Work and Technological Change

The paper concludes stating that a sophisticated employee relation is necessary for the efficient running of any firm. It is not feasible to discuss conceptual approaches to flexible working without reference to the work of Atkinson (1984), who developed the concept of "the flexible firm" in the recognition of changes which had taken place in the nature and composition of the workforce at that time. In the model of the "flexible firm" (see Figure overleaf), Atkinson propounded the concept of "core" versus "peripheral" workers. Core workers are a permanent component of a firm’s workforce who deliver functional flexibility through their capacity to undertake a wide range of tasks. In contrast, peripheral workers provide a firm with numerical flexibility, with their numbers increasing or reducing with changing labor market conditions. The flexible firm approach involves a reorganization of a firms’ internal labor markets and their division into separate components, wherein workers’ experiences and employer’s expectations are increasingly differentiated (see Atkinson and Gregory 1986).
Bryson (1999) argues that training/development and the involvement of employees are more likely to be directed at core workers, while ‘peripheral’ workers will be exposed more and more to ‘raw’ market forces. In times of recession, peripheral or non-full-time workers are much more susceptible to lay-offs and redundancies. It is not insignificant that atypical workers, including that job-sharing, working part-time or on short-term contracts, are very clearly located on the periphery of the workforce under this approach.
There is little doubt that the flexible firm model was influential in the development of employment policy in UK private and public sector organizations in recent years (see Lawton and Rose 1994). The extent to which this placement of atypical workers as peripheral workers truly reflects the reality of life in Irish organizations remains to be seen. There is certainly evidence to show that, in the Civil Service, opting for flexible, family-friendly working arrangements, such as job-sharing, is perceived as unlikely to enhance longer-term career prospects (see Humphreys, Drew and Murphy 1999). However, what is clear is that, given the frequent gender differentiation between core and periphery workers, it is absolutely vital from both the equality and ‘family-friendly’ viewpoints that flexible working arrangements move in from the periphery to the core of organizational activity and thinking.
Individualism holds that the individual is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value. This view does not deny that societies exist or that people benefit from living in them, but it sees society as a collection of individuals, not something over and above them.
Collectivism holds that the group—the nation, the community, the proletariat, the race, etc.—is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value. This view does not deny the reality of the individual. But ultimately, collectivism holds&nbsp.that one’s identity is determined by the groups one interacts with, that one’s identity is constituted essentially of relationships with others.&nbsp.