models". Journal of Common Market Studies, 44 (2), 369–390.
  • Schmid, G. (2015): “Sharing risks of labour market transitions: Towards a system of employment insurance.” British Journal of Industrial Relations, 53(1), 70–93.
  • Stanton, C., & Thomas, C. (2016): “Landing the first job: the value of intermediaries in online hiring.” Review of Economic Studies, 83 (2), 810–854.
  • Wears, K.H., & Fisher, S.L. (2012): “Who is an employer in the triangular employment relationship? Sorting through the definitional confusion.” Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 24, 159–176.
  • Westerveld, M. (2012): “The new ‘self-employed’: An issue for social policy?” Journal of Social Security, 14 (3), 156–173.


François Pichault is Full Professor in HRM and organizational change at HEC Liège, University of Liège, and affiliated Professor at ESCP-Europe, Paris, France. He is Director of LENTIC, a research center focused on organizational change and the future of work. He has coordinated numerous researches on nonstandard work arrangements and flexicurity issues. He has published in journals such as ‘Organizations Studies’, ‘Applied Psychology – an International Review’, ‘Human Resources Management Journal’, and ‘European Management Journal’. He is currently engaged, with Bas Koene, in a EU research project on autonomous workers and industrial relations.
Lars Walter is Associate Professor at the School of Business, Economics and Law at University of Gothenburg, Sweden. His general research interest lies in the organizational aspects of labour markets and the relation between labour market issues and work organization. Lars has authored and co-authored several books and book chapters within the area of the organization of labour markets and labour market intermediaries.
Bas Koene is Assistant Professor at Erasmus University, Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), The Netherlands, and Director of the RSM Case Development Centre. His research interests lie in the area of human agency in processes of institutional change and the evolving organization of work and management of employment. He has published in journals such as ‘Leadership Quarterly’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Human Resource Management Journal’, ‘Journal of Organizational Change Management’ and ‘Human Relations’. He has previously convened sub-themes at the EGOS Colloquia in 2006, 2007 and 2011.
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