The books on organisational flexibility

This chapter reviews the books on organisational flexibility, the different types that prevails, and the several forms commonly seen in different organisations. The various forms of flexibility are talked about in section 2. 2. 3 using the classification provided by Looise et al (1998) Major studies examined, particularly the work of Atkinson (1984) centered on the fact that there are 2 main sets of workers within a company: the key group and the peripheral group. The theory of the flexible firm made by Atkinson reaches the centre of this literature review. It really is mentioned in section 2. 2. 4 followed by some empirical proof the use of versatility in section 2. 3

2. 2Theory

An overview of the several types and known types of flexibility found in organisations is discussed in this section. After that, an illustration of Atkinson style of the flexible company is also provided in section 2. 2. 4

2. 2. 1 Explanation of flexibility

As identified by Looise et al, 1998 and Blyton and Morris, 1989, flexibility is the ability to change under fluctuating and uncertain circumstances. The idea of the 'adaptable company' itself was originated by Atkinson in 1984 where he argues that there is a growing craze for firms to get various varieties of structural and functional flexibility. Searches he made at that time demonstrate that adaptable working provides an stretchy and less rigid way within most functions within an organization, by using strategies such as flexitime working, adaptable labour rotations, multi-tasking, development overall flexibility and delivery overall flexibility. Flexibility strategies can also improve a company's competitive position on the basis that the meaning of overall flexibility is the capability to react to changing market circumstances effectively.

2. 2. 2 Types of flexibility

According to Atkinson (1984), there are three main types of flexibility areas and they're the following




Functional flexibility

It is the ability of managers to increase the number of tasks a worker is capable of doing. With functional flexibility, employees are reported to be multi-tasking or multi-skilled. They could perform different tasks and functions within the same company as required by the management. It requires a proper trained workforce with in-depth understanding of the different areas of the company, its processes, and its own prevailing culture. This practice is said to benefit both employees in conditions of job improvement and the business which avails a multi-skilled labor force at its disposition and prepared to face rapid changes. A good example in the hotel sector, a receptionist can check in/out guests in the morning and also cleans guests' rooms as a chambermaid following the morning dash. This shows the degree to which companies are given greater flexibility to act quickly and effortlessly as a means of reacting to the condition of staff lack. Matching to Atkinson (1985), functional overall flexibility may imply the same labour pressure changing its activities within the business in both short term and medium term.

Numerical flexibility

Numerical flexibility can be defined as the ability of organizations to increase or lower employment quickly consistent with fluctuations in business demand, and to improve competitiveness of firms through implementing this flexible insurance policy (Atkinson1984; Looise et al 1998; Ruiz-Mercarder et al 2001). With numerical versatility, companies can certainly increase or decrease its total number of workers for a while to accurately achieve a precise coincidence between your needed workforce and this effectively employed. It really is normally achieved by using different kinds of contracts and variations in the circulation of working time. When organizations use numerical overall flexibility policies, they have a tendency to predict certain requirements for recruiting and then adjust their human learning resource supply accordingly. Because of this type of coverage to become more effective and to be able to achieve increased success in managing demand and supply, organizations must imperatively have the ability to use work and deployment. For instance, generally in most hotels nowadays, the accounting and funding department tries to predict the number of traveler arrivals during different intervals by using budgeting systems and then complete it on to the Human Resources division which chooses whether there is a need to hire more employees on contract to be able to meet up with the budgeted demand.

Financial flexibility

It is thought as the policy of adjusting career costs good demand for labour in the organization, and reflecting the supply of labour in the exterior labour market. It is therefore clear that financial overall flexibility and numerical versatility are directly associated which implies that certain types of numerical flexibility inevitably lead to higher financial flexibility for the employer. More specifically, in terms of setting income levels, financial versatility means moving from uniform and standardized pay set ups towards individualized pay systems. Financial overall flexibility usually involves a sort of performance based component of pay or simply based on merits.

2. 2. 3 Sources of labour

Between these three broad types of flexibility, that is functional, numerical and financial, Looise et al (1998) further classify flexibility strategies into a two-by-two matrix based on two considerations, the source of the personnel (this is the acquisition of man electric power internally and externally) and the participation of different skills (that is the requirement for staff to obtain one specific skill only or have the ability to work more than two positions). This two-by-two matrix is illustrated below.

Table I Labour versatility matrix




Agency staff


Variable working time

Short-term contracts


Flexible contracts

Shift working

Exchange of labour

Labour pool


Job Rotation





Source: Looise et al (1998)

2. 2. 3. 1 Internal quantitative source of labour:

Internal quantitative way to obtain labour suggests numerical flexibility. It represents the several ways a firm can buy a numerical upsurge in its labour make by looking within the company itself.

(a) Overtime

From Table I overtime is reported to be an internal quantitative way to obtain personnel. Overtime is the word used to describe work undertaken on top of an employee's normal contracted time. Employees are usually paid at an enhanced rate because of their overtime (usually one. 5 time the normal hourly rate or even double time). Overtime is usually done voluntarily by employees as it sometimes appears as a way of supplementing their basic wage. However, in some circumstances, it is compulsory. For many workers, particularly in white collar careers and especially amidst professionals and managerial marks, there is no additional overtime payment, even working after normal contracted working hours.

