While the students in my personnel economics course were taking their exam recently, I was browsing my twitter timeline. In close succession, two tweets jumped out because of their direct relevance to this course. The subject of each tweet was a failed HR policy, but after only a half-semester of personnel economics, every student in my course should have been able to easily predict the risks of these HR policies based on a basic understanding of the economics behind human behavior. These are two more examples, then, of the importance of equipping HR professionals with an understanding of economics principles.
What is work? Why do we work? How is work valued? These questions are fundamental to any human society. Without a written record, we cannot know with certainty how the earliest humans thought about work, but the importance of sharing food and other resources means that prehistoric work embodied at least an element of serving a community's needs rather than just the needs of an individual and his or her immediate family.
Last month I had the pleasure of attending and presenting my work at two stimulating conferences. Interestingly, a prominent speaker at each conference echoed a similar theme--that is, scholars of work and those interested in the well-being of workers and their families need to pay attention not only to rise of job insecurity, but also to the interplay with the rise of family insecurity.
Almost a year ago I blogged about my participation in a University of Minnesota conference on "Creating Public Value in a Multi-Sector, Shared-Power World" ("Implicit Public Values and the Creation of Public Value: The Importance of Work and the Contested Role of Labor Unions"). My conference paper has been going through the review process for a special issue of Public Administration Review. The referees all pushed me to take a stronger stand. Here is my new conclusion.
Last week I had the pleasure of giving a keynote address at a program on "Strengthening Democracy at Work: The Promise of Employee Voice" organized by Andrew Timming and sponsored by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute. The theme of my talk was "The (Potential) Benefits of Employee Voice." To adequately assess the benefits of voice, it is important to avoid the common trap of narrowly defining voice simply as a complaint mechanism. Rather, employee voice should be seen more broadly as expressing opinions and having meaningful input into work-related decision-making.