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Workplace innovation literature review: a converging or diverging research field? A preparatory study for a research agenda (TNO Report R12732)

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The scientific and non-scientific literature of workplace innovation is reviewed and categorised against the type of research and the level of analysis. A description is provided how the term workplace innovation is interpreted by authors who apply the term. For the distinguished categories of workplace innovation research the prominent representative examples will be described, i.e. research that contributed to the understanding and dissemination of workplace innovation research. While there is much variety in definitions, approaches and applications, models and tool, measurement and operationalisation, the common ground is that workplace innovation is concerned with the ‘advancement of work’ and more of less contributes to a ‘good jobs strategy’. With this in mind the report outlines four social scientific research streams with ‘work’ as a central theme, that are possibly connected to advanced work and good jobs, namely sociology and organisation research, safety science and organisation research, economic strategy and human resources research, and psychology and behavioural research. It is concluded that convergence seems hard from a scientific point of view, but looks desirable from a practical standpoint. After all, nobody is against a high quality of work.
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Workplace innovation literature
review: a converging or
diverging research field?
A preparatory study for a research agenda
December 2021
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Workplace innovation literature
review: a converging or diverging
research field?
A preparatory study for a research agenda
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Steven Dhondt
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Report TNO 2021 R12732 | 060.51698
© 2021 TNO
Table of contents
Summary .................................................................................................................................................. 1
1 Introduction ............................................................................................................................... 2
2 The essential element of workplace innovation is to advance work ......................................... 3
3 The categorisations of workplace innovation............................................................................ 5
4 A historical approach to understanding the concepts and connecting them to streams ........ 25
5 Diverging or converging concepts? Discussion and avenues for future endeavours ............ 33
General references ................................................................................................................................ 38
Annex 1: Workplace innovation references ........................................................................................... 42
Annex 2: Work design references as an example of WPI ..................................................................... 55
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Summary
The scientific and non-scientific literature of workplace innovation is reviewed and categorised
against the type of research and the level of analysis. A description is provided how the term
workplace innovation is interpreted by authors who apply the term. For the distinguished
categories of workplace innovation research the prominent representative examples will be
described, i.e. research that contributed to the understanding and dissemination of workplace
innovation research. While there is much variety in definitions, approaches and applications,
models and tool, measurement and operationalisation, the common ground is that workplace
innovation is concerned with the ‘advancement of work’ and more of less contributes to a ‘good
jobs strategy’. With this in mind the report outlines four social scientific research streams with
‘work’ as a central theme, that are possibly connected to advanced work and good jobs,
namely sociology and organisation research, safety science and organisation research,
economic strategy and human resources research, and psychology and behavioural research.
It is concluded that convergence seems hard from a scientific point of view, but looks desirable
from a practical standpoint. After all, nobody is against a high quality of work.
Keywords: literature review, workplace innovation, categorisation, divergence, convergence.
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1 Introduction
This report provides the most extensive review of the workplace innovation literature to date.
In the past years three internationally edited books saw the light of day (Dworschak et al, 2021;
McMurray et al., 2021; Oeij et al., 2017), the dedicated European Journal of Workplace
Innovation was initiated, and five special issues of journals (Howaldt & Oeij, 2016; Oeij, Rus,
Dhondt & Van Hootegem, 2019; Rus, Carter & Roth, 2017, 2019; Totterdill & Exton, 2014a),
and many articles were published. This review searched for all publications that use the term
workplace innovation.
We contend that workplace innovation is connected to the ‘advancement’ of jobs, people in
jobs, organisations, the performance of organisations, and support renewal and innovation.
Either directly or indirectly workplace innovation can be connected to ‘high road strategies’
and ‘good jobs strategies’. Both strategies combine ‘advancing’ the quality of work with either
better economic performance, more innovation and/or more inclusiveness, and a fairer
distribution of a company’s revenues.
Based on a categorisation of workplace innovation publications we want to clarify the growing
field in terms of types of research and levels of analysis. The purpose is to clarify different
levels individual, organisational, societal that workplace innovation concepts are
addressing, and whether or not their focus is on fundamental research, evaluation research,
or policy and practice. We shall subsequently give an overview of the research streams that
fed into the different approaches to workplace innovation and show their relationships. These
streams are sociological organisation research, organisation research from safety science,
economical strategy and HR research, and psychological behavioural research of people,
work, and organisations. We want to understand where are this research is leading to. The
main question for this chapter is if in all these developments, we can identify a converging or
rather diverging development in how the topic of workplace innovation is dealt with. In our
concluding discussion of these developments, we try to assess whether this
divergence/convergence is positive or not, and deduct from it what kind of future work
programme may be needed to further improve the status of the topic.
Since this chapter is an analysis of the workplace innovation literature, we must first lay out
our intentions in what consecutive steps we have tried to unravel the field, and how this chapter
is organised. First we look at what workplace innovation is mainly about when people study
the meaning and goal of the concept. There is much difference, but also a certain commonality
that is useful to get a grip on the field. The essential element of workplace innovation seems
to be to advance work. In a second step we will present a categorisation of the published
studies, bases on the type of research and the level of analysis. Our analysis has resulted in
seven categories, and of each category we will describe the main representative publications,
approaches or models which resulted from an inventory of the literature. The third step is of a
historical nature, which begins with a search where the workplace innovation concepts come
from and how they have developed. Building on that step we try to take a higher standpoint to
overlook the field of studies, streams and strands, in trying to connects the concepts to streams
of research in sociology, psychology, economics and management science, that have labour
as their main target. In a final step, after having aggregated the literature from single studies
to more or less coherent research fields, we discuss if we see more convergence than
divergence and what this means for future endeavours.
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2 The essential element of workplace innovation is to
advance work
Workplace innovation knows many faces. Several approaches are present, several definitions
have been proposed. This section presents the main approaches in this book. The clearest
distinction between these approaches is the level of analysis they address: individual and
group behaviour, the organisation or company, and an industrial sector or society. A logical
consequence is that approaches at different levels have different purposes. Individual
approaches, for example, target new behaviour, such as innovative behaviour. Organisational
approaches are directed at better performance and attracting good staff. Societal approaches
aim at better conditions for companies to thrive and for employees to participate in paid work.
Another difference is their origin. We will discuss these issues. Where the term workplace
innovation comes from and how it has evolved over time will also be explored later. Before we
do that, we shall describe what the present variants have in common, and that is that
workplace innovation contributes to ‘advance’, ‘improve’ or ‘progress’ either the behaviour of
persons, the outcome of processes, or the future situation for people, organisations and
society (Costantini et al., 2017). ‘Progress’ or ‘modernisation’ refers to the proposition that
advancements in technology, science, and social organisation have resulted, and by extension
will continue to result, in an improved human condition (see for example Berting, 2006). The
notion of ‘advancement’ can be related to streams in the management, behavioural, work and
organisation sciences in the past decades.
Perhaps the simplest distinction of types of ‘advancement’ is the improvement of either labour
or capital. Should an advancement be beneficial to one or the other i.e. well-being or welfare
-, if not both? Underneath this distinction is the question of the division of labour. Production
processes and working processes can be split up into more or less tasks, that are allocated to
either managing and executing functions, apart from supporting functions. From Adam Smith
and Frederick Taylor we learned that under specific circumstances a fine grained division of
labour could make a production process highly effective and efficient. However, one of the
downsides of Taylorism and Fordism, known for their far going division of labour, is the risk of
alienation and discrimination at work, when people carry out meaningless jobs without any
autonomy and self-determination to fulfil their human needs. The fifties, sixties and seventies
of the former century witnessed the emergence of the wish to ‘advance’ the quality of working
life. That particular ‘humanisation of work’ was targeted at reducing the division of labour and
enhancing employee participation and enriching jobs instead if further simplification of work.