(b) Varying working time

It identifies a situation where the employee is absolve to choose his / her working time. Usually, employers accept to make employees choose between varying working time so long as they attain a certain quota in their work as targeted by the management.

(c) Part-time

It denotes careers where the volume of hours is less than the typical working week. However, there's a problem when discussing part-time jobs. There is absolutely no general agreement on what constitutes a standard working week, although there are sometimes industry or establishment norms. It means that the word part-time can be used to denote someone working a three hour week as well as someone working thirty hours a week.

(d) Shift working

Shift working is another internal source of quantifying labour. It allows establishments to work constantly by deploying a large labor force across three sections in the working day: early shift, late change and night transfer. In most cases, employees will rotate across these shifts from week to week.

2. 2. 3. 2 Internal qualitative way to obtain labour

Internal qualitative way to obtain labour is more likely to be associated with functional flexibility. It encloses the various ways a firm can get working within the business itself to do different duties.

(a) Job Rotation

Job rotation means that employees within a particular work area be capable of perform a number of tasks and will move from one to some other at various times within the working day or the working week. This means that employees need to be fully flexible and able to perform different jobs when necessary during the morning.

(b) Multi-tasking and multi-functioning

Multi-tasking or multi-functioning means that a worker can do other jobs apart from those designated to him. For example, in the hotel sector, a person can are barman and put together cocktails and also work as cook in the kitchen.

2. 2. 3. 3 Exterior quantitative source of labour

External quantitative way to obtain labour refers to the several ways a company can become numerically versatile and get a rise in labour pressure by looking for staff outside the organization.

(a) Organization staff

Staffing businesses co-ordinate and build relationships corporations, organizations and other clients, size up their human resources needs and match their staff needs corresponding to specific requirement. Therefore that agency staffs are those folks who are subscribed to a staffing agency which make an effort to place them in certain specific jobs corresponding to their certification. For example, in case a hotel is looking for a cook with 24 months experience, it could contact the staffing organization which will try looking in its data bottom part system for a make with the experience necessary.

(b) Short-term contracts

Short-term contract careers are jobs that contain a particular end date. The space of the contract is specified in the contract itself. Short-term or contract jobs could go on for one month, three months or even a year, with regards to the nature of the job. Some people choose short-term careers because they don't really want to feel just like they will be stuck in the same job for a long period.

(c) Flexible contracts

Flexible contract is another quantitative source of labour. It implies employing folks through company staffs, utilizing freelance staff or casual employees or even outsourcing the task to specific firms in the particular field of work required. A good example in the hotel sector, instead of employing someone once and for all to do gardening or cleaning, there's a gardening agency that provides staff for a certain time period. These personnel would be paid directly by the hotel itself but will leave when the work is over.

(d) Exchange of labour

Exchange of labour is something where a business does not need to any recruitment and selection to obtain the necessary labour. Instead it appears within others most of the time within the same band of companies and take the best prospect regarding to requirements. In the hotel sector for example, let's say La Pirogue Hotel desire a chef cook. Instead of recruiting one, the hotel will attempt to find one within the other hotels in the group, i. e. the Sun Resorts Ltd.

(e) Labour pool

Labour pool refers to a source of trained folks from which labour can be employed. It is another external quantitative source of labour where companies will get trained people required for a particular job. The University Of Mauritius is a labour pool. When, for example, a money company needs ten folks to work in a specific department, they could come to the University of Mauritius and choose the ten best fund students that meets their requirements.

2. 2. 3. 4 Exterior qualitative way to obtain labour

It implies efficient flexibility nevertheless the source of labour this time around is outside the firm.


Professional detachment is about doing a task when you do not like it very professionally. If a person is affected by the way the customers have a discussion and that affects the way they're performing, then the second option are not professional in his work. Professionalism and reliability is manifested when someone perform the work when he will not like it whatsoever. Professional detachment paves just how for achieving superiority and preventing a great deal of unnecessary head aches that one are certain to get from personal engagement.

(b) Consultancy

Consultancy is an arrangement where a specialist firm markets its services to other companies. For example, KPMG offer advice about things like taxation or investment or management to other companies. Consultancy is therefore an external qualitative way to obtain labour as the consulting firm will send employees to the other company and provide advice which might benefit the business in conditions of better quality work.

2. 2. 4 John Atkinson style of the versatile firm

In the 1980s, debates around flexibility were centered on the style of the flexible organization proposed by Atkinson (1985). The most distinctive feature of Atkinson's model was the suggestion that firms began dividing their labor force into CORE and PERIPHERY staff. The model is illustrated in the physique below.

Figure 1: The flexible firm

Source: Atkinson (1985)

The primary group

According to Atkinson, the most crucial part for a versatile organization is its core group. Core staff are regular, i. e. everlasting employees who advantage of job security and high cash flow. In exchange, they perform different duties and work as flexible personnel across different traditional skills limitations. They are simply functionally flexible. The organization invests in these staff in terms of training and they develop new skills which make it possible for them to perform different tasks. Typical participants of the core group include managerial and professional staffs and multi-skilled workers.

