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May 1995, Vol. 118, No. 5
I ncreasing competition, rapidly changing technology, changing work force characteristics, and how to increase productivity are pressing issues for the individual firms and the entire U.S. economic system.
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers have tried to define and evaluate particular workplace practices and systems of practices that can spur productivity growth and competitiveness. The recent emphasis is on initiatives labeled "high-performance practices," "employee involvement," "employee participation," or "flexible work organizations." Generally, these labels refer to situations where firms sharpen the productivity and competitive edge by using the creativity and problem-solving contributions of their employees.
Empirical evidence supporting the claim by proponents of these practices for increased productivity is mixed. Examples of similar approaches in the past can be useful in evaluating these practices today. This article places the current emphasis on "high-performance" workplace practices in a historical context that identifies conditions in the economy that may have prompted recent interest in the high-performance workplaces and puts the history of the adoption of different work practices in a theoretical context.
This excerpt is from an article published in the May 1995 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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