Aspects of humanisation to contribute to such advancement were at least six-fold (Van Strien,
1983): 1] healthy workloads and working environments, 2] using and developing human
talents, 3] a sense of personal safety and social security, 4] democratic dialogue, voice and
participation, 5] a fair pay and distribution of the profits, and, 6] equality and justice. When one
is genuinely having an eye for human needs in the design of work, an essential basic ingredient
to be used, is organisational, strategic choice: this is almost always an option which one could
use (more or better). Such room to manoeuvre implies that the dominance of technological
determinism is an unjust proposition and that the homo economicus is an incomplete concept.
The practice showed that social aspects were of significant importance compared to the
‘technological system’ when it comes to productivity, and that rational economic profit
maximalisation was not fully in line with personal development and human needs, according
to the evidence of several landmark studies, such as in the Hawthorne experiments of Mayo’s
Harvard group, the Theory X versus Y studies of McGregor, and Maslow’s pyramid of human
needs. In other words, technological options are not rigid and neither is the rationality of market
pressure.
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In overcoming the negative effects of the division of labour and limited participation there were
at least two options present in the theories and approaches of the fifties and beyond. One was
to redesign the production process, and the other one to affect the motivation of employees.
Redesigning the production process was taken up by variants of sociotechnical approaches,
including business process reengineering and lean management. Their core idea was to install
autonomous teams that carried out substantial tasks more or less independently and self-
supporting. Limited division of labour created rich team jobs and decision latitude about the
team’s tasks. The other route to boost the motivation of employees comprised, for example,
better working conditions, better pay, more voice for employees, and modifying the workload
and stress risks. The first stream paid more attention to re-organizing the work and processes,
while the second stream stressed re-organizing the behaviour, attitudes and skills of persons.
A third stream can be positioned as a combination of re-arranging the work and the behaviour
of working people, through measures in the context of HR-management or ‘HR-bundles’, and
leadership behaviour. Put shortly, one could fit the job better to the person, fit the person better
to the job, or adjust the person-job fit from both directions. In all these three streams there
could be a different management approach, namely they could be either top down oriented
initiatives or bottom up oriented initiatives (Oldham & Fried, 2016). Whether or not the aspects
of humanisation were realised, depended partly on the management approach. But not only
those managerial philosophies played a role. External factors, like market developments,
competition, financial management, technology pushes would determine the room to
manoeuvre for people in organisations.
Most workplace innovation approaches are directed at ‘advancing’ work in one way or another,
based on arguments that can be traced back to a combination of humanistic values and
economic goals. Over time, we contend, there are different research trajectories eventually
leading to the ’advancement’ of work, which can also be indicated as a ‘good jobs strategy’
(Rodrik & Sabel, 2019). Rodrik and Sabel see a good jobs strategy as a manner for a more
fair distribution of wealth and profits between management and employees, and to enhance
the inclusiveness of people in low-income jobs. Good jobs mean both fair pay and sustainable
employability, which imply investments in business models and technology that contribute to
a society’s cohesion for the long run. Such an approach requires a management strategy that
looks ahead, beyond ‘not good enough’ incremental innovations i.e. not just tweaking your
IT software but a disruptive renewal of your IT architecture , cost efficiency survival options
and limiting the focus to economic and productivity goals. This broader approach converges
with the notion of the ‘high road’ perspective (Gittel & Bamber, 2010; Osterman, 2018;
Totterdill, 2011).
“High Road companies see their employees, the communities in which they operate and the
products and services they provide as equally important to their financial success. These
companies hold a long-term perspective and view the workplace as a means to create
significant business and social impact. They reject low-road business models that exploit
employees and disregard the environment as the basis for success. High Road Employers
know that, logically, their businesses are likelier to thrive and grow when they strengthen their
marketplace by operating responsibly and compensating employees fairly.” (Website of the
American Sustainable Business Council, https://www.asbcouncil.org/high-road-economy).
We suggest that the many workplace innovation approaches contribute to the advancement
of work in one way or another. to the next chapter categorises the research in order to better
analyse the characteristics of the field.
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3 The categorisations of workplace innovation
How can we categorise main approaches of workplace innovation? A literature search has
been carried out with the key words ‘workplace’, ‘workplace innovation’ and ‘innovative
workplace’ from the present (2021) until 1989 in the databases of Scopus, PsycInfo, PubMed,
OSH-ROM and Google Scholar resulting in 426 scientific and non-scientific articles, reports
and books. There are 170 publications dealing with ‘workplace innovation’ and 10 with ‘work
design as an example of workplace innovation’ listed in Annex 1 and Annex 2 respectively.
We first give an overview how the term ‘workplace innovation’ is interpreted by researchers.
This is not exactly the same as comparing definitions of workplace innovation, which is not
what we intend. There are many definitions. We are interested to distinguish between the
intentions of users. For instance, some researchers want to understand behaviour of
individuals, others want to highlight organisational characteristics, or evaluate reasons why
companies apply workplace innovation. Our interest if types of research and levels of analysis
can be helpful to categorise the field, rather than to determine the ‘right’ definition.
After the overview of interpretations, we demarcate the research from the stream of High
Performance Work Systems research, because there is a strong overlap, and this requires an
explanation why workplace innovation is distinctive. Subsequently we present our
categorisation and thereupon we shall describe the main examples within each of those
categories. After that, in the following chapter 4, we will abstract from the separate studies to
connect workplace innovation to relevant streams in the social scientific literature on work.
Interpretations and use of the term ‘workplace innovation
There is a substantial stream of research that uses (the term) workplace innovation as a
steppingstone to capture some form of renewal, mostly other than technological renewal or
technological innovation (Eeckelaert et al., 2012; Kesselring et al., 2014; Prus et al., 2017).
Not all investigations, however, use a clear definition or a clear measuring construct. Some
use the term workplace innovation in their title, but do not spend a word on it in the text (Findlay
et al., 2017; Finegold & Wagner, 1998; Kuhn & Weibler, 2021; Marks et al., 1997; Searle,
2008; Verma & Fang, 2003). They often mean innovations in workplaces or in the organisation
in general terms (Matthews, 2021). Incidentally authors apply the term but mean something
different, such as practices that are in itself the innovation of the workplace or as HRM-
practices that can stimulate innovation (Jena and Memon, 2017, for example, actually mean
by workplace innovation ‘innovative work behaviour’), creative ideas (Lu et al., 2017),
introduction of new management concepts as a form of workplace innovation (e.g. Bartram et
al., 2018 discuss the introduction of Lean Management in this way), changes in the workplace
(e.g. related to the work of employees as in Kuhlmann & Schumann, 2001), or any innovation
or renewal that is new to the workplace and thus (called) a workplace innovation but not
specified (e.g. Burke & Sheldon, 2010; Han et al., 2020; Hausberg et al., 2017; Hughes et al.,
2019). Many use the term workplace innovation as a renewal that is a new ‘work(place)
practice’, often as an example of High Performance Work Systems, pointing to either separate
practices or ‘bundles’ of practices. These studies do not intend to make a contribution to
workplace innovation as a distinct field of research, but consider their use of the term
workplace innovation as more or less synonymous to HPWS-studies (Balkin et al., 2001;
Bamber et al., 2017; Black & Lynch, 2003; Bresnahan et al., 1999; Cho, 2014; Dervojeda et
al., 2013; Erickson & Jacoby, 2003; Findlay et al., 2015; Gkiontsi & Karanika-Murray, 2016;
Kalmi & Kauhanen, 2008; Kochan et al., 2009; Kraemer-Mbula et al., 2019; Lantz-Friedrich et
al., 2016; Long, 1989; Lowe, 2001; McCartney & Teague, 2003, 1997; Verma & Fang, 2003;
Zoghi et al., 2010). Several of them are studying the situation in the U.S. and Canada where
HPWS is an established field of research. Another group of authors regard workplace
innovation in relation to development, like regional economic development and national
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innovation systems, that require a form of collaboration among agents and institutions in the
innovation system, which is consistent with that particular notion of workplace innovation
(Claussen et al., 2009; Lantz & Totterdill, 2004; Pomares, 2018, 2019; Pomares et al., 2016;
Svare, 2016; Totterdill, 1999, 2020; Totterdill & Hague, 2004). Then, there is a cluster of
authors that use workplace innovation in terms or organisational renewal and design other
than the HPWS stream, and distinct from most streams to be discussed below. These authors
use the term workplace innovation to study organisational innovation and innovations in the
organisation, in relation to learning and other innovative work practices (Lorenz, 2015; Raul &
Andrei, 2018), responsible management (Ennals, 2014), professionals in human factor design
and ergonomics (Badham & Ehn, 2000), non-technological innovation (Carranza et al., 2020;
Watanabe et al., 2021), New Ways of Working (Medik & Stettina, 2014), occupational health
risks and safety (Jilcha, 2020a, 2020b; Jilcha et al., 2016), autonomous teamwork in
production cells (Isa & Tsuru, 2002), the effect of unionization (Reshef et al., 1993), employee
motivation (Palin & Kaartemo, 2016), employee involvement (Hebdon & Hyatt, 1996),
democratic dialogue (Garmann Johnsen et al., 2021), human-centered design of digitised
industrial work (Hirsch-Kreinsen & Ittermann, 2021), the development of social capital
(Hughes et al., 2019), and job satisfaction and wellbeing (Casini et al., 2018). Finally, some
researchers apply workplace innovation as an example to explain how a method can be
applied to achieve workplace innovation (e.g. Durugbo, 2020, shows how a problem
structuring method can help to identify opportunities for workplace innovation), how technology
can facilitate workplace innovation (Tan et al., 2015), how design thinking can contribute to
workplace innovation (Matthews, 2021), how innovation leadership can be linked to workplace
innovation concepts (Oeij, Hulsegge, Preenen & Vaas, 2021a; Totterdill & Wilkie, 2021), how
workplace innovation can be linked to frugal innovation (Etse et al., 2021), how workplace
innovation can be connected to the development of ecosystems (Dessers & Mohr, 2021), as
a way to involve employees in an innovation process (Lohse et al., 2020), and to understand
the relation between good jobs and the participation in democratic processes (Dhondt, Oeij &
Pot, 2021).
From a helicopter view, one can say that some users point out to workplace innovation as a
structural innovation, as an innovation in behaviour and culture, or as a corporate (HR) or
supra-corporate (innovation) policy. While some users apply workplace innovation as a
process in order to achieve something else such as better jobs , better productivity , others
consider workplace innovation as an outcome. This seems acceptable as long as it is clear
which are the dependent and independent variables. Although this diversity of approaches
and uses is understandable, it is not very helpful to arrive at a well demarcated research field.
To legitimize that workplace innovation has ground for being a separate field of research, we
should, however, explain how it differs from the stream of HPWS studies.
HPWS versus WPI
The difficulty in demarcating workplace innovation (WPI) from High Performance Work
Systems (HPWS) is that we have no common, shared definition of WPI. However, Oeij et al.,
(2015) looked closer at the issue of comparing HPWS in relation to their definition of WPI,
which is “a developed and implemented practice or combination of practices that structurally
(division of labour) and/or culturally (empowerment) enable employees to participate in
organisational change and renewal to improve quality of working life and organisational
performance” (Oeij et al., 2015: 14). The main commonality of WPI and HPWS is that both
look at ‘practices’ from which both the business performance and quality of jobs can benefit,
which is a gateway to high road solutions. Although, it must be said that quite some HPWS
approaches only focus on business performance (Boxall et al., 2019). And several other WPI
approaches consider workplace innovation not as a means to improve performance and jobs,
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but as an outcome itself. The main distinction between Oeij’s WPI-definition and HPWS is in
acknowledging a stretch to production management and operations management by the first
(Totterdill, Exton, Exton & Gold, 2016), due to its linkage with sociotechnical systems design
as developed in the Lowlands approach. The Lowlands approach of ‘modern sociotechnics’
encompasses the operational design of the production structure, the design of the governance
or management structure, and the design of the stream of information, namely the basis IT
architecture, as a systems theory (Christis & Soepenberg, 2016; De Sitter et al., 1997; Dhondt,
2021; Kuipers et al., 2020; Van Amelsvoort & Van Hootegem, 2017). This integrated design is
based on the basic assumption to combine optimal quality, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness
in production with job design, that is optimally conducive to learning opportunities and
autonomy in controlling the execution of tasks. That basic assumption goes beyond the
(subjectively) experienced job satisfaction of employees as persons, because the (objective)
design principles apply to jobs and tasks irrespective of the executor (Van Amelsvoort, 2016).
Practices of workplace innovation according to this view go beyond merely HR-practices or
HR-bundles, and beyond the personal evaluations like job satisfaction and employee
motivation as a measure of adjustment. The quality of work is measured in terms of (objective)
job autonomy and decision latitude control capacity or regulatory capacity in the terminology
of modern sociotechnics , which is not a stringent condition in (most) HPWS approaches. A
minimum of a division of labour with a maximum of meaningful assignments is the
consequence of the maxim to change ‘complex organisations with simple jobs into simple
organisations with complex jobs’ (De Siter et al., 1997).
A categorisation of workplace innovation approaches
In this Section we will try to categorise the most prominent approaches, i.e., choose the most
telling examples that combine a certain type of research and a certain level of analysis. These
telling examples are the ones that have a link to theory or a clear distinction as a concept.
Examples of conceptualisations that lack such prominent features are the ones that are
assessing some kind of innovative behaviour of persons like creativity or contributing to
innovation of the organisation and or some kind of innovation of workplaces through new
behaviour and new measures such as leadership styles and HR-measures. Such
approaches are either too general or part of another specific stream, like the HPWS literature
or topics like team innovation, innovation climate, and job crafting. Of course, these
conceptualisations are connected to workplace innovation, but do not make a substantial
contribution to the field of workplace innovation as a distinct field. Another prominent feature
is policy approaches that promote workplace innovation. These do not particularly contribute
to workplace innovation as a distinct scientific field, but are intended to contribute to the
‘advancement’ of work and society. Finally, we shall include approaches that intend to evaluate
workplace innovation policies, and those that gauge workplace innovation by selecting
variables and building new constructs from existing databases.
We developed a grid of workplace innovation approaches using these levels and types of
workplace innovation in Table 1. Approaches of workplace innovation appear to be applied at
the level of persons and groups/teams, at organisational level, and at the level of policymaking
by industrial branches, local, regional, national and international agents. They differ in type.
We distinguish first fundamental research, which can be theoretical and / or empirical, and
aims to test models and develop evidence-based knowledge. The second type is evaluation
research, which studies the presence and dissemination of workplace innovation practices
and the effect of policy programmes. The third type of approaches, practice and policy, look
at programmes and interventions that are developed to support the practical application of
workplace innovation. We discuss these approaches, several of which are related to Chapters
of the present book. In so doing we hope to clarify some of the main constructs and concepts
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of workplace innovation, and bring order in the approaches, given the theoretical ambiguity
associated with the concept until now (Weerakoon & McMurray, 2021).
Table 1: Workplace innovation approaches broken down by level and type
Type
Level
Fundamental research:
Testing models and
developing evidence-
based knowledge
Evaluation research:
Developing knowledge
for policy and practice
Practice & policy:
Programmes and
interventions
Persons and groups
Individual and team
behaviour
1
-WIS [McMurray]
2
3
-SMART [Parker]
Organisations
Production systems and HR-
systems
4
-WPI TNO-WEA [Oeij]
-MWIP [Kibowski]
-ERIM Monitor
[Volberda]
-ISHIP Index [Stam]
5
-EU 2014 [Kesselring]
-Eurofound 2015 [Oeij]
-WPI-index [Dhondt]
-Eurofound 2020 [Van
Houten]
6
-TWIN
[Amelsvoort/Hootegem]
-EUWIN Guide
[Totterdill]
-5th Element Model
[Totterdill]
Regional, National,
International institutions
High level / institutional
strategies and policy /
interventions
7
8
-National Programmes in
EU
-ESF
-My Enterprise 2.0 [Oeij]
-National Programmes
outside EU, like Korea
9
-Policy Model [Alasoini]
-EUWIN Policy [EU]
-National Agencies
Level of persons and groups
Fundamental research (1)
WIS Workplace Innovation Scale
The work of McMurray and colleagues (Baxter, 2004; Choudhary et al., 2021; Dang, 2018;
McMurray & Dorai, 2003; McMurray et al., 2013, 2021a, 2021b; McMurray & Simmers, 2019;
Muenjohn & McMurray, 2016, 2017a, 2017b; Muenjohn et al., 2020; Newnham, 2021;
Simmers & McMurray, 2019; Von Treuer & McMurray, 2012; Wipulanusat et al., 2017, 2018,
2020) see workplace innovation as a behavioural, psychological construct. Namely, a
psychological construct that is contextual and a process of idea generation created by an
individual or team within the workplace and is fostered through an innovative climate
(McMurray & Dorai, 2003, p. 8). Their Workplace Innovation Scale (WIS) was designed to
identify and measure the behavioural aspects of innovation practices by individuals in their
workplace and comprised the four dimensions:
Organisational innovation, the organisation’s strand that innovation is important (five
items) (sample item: Innovation in my workplace is linked to its business goals);
Innovation climate, the shared perception in the organisation to promote innovation (six
items) (sample item: I am always given opportunities to try new ideas and approaches to
problems);
Team innovation, a team work environment conducive to innovative behaviour (five items)
(example item: In our workplace teams have freedom to make decisions and act on them
without needing to ask for permission);
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Individual innovation, behaviour that supports innovation (eight items) (example item: I am
constantly thinking of new ideas to improve my workplace).
Workplace innovation thus is innovative behaviour of individuals; it is a behavioural factor
affecting an organisation’s capacity to innovate. Respondents are employees, and were
requested to indicate the level of innovation in the four dimensions in their organisation. The
authors regard the four dimensions as four levels organisation, climate, team, individual
but they exclusively measure it at the level of employee and management opinions. Perhaps
it is more accurate to say that the WIS measures perceptions of innovative behaviour at the
individual, team, climate and organisational level by individuals working in the organisation.
They define workplace innovation as a process of practices occurring at the individual, team,
and organisational level within a supportive climate. The WIS is (often) applied as an effect-
variable of, for example, locus of control, organisational justice, organisational politics, work
values, leadership and organisational climate (or mediated by such variables), but also as an
independent variable to explain new product development.
Wipulanusat and colleagues (2017, 2018, 2020) regard workplace innovation, in the same
definition as McMurray’s and colleagues above, as a contextual social-psychological
construct, but based on two dimensions, namely, ‘individual creativity’ and ‘team innovation’.
WPI is determined by ‘leadership for innovation’ and the ‘ambidextrous culture for innovation’
together constituting the work climate-, and influences the ‘career satisfaction’ of employees.
Evaluation research (2)
As far as we know there is no workplace innovation-research on ‘Developing knowledge for
policy and practice’ at the level of ‘Persons and groups Individual and teambehavior
Practice and policy (3)
SMART work design
The SMART work design model stems from the job/work design approach (see Annex 2),
defined as “the content and organization of one’s work tasks, activities, relationships, and
responsibilities” or “the study, creation, and modification of the composition, content, structure,
and environment within which jobs and roles are enacted” (Parker, Morgeson & Johns, 2017,
p. 404; see also Hay et al., 2020a, 2020b; Parker & Jorritsma, 2020). SMART refers to work
that is Stimulating, enables Mastery, supports human Agency, is Relational, and has Tolerable
demands. Each of these five dimension have a number of subdimensions:
Stimulating: Adequate skill variety, Sufficient task variety, Problem solving demands
Mastery: Role clarity, Feedback from others, Task identity
Agency: Control over scheduling, Control over work methods, Decision making control
Relational: Support from supervisor and peers, Sense of task significance, Perceived
social worth
Tolerable demands: Moderate time pressure and workload, Manageable emotional
demands, Low role conflict.
The method of SMART is something between a design approach and action research. Using
steps of the sociotechnical systems design method that an organization applies to implement
change, and doing research during that trajectory using the dimensions of the SMART model
provides a rich picture of that process. The data collected can be both qualitative and
quantitative. The role of the researcher is mainly to study, observe and document the process,
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but the researcher can also take the position of the consultant and help to co-create the new
work design, based on the assumptions of the SMART model. A design process generally has
a design, implementation and operation phase, and in each phase there are barriers, enablers,
motivators and accelerators (Hay et al., 2020a). The dimensions of the SMART model are
both instructive for the analysis as for the directions of problem solving. The developers
contend that SMART work design could help to facilitate effective multi-disciplinary
collaboration in (complex) organisations (Hay et al., 2020b). The expected effects of SMART
work design are positive effects on harm minimisation, wellbeing, and productivity
(https://www.futureofworkinstitute.com.au/smart-workdesign). It should be noted that SMART
is not per se limited to the level of persons and groups. The work design approach in general
can be connected to organisational and societal levels as well (Parker & Grote, 2021).
Level of organisations
Fundamental research (4)
In the Table we distinguished two types of organisation research: changes in the production
system and changes in the HR-system. WPI-interventions that modify the production system
are more fundamental than modifying the HR-system, because the HR-measures and policies
are supposed to support the present production regime. If such a regime is, for example,
bureaucratic with a rigid division of labour than HR-measures alone will not help much to
advance the quality of work. Having said that, it should be mentioned that it is not always easy
to demarcate these two strands, as they are sometimes mixed in practice. A good example is
the case of lean production and lean management. Originally lean production proposed
autonomous teamwork with limited division of labour (Womack et al., 1990: 98-103), but the
way it was implemented in practice shows a tendency towards cost-reduction practices and
rising work pressure (Oeij et al., 2013). However, even in the WPI approaches that are mixed,
we can observe they focuson the production systems of the HR system. Many workplace
innovation concepts at the organisational level position their application as a contrasting or
complementary term to technological innovation (Pot, 2011). The reasoning is that
technological innovation may be a necessary condition for change and improvement, but not
a sufficient one as long as WPI is lacking. WPI, in this sense, refers to necessary
accompanying social and organisational changes that help technological innovation to
successfully embed, being applied by employees or taken up by customers, citizens, clients
and patients.
We start with approaches that regard changing the production system as essential or
conditional.
WPI TNO-WEA construct
Oeij and Vaas (2016) defined workplace innovation as a strategic renewal in organising and
organisational behaviour; it is an organisational capability that consists of four resources:
strategic orientation, product-market improvement, flexible work, and organising smarter.
Workplace innovation is regarded as an independent variable possibly influencing
organisational performance and sickness absence as dependent variables. Their approach is
based on Sociotechnical systems theory, the Resource-based view of the firm, Dynamic
capabilities, and High-performance work systems. The resources measure the following:
- strategic orientation, being focused on environmental factors raising the urgency for
responsiveness and external factors (three items);
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- product-market improvement, improving products and finding new markets (two items);
- flexible work, internal variety in the deployment of labour (eight items);
- organising smarter, internal variability in arranging the production process (two items).
Companies that possess such resources dispose of the organisational capability to innovate
(Oeij, De Looze, Ten Have et al., 2012a; Oeij, Dhondt & Korver, 2011). This model is based
on the construction of data of the Netherlands Employers Work Survey database of more than
5.000 ‘establishments’ (in Dutch WEA, Werkgevers Enquete Arbeid, see Oeij et al., 2011, p.
45). The TNO-WEA construct has been applied several times with the data that were gathered
in 2008 and 2010 (De Kok et al., 2014; Oeij et al., 2011, 2012b, 2014; Oeij & Vaas, 2016; see
also Pot, 2011: pp. 409-410), and in other countries such as Poland (Mockallo, 2016; 2021)
and India (Khan et al., 2021).
MWIP - Measuring Workplace Innovation Practices
Originated from the Fifth Element Model (Totterdill, 2015) is this ‘new measure of workplace
innovation’ (Kibowski et al., 2019). MWIP was assessed as a measure of climate perceptions.
Adopting the following working definition, “workplace
innovations are strategically induced and participatory adopted changes in an organisation’s
practice of managing, organising and deploying human and non-human resources that lead to
simultaneously improved organisational performance and improved quality of working life”
(Eeckelaert et al., 2012), these authors focus on the practices that can support WI and assess
them as the employees' perceptions of workplace climate for WPI. Perceptions of WI practices
were measured using a list of 24 items describing four elements:
- jobs and teams (organisation; items 1-6);
- organisational structures, management and procedures (structure; items 7-12);
- employee-driven improvement and innovation (learning; items 13- 17);
- co-created leadership and employee voice (partnership; items 18-24).
The final model that emerged from a confirmatory factor analysis was based on a 19-item
scale. This model shifted and eliminated some original items, but included the four original
factors. These factors are predictive of both work engagement and job satisfaction, which were
selected as effect-variables to test the model.
The MWIP covers topics related to the design of the production system and HR system. The
instrument measures opinions and perceptions of individual employees. The authors state that
measuring WPI practices at the individual level has inherent limitations. They capture a
subjective snapshot of how people view general characteristics of WPI practices. This is both
a strength (in not tying responses to particular organisation contexts or interventions) and a
weakness (in not identifying the practices in question). Further, individual measures may not
fully capture WPI at a team or organisation level (aggregation fallacy risk). Nonetheless, the
MWIP provides a different type of information than individualist approaches. The MWIP links
perceptions of organisational characteristics to work engagement and job satisfaction, instead
of personal characteristics, and this leads to practical ideas for the improvement of
organisational conditions.
ERIM Monitor
The ERIM Monitor (The Erasmus Research Institute of Management’s ‘Erasmus Competition
and Innovation Monitor’) is yearly research into the competition and innovation capabilities of
Dutch firms. The monitor measures 1] management capabilities and leadership styles
(dynamic management) ; 2] presence of innovative forms of organising and flexibility (flexible
organisations); 4] the development of mature employment relations and working smarter
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(working smarter, developing skills and competences); and 4], cooperation and co-creation
with external partners (networking across organisations). The measure constitutes together
an index of strategic innovation or management innovation, which is called in Dutch the ‘social
innovation monitor’ and overlaps with the EU workplace innovation concepts. The strategic
innovation index shows over the years that the business performance depends more on social
innovation than on technological innovation, which is an indication for firms of the relevance
to investing more in social innovation than they do thus far (Volberda et al., 2011, 2013;
Volberda, & Van Den Bosch, 2004; Volberda, Van Den Bosch & Heij, 2013). The social
innovation measure is used to explain innovativeness, productivity, and competitiveness.
Since 2018 the name changed into the Dutch Innovation Monitor (Nederlandse Innovatie
Monitor) and is carried out by the Amsterdam Business School (ABS University of
Amsterdam), in cooperation with SEO Amsterdam Economics (de Jong et al., 2020). Social
innovation is no longer a central construct.
ISHIP Index Workplace innovation construct
ISHIP stands for Intrapreneurship Index, and its goal is to create insight into the conditions
(organisational and individual) for entrepreneurship within established organisations (Stam,
2018). The main topics of this instrument are 1] Intrapreneurial behavior and characteristics
individual level activities and competencies, 2] Entrepreneurial organistion system-level
characteristics, and 3] Innovation and firm performance. The ISHIP is a survey in two parts,
respectively targeted at employees and innovation experts of the organisation (like innovation
managers). The part for innovation experts includes a construct of workplace innovation which
is measured by assessing to what extent operating employees or work floor employees are
involved with innovation or renewal. It first measures the presence of innovation and then the
role of employees in that process (A: Has your company implemented innovations or renewals
in the past two year? (you can choose more than one): a. innovation or renewal of a product/
b. innovation or renewal of a service/ c. innovation or renewal of a working method / production
process / IT support/ d. innovation or renewal of the work organization / organizational design/
e. innovation or renewal of the deployment of employees/ f. another innovation or renewal
which is not mentioned here/ g. none of the above-mentioned innovations or renewals; B: To
what extent and in what way are operating employees or work floor employees involved with
innovation or renewal?: a. employees in operating functions are (being) actively involved with
innovation/renewal/ b. employees in operating functions are (being) involved in decision
making of innovation/renewal/ c.employees in operating functions are (being) provided time
and space to work on / get used to the innovation/renewal/ d.the autonomy/decision latitude
of employees in operating functions is/has been limited as a consequence of the
innovation/renewal/ e.supervisors of employees in operating functions actively support those
employees which stimulate those employees to participate in the innovation/renewal process/
f.employees in operating functions are not (being) involved in innovation/renewal (innovation
/renewal is imposed by management). The WPI-construct has been applied for the first time
in a recent survey among Dutch logistics managers (Sharehouse project, forthcoming 2022).
Evaluation research (5)
European Commission conceptualisation of a WPI construct
The European Commission (EC) considers non-technical innovation as an important
contribution to economic progress and social inclusion. Consequently, topics such as
workplace innovation were given more attendance. However, what workplace innovation
exactly was, was unclear given the propensity of definitions and approaches in practice.
Therefore, the EC commissioned exploratory research (Kesselring et al., 2014) into three
objectives: 1: Elaborating a consistent concept and definition of WI; 2: Compiling and reviewing
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empirical evidence on outcomes of WI; and 3: Recommending meaningful, sound and,
practicable indicators for WI. After reviewing the literature and existing statistical (EU level)
surveys Kesselring et al., assessed the usefulness of existing indicators for measuring WPI
and pointed out existing measurement gaps regarding WPI and options to improve
measurement. They identified the main aspects of workplace innovation that lead into the
direction of a concept, namely, an input-process-output-outcome scheme to better differentiate
different layers (levels) of WPI. The concept is structured according to the following layers and
guiding questions:
1. ENABLERS Individual level: Do employees and managers1 have the capability and
willingness to engage in workplace innovation?
2. ENABLERS Individual task level: Does the structure of the individual work task (work task,
work time, work environment) allow employees and managers to engage in workplace
innovation?
3. ENABLERS Organisational level: Which cultural and structural aspects does the
organisation provide to help employees and managers to engage in workplace innovation?
4. ENABLERS Societal level: How does workplace innovation reflect, and respond to
external economic, social or environmental challenges?
5. PROCESS: How do employees and managers engage in fundamental and continuous
processes enabling workplace innovation?
6. RESULTS: What are the results/outputs of workplace innovation?
7. OUTCOMES and IMPACTS: What are the targeted outcomes and impacts of workplace
innovation?
Kesselring et al., (2014) screened and compared six specific surveys on their coverage of
layers of workplace innovation as defined in the concept on the level of indicators. They found
that none of the surveys comprehensively covered the phenomenon of workplace innovation.
The various aspects of workplace innovation are indeed surveyed in a very fragmented way
across the different surveys that they had examined. The resulting recommendations address
the need to understand WPI more comprehensively. “A reduction of WPI to fragmented
practices or general questions on organisational change is likely to lead to neglecting the
specific characteristics and potential of WPI.” (Kesselring et al., 2014: 5). In their conclusion,
the authors make suggestions for adaptations of several surveys to measure layers of WPI
(CIS Community Innovation Survey, European Company Survey - ECS, European Working
Conditions Survey - EWCS, Innovation Union Scoreboard IUS).
Eurofound WPI evaluation study
Eurofound commissioned an investigation to evaluate the strategies of companies departing
from the question of why and how they apply ideas of workplace innovation (Dhondt et al.,
2014; Howaldt et al., 2016; Oeij et al., 2015, 2016a, 2016b, 2017a, 2017b, 2021). In this study,
workplace innovation is defined as a developed and implemented practice or combination of
practices that structurally (division of labour) and/or culturally (empowerment) enable
employees to participate in organisational change and renewal to improve quality of working
life and organisational performance (Oeij et al., 2015; Oeij & Dhondt, 2017; Dhondt,
forthcoming 2022). Structure refers to the production system and culture to organisational
behaviour; HR-practices are a separate category. The 51 case studies of the involved
companies were coded on their presence of practices that were either structural changes,
cultural changes or applied HR-practices. These practices were then analysed using factor
analysis and reliability tests which resulted in seven measures:
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four ‘structure elements’, namely [1] decision latitude, [2] the organisational model (i.e.
extent of division of labour), [3] participation to co-decide in the organisational model, and
[4] autonomy and participation.
three ‘culture elements’, namely [5] innovative behaviour, [6] bottom-up and people-driven
initiative, and [7] participatory implementation.
The seven measures represent ‘contextual factors’ (1 and 2), ‘WPI-related features of
practices’ (4 and 5), and ‘adoption and implementation’ ( i.e., reasons, motivations and
facilitators of WPI) (3, 6, 7), that could explain whether or not a company could be identified
as a clear example of a workplace oriented organisation (called ‘substantial WPI’). The studied
51 cases uncovered five combinations of those seven measures that all resulted in the
identification of workplace oriented organisations, which implies that there were five company
strategies or ‘roads’ to becoming such a company. In addition to this result, a regression
showed that one culture variable (innovative behaviour) and two structure variables (decision
latitude; autonomy and participation) were responsible for predicting workplace innovation
orientation (Oeij et al., 2015, technical report). It is an indication that both the production
system and HR-system should be dealt with to achieve workplace innovation. Further, it can
be said that the majority of the 51 cases did improve both the company performance and the
quality of work, indeed meeting the expectation that WPI should improve both goals
simultaneously. And lastly, a process variable proved crucial, as successful companies show
to have mature industrial relations between managers, employees, and employee
representatives. It so happened that the implementation process of workplace innovation
practices reflected constructive cooperation between these organisational agents. Other
researchers have been using the insight of this approach and developed projects taking the
structural and cultural elements into account and applied it to their (railway) industry (Carranza,
De la Rue, Sanchez, 2021; Carranza & Sanchez, 2021).
ECS WPI-index
For the above mentioned Eurofound study on workplace innovation, an index was constructed
to assess the companies that could be characterised as organisations that scored high on
workplace innovation characteristics. This index was used to develop a procedure to select
companies from the database of 30.000 companies of the Europan Company Survey 2013
that would constitute the sample of ‘best’ company case studies (Dhondt et al., 2014). The
slightly adjusted theoretical concept of the Fifth Element model (Totterdill, 2015) was used by
comparing its four elements ‘work organisation’, ‘learning and reflection’, ‘structures and
systems’, and ‘workplace partnership’ with items of the ECS-questionnaire and selecting a
batch that seems useful at face-value. By using Principal Component Analysis a latent
structure could be found. The selected items lead to the construction of an index, which was
used to calculate scores for each of the companies and its ranking. The ranking was
subsequently used for selection purposes. The result did not fully match with the separate
factors of the Fifth element model but they nonetheless had a strong face value overlap. The
seven-factor solution was: 1) Innovation (product and organizational innovation), 2) voice
(employees /employee representatives having a say in decisions and changes), 3) learning
and reflection (training and feedback), 4) structure and system (variable pay), 5) work
organization
Innovative workplaces Eurofound2020
Although the report ‘Workplace practices unlocking employee potential’ based on the 2019
wave of the European Company Survey (ECS) does not conceptualise workplace innovation,
it applies a construct that strongly overlaps with it (Eurofound and Cedefop, 2020). The study
empirically distinguishes four types of work organisation, based on ‘establishments’. 1] ‘High
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investment, high involvement’: Employees have a high degree of autonomy, and management
has high expectations of them, matching this with high use of incentives and comprehensive
variable pay, widespread training and learning opportunities, and direct involvement of
employees in decision-making. Establishments are likely to have an employee representative
and are relatively often members of an employer organisation. 2] ‘Selective investment,
moderate involvement’: Employees have some autonomy, and management has moderate
expectations of them. Deployment of incentives is moderate, with selective access to variable
pay and selective training and learning opportunities. Involvement of employees is irregular or
focused around meetings. The percentage with an employee representation structure is
average, but establishments are relatively likely to be members of an employer organisation.
3] ‘Moderate investment, irregular involvement’: Employees have little autonomy, while
expectations of them are moderate and matched by limited use of non-monetary incentives.
These establishments are relatively likely to offer variable pay, limited training and learning
opportunities, and irregularly involve employees in decision-making. The percentage that have
employee representation is average, and they are unlikely to be members of an employer
organisation. 4] ‘Low investment, low involvement’: Employees have little autonomy,
expectations of staff are low and use of non-monetary incentives or variable pay is low.
Learning opportunities are limited, as is employee involvement. Establishments are unlikely to
have an official structure for employee representation and are unlikely to be members of an
employer organisation. Findings show that “the ‘high investment, high involvement’ group
scores best in terms of workplace well-being and establishment performance, and thus is most
likely to generate a winwin outcome. These establishments are found most often in Finland
and Sweden, are somewhat more common among large establishments and tend to be
relatively prevalent in financial services and the ‘other services’ sector. Employee
representation contributes to a positive outcome an official structure for employee
representation was found most often in establishments whose workplace practices are linked
to better workplace well-being and establishment performance.” (Eurofound and Cedefop,
2020: p. 1-2). To form these four groupings, latent class analysis was used to group
establishments based on common characteristics, such as the bundles of practices they
adopted (i.e., Collaboration and outsourcing, Job complexity and autonomy, Proportion of
employees with a fixed-term contract or working parttime, Workplace behaviour and
motivational levers, Variable pay, Training and skills development, Direct employee
participation, and Representative organisations of establishment and employees). (Eurofound
and Cedefop, 2020: p. 130-131). The ‘High investment, high involvement’ type of work
organisation is supposed to have much similarity with workplace innovation orientation, as for
example defined in the ‘organisation-level’ approaches, and partly with the ‘persons and
group-level’ approaches in Table 2.
Practice and policy (6)
TWIN Total Workplace INnovation
TWIN is a design approach for integrated, systemic change in organisations (Van Amelsvoort
& Van Hootegem, 2017), which is defined as a renewal of the organisation of work with an
integrated view on the division of labour, working relations, and the supporting systems, with
the dual aim of improving both performance and quality of working life. The basis is the
Lowlands variant of sociotechnical systems design (Dhondt & Van Hootegem, 2015; De Sitter
et al., 1997; Kuipers et al., 2020). The job and organisational design assumption are that
complex organisations with simple jobs should be transformed into simple organisations with
complex jobs, to enable workers to solve problems at the level where problems emerge. This
minimizes the division of labour, providing employees and their teams with the highest possible
autonomy, a design principle that makes the organisation’s production system as a whole
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more efficient, effective, quality-driven, flexible, and an inspiring working environment for its
people. TWIN provides an approach to how to (re-)design the production structure (the
operational process), the control structure (the division of managing, operational, and
supporting functions), and the information structure (design of IT and technology so that it
supports functionaries instead of controlling and directing them). To enhance employee
involvement it is highly recommended to undertake the design process in co-creation with the
different stakeholders. In addition to sociotechnical design principles TWIN taps into other
approaches to design the support systems - such as the IT architecture, HR-systems,
maintenance, and quality systems, shopfloor democracy -, for example Lean thinking, Total
Productive Maintenance, Relational coordination theory, and Sociocracy.
EUWIN Guide to WPI
The EUropean Workplace Innovation Network (EUWIN) has produced a booklet ‘your guide
to workplace innovation’ (Totterdill, Dhondt & Boermans, 2016), meant as a practical tool to
help answer the main question how can one actually do workplace innovation?” The guide
supports users to address five challenges:
1. Why workplace innovation is important for your company?
2. How workplace innovation will transform your organisation?
3. Where to begin?
4. What are the ‘Elements’ of workplace innovation?
5. How to achieve commitment from everyone in your organisation?
The core of the guide is formed by the elements of the Fifth Element model (see below,
Totterdill, 2015). Users can assess their organisational challenges by identifying their most
pressing issues with an inventory (checklist) that deals with the four elements of ‘jobs and
teams’, ‘structures, management and procedures’, ‘employee-driven improvement and
innovation’, and ‘co-created leadership and employee voice’. The guide is supported by a
Knowledge Bank that contains films, case studies, articles, and tools about workplace
innovation (https://www.workplaceinnovation.org/).
Based on the success of the European workplace innovation network, the Commission now
supports workplace innovation through three projects
(https://ec.europa.eu/growth/industry/policy/innovation/workplace_en): 1] INNovaSouth
improves Southern European SME's entrepreneurial culture, market resilience, and
competitiveness. They have developed an online manual of good practices for workplace
innovation based on the EUWIN Guide to WPI mentioned above (INNovaSouth, 2020); 2] The
RailActivation project has an open innovation ecosystem that aims to create mechanisms for
business and organisation so the railway sector can improve workplace innovation. Therefore,
RailActivation is working on new mechanisms and tools to anticipate the effects of digitalisation
on the railway sector as well as designing the EU railway industry's innovation process
transformation from the inside out. 3] Start at Best contributes to new European-led workplace
innovation among SMEs. It consists of financial grants to foster workplace innovation in EU
countries, especially where the practice is less integrated (i.e. Italy, Ireland and Portugal).
Fifth Element Model
Strongly connected to the European workplace innovation network (EUWIN, see above), is
the Fifth Element Model (Totterdill, 2015, 2020; Totterdill & Exton, 2014b). The Fifth Element
identifies four bundles (or ‘Elements’) of working practices with a strong association between
high performance and high quality of working life, namely: 1] Jobs, Teams & Technology; 2]
Employee-Driven Innovation & Improvement; 3] Organisational Structures, Management and
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Procedures, and 4] Co-Created Leadership & Employee Voice. Alignment between these
Elements creates a synergy in the form of the ‘Fifth Element’, a system of mutually
interdependent parts that leads to a sustainable culture of innovation and empowerment
embedded throughout the organisation. The purpose of the Fifth Element model is to achieve
win-win outcomes for organisations and their employees. The model does not want to define
workplace innovation too narrowly, it states that it is generally referring to the introduction of
any new forms of work organisation and any new forms of direct employee participation, and
has increasingly come to be understood in terms of specific workplace practices
(https://workplaceinnovation.eu/this-is-workplace-innovation/):
1. It is part of a strategic choice, running through the organisation’s entire business model
and underpinned by a long-term vision and perspectives, sustainability and ethics.
2. It's strongly associated with the simultaneous achievement of high performance and high
quality of working life and contributing to wider society.
3. Workplace innovation is separate from but builds on ‘fair work’ principles such as job
security, living wage, equality & diversity, and opportunities for training and education.
4. Leadership styles, culture, engagement and job satisfaction are not independent but are
largely determined by work organisation and the structure of management and control.
5. Workplace innovation is focused on workplace practices grounded in substantial research
and case study evidence (see for example Dhondt, Vermeerbergen & Van Hootegem,
2017).
6. It is a systemic approach, recognising the interdependence of job autonomy, self-
managed teamworking principles, skills-enhancing technologies, employee-driven
innovation, flexible organisational structures, empowering systems, employee voice and
co-created leadership.
7. It’s based on high levels of employee involvement and empowerment, combining direct
and representative participation.
8. It is not a blueprint but comprises generic principles and practices to inspire fresh
innovation in each organisation through inclusive dialogue, experimentation and learning.
9. Workplace innovation is not a one-off. It introduces workplace practices and cultures that
continually inspire and engage inspire and engage everyone to explore and discover better
ways of doing things, harnessing creativity and talent from across the organisation.
10. Workplace innovation doesn’t just change organisations it changes the people who work
in them, not least senior team members and managers. It is strongly associated with trust,
accountability, curiosity, creativity, coaching behaviours and emotional intelligence, all of
which grow with the workplace innovation journey.
The authors claim that these propositions define workplace innovation as a distinctive, robust
yet practically-focused approach to organisational transformation. The approach is part of a
consultancy method, called the ‘Essential Fifth Element’, through which companies and
individuals and third sector bodies are guided by consultants to apply workplace innovation
practices. In this process approach the constructive participation and supportive, enabling
leadership play an important role in the adoption of workplace innovation practices (see for
example Totterdill & Exton, 2017; Totterdill & Wilkie, 2021). One of the applied instruments is
the Workplace Innovation Diagnostic, which is an employee survey designed to assess where
change is needed. The Diagnostic focuses on evidence-based workplace practices associated
with high performance, engagement and workforce health, and its results indicate specific
actions at team, department, site and organisational levels
(https://workplaceinnovation.eu/workplace-diagnostic/). The topics of the survey are
analogous to the Fifth Element Model and the MWIP - Measuring Workplace Innovation
Practices (see earlier, Kibowski et al., 2019).
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Level of institutions and strategic policymaking
Fundamental research (7)
To our knowledge there is no workplace innovation-research that can be categorised as
‘Fundamental research: Testing models and developing evidence-based knowledge’ that fits
into the cell of ‘Regional, National, International institutions, i.e., High level / institutional
strategies and policy / interventions’.
Evaluation research (8)
National WPI Programmes in Europe
In several European countries evaluation research has been carried out to assess the results
of workplace innovation programmes (see also the section on ‘Practice and policy’ (9)), such
as Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, UK, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands,
Belgium (Flanders), Italy, France, Basque country (Pot, 2011; Alasoini et al., 2010; Totterdill,
2009). Most programmes are ‘soft regulation’ policies, contrary to hard directives, and try to
stimulate and seduce actors to make use of facilities and interventions. The evaluation studies
try to assess the effects of programmes by measuring on the one hand economic effects, for
example, performance, in terms of labour productivity, cost-savings, quality of services and
goods, and quality of operations and customer satisfaction. On the other hand, the quality of
working life is measured, for example, in terms of job design, team working, leadership styles,
cooperation relationships, development of skills and training, employment opportunities,
employee involvement, mental well-being, sickness absence, and job satisfaction. Other topics
are labour-management cooperation, the role of unions, the effect of ergonomics, safety, HR-
management and HR-practices, and stress management, employee turnover. This list is not
exhaustive and in every country the weight is partly on similar, partly on different elements.
What evaluations have in common is their assessment of both economic and social outcomes,
reflecting the interests of both employer and employee interests. Often there are several
positive results reported, but at the same time, a common complaint is that the reach of the
programmes and the dissemination and sustainability of results remain limited.
Apart from evaluation research of (policy) programmes there is abundant national and
supranational statistical research measuring the state of the art and development of
performance and productivity, innovations and investments, technological development, and
labour issues and assorted topics, that provide information workplace innovation in more
indirect ways.
European Social Fund (ESF)
The European Social Fund Europe’s main tool for promoting employment and social inclusion
helping people get a job (or a better job), integrating disadvantaged people into society and
ensuring fairer life opportunities for all. Although the ESF is an umbrella regulation, each
Member State formulates its policy priorities. Social inclusion and labour participation are key
elements in the period 2014-2020, whereas in the former periods 2000-2006 and 2007-2013,
more emphasis was on ‘work organisation’ at least in the Netherlands and Belgium. This
resulted in projects where work organisation was connected to, for example, to HR-practices,
and labour participation and training projects in which many companies actively joined. In the
Netherlands, social innovation had another connotation than the European terminology at that
time (Xavier & Pot, 2012; Dhondt & Oeij, 2014; Howaldt & Oeij, 2016): in Europe social
innovation was about new ideas for the benefit of inclusion of social groups, but in the
Netherlands it meant improving the work environment in companies in order to get better job
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quality and business performance. Due to this situation, and partly a consequence of the role
played by the Netherlands Centre of Social Innovation (read: centre of workplace innovation),
the ESF activities in the Netherlands focused much on ‘work organisation’. In so doing,
workplace innovation was also a driver for social innovation, understood as more social
inclusion and labour market participation (Oeij, Dhondt, Pot & Totterdill, 2018; Oeij, Dhondt,
Žiauberytė-Jakštienė, Corral & Totterdill, 2016b; Pot, Dhondt & Oeij, 2012). In the period 2007-
2013 also incumbent staff of companies participated, but in the later period the participants
were mainly underprivileged labour market target groups, and applicants shifted almost
completely to municipalities and related NGOs. Dominant topics until about 2010 were
connected to the themes ‘working smarter’, ‘new employment relationships’, and ‘flexible work
organisations’ (Bureau Bartels, 2011).
My Enterprise 2.0
“My Enterprise 2.0” is a regional intervention WPI-programme to enhance the growth and
continuity of SMEs in the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands funded by the European
Regional Development Fund (Oeij et al., 2014). SMEs were given support from consultancy
bureaus to introduce workplace innovation practices. The purpose was that the region’s
capacity for innovation would then be expanded. The project ran from 2009 to 2012.
Altogether, more than four hundred small or medium-sized companies participated. A platform
of cooperative organisations was created, which included representatives from the business
community, knowledge institutes and governmental bodies. This platform was used to
organise over one hundred network meetings, sector-specific meetings, conferences and
“smarter working cafés” for entrepreneurs and knowledge networks, to disseminate
knowledge. The workplace innovation activities were meant to implement interventions in the
field of strategy, the design of primary processes, the deployment of personnel and the
management of the company. In most cases, the managers and owners of the SMEs realised
these interventions in cooperation with their employees (i.e., employee involvement). The
workplace innovation trajectories of the companies were investigated with a pretest posttest
survey design. Workplace innovation was defined similarly is in the WPI TNO-WEA approach
(see above), as a strategically inspired renewal in the field of organizing and/or organizational
behavior and thus represents the capacity of the organization. This capacity includes four
sources namely, “smarter organizing,” “flexible working,” “improving products and marketing”
and “strategic orientation.” Together, the four scales measure “workplace innovativeness” or,
in other words, the degree to which one can speak of “workplace innovative companies”
compared to “non-workplace innovative companies.” The investigated effects of the WPI-
interventions were the SME’s capability to innovate, the performance of the companies, the
companies’ intended goals (behind the intervention), and the labour productivity.
National WPI-programmes outside Europe
Korea
In South Korea, an initiative for a workplace innovation programme was taken in 2009 by the
Korea Workplace Innovation Centre (Pot, 2011). Due to political changes it was stopped
between 2011 and 2018, and then revitalised in 2019. The term “workplace innovation,” not
only includes innovation such as developing new technologies or products, but also creating
various social innovations through new or combined interventions for work organisations, HR
management, or utilization of existing technologies, like incremental improvements in
processes and operations (Bae & Lee, 2017). It is regarded as similar to High Performance
Work Systems / Practices (Cho, 2014). The social innovation element refers to people-friendly
workplaces and good working conditions for personnel. Workplace innovation should also
boost production efficiency and profitability. Workplace innovation, measured as High-
Performance Work Practices (as in the OECD Employment Outlook of 2016) in Korea is still
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relatively scarce, which is partly explained by the technology-focused mindset of management
that reveals limited trust in the abilities and potential of workers, and the confrontational
industrial relations between companies and unions. Not only does this lead to the
underutilisation of workers’ knowledge and