The first peripheral group

Outside the main group there is a great variety of peripheral personnel. However, the first peripheral group is composed of full-time workers. As compared to the main group, these employees enjoy less job security and inferior career prospects. They may be chosen to do specific jobs usually of semi-skilled dynamics. Because staff within the first peripheral group are easily recruited and easily fired, firms may differ their number relating to different degrees of activity and hence become numerically versatile. Inside the hotel sector, a typical example is actually a waiter or waitress. When there is certainly too much work, more waiters are recruited so when the strain of work falls, again some are fired.

The second peripheral group

The second peripheral group is made of part-timers, people on job show, and a number of temporary employees such as workers from agency staffs, people on short term contracts and also those on federal schemes. These personnel perform the same type of jobs as the first peripheral group and also supply the firm numerical overall flexibility depending on fluctuating activities and hence allow to handle uncertain growth. The only difference between these two groups is that the next peripheral group is made of part time staff whereas in the first peripheral group, workers are on a full time basis.

Outside the firm

(Self-employment/ sub-contracting/ increased outsourcing/ company temporaries)

There is a number of external workers outside the firm who perform either regular duties such as cleaning and security or very specific ones. For instance many firms employ external workers to do cleaning jobs or ensure the security. There's also sub contracts, agency staffs and home-workers. Home personnel may be those working in areas of processing or networking and who could work also through long distances. With these external workers, firms have the ability to deal with predictable changes in their activities and therefore become financially versatile somewhat than numerically flexible as they allow the organization to limit financial commitment.

2. 3 Empirical evidence

In this section, different studies regarding flexibility are illustrated. Some characters are provided to demonstrate the use of different forms of versatility in organisations.

The proof for flexibility

When Atkinson make the study, be based mostly his model on facts from circumstance studies and surveys including the NEDC (1985) review of 72 organizations in the food and drink, anatomist, retail and financial services market sectors. The NEDC, Country wide Education Data Middle, is a U. S company responsible for providing policy-relevant research and reports produced from education data and indicators. It had been created in the 1980s by combining office buildings from several federal agencies. The research and circumstance studies identified widespread boosts in numerical overall flexibility in the early 1980s.

Surveys also included the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service review the ACAS (1988). The last mentioned demonstrated that there is also hook increase in various types of numerical flexibility. For instance, it argues that sub-contracting was the most typical and has increased in the manufacturing sector, in much larger organisations and in elements of the general public sector, such as health and civil service whereas job showing was on a growing trend in industries such as banking where there are problems of controlling staffing and workload.

Studies made provide the evidence that the number of versatile employees increased. They were split into two particular teams: part-time employees and one-man shop. In 1981 there have been over 4 million people working part-time and in 1993, the number of part-time personnel has nearly come to 6 million. The studies illustrate that the increase in part-time workers happened at the expense of full-time personnel. In 1993 when the number of part-timers increased by 227, 820 to a complete of 5, 998, 112, full-time jobs declined by 275, 464 to a total of 14, 889, 977. Over the period 1981-1993, the amount of part-timers rose by 1. 25 million while full-time jobs dropped by 0. 5 million.

The proportion self employed in the U. K labor force also increased greatly throughout the 1980s quicker than the upsurge in part-time employees. Inside the 1990s there were almost 3. 4 million self-employed, approximately 1/8 of the total workforce.

Hunter and MacInnes (1991) study

Hunter and MacInnes made a study in 1991 on a survey completed by the Employers Labour Use Strategies (ELUS). The results steadily focused on workplaces having the most marked trend to hire peripheral individuals. ELUS frequented 877 workplaces which made use of peripheral workers of various varieties. Hunter and MacInnes then got a sub-sample of 39 of these establishments. They determined three groups of workers

First there is a couple of skilled pros and specialized occupations comprising large numbers of freelance, organization staffs and self-employed workers.

Second there was several manual and non manual employees who had been seen by their employers as having a minimal level skill or as easily transferable. Very little learning and training were necessary to do their careers. Some were on a short-term or a part-time basis

Finally, there is an inferior group between your two others which covered both skilled and unskilled careers that were based mostly for some reason on limited contracts.

The conclusion created by Hunter and MacInnes was that employees have began increasing their use of non-standard agreements which demonstrate the progression of different varieties of flexibility in organisations.

2. 4 Conclusion

Researches on adaptable work are relatively well established with least because the work of Atkinson (1984) there has been much focus on the concept of flexibility in organisations. Versatility is seen as a means to boost a businesses' competitiveness by minimizing labour costs. The 2 2 most significant types of flexibility that'll be considered within all of those other job are numerical overall flexibility and functional versatility. These two ideas are very important as numerical flexibility tries to help make the firm in a position to cope with raises in work by changing the amount of labour quickly in response to changes in the market and on the other side, functional flexibility make it possible for employees to transport on different tasks and hence minimizing company labour costs. Evidences in Europe proved that many companies are more flexible because the 1990s and are in reality looking for increasingly more improved ways to be adaptable and effective both in conditions of costs and efficiency.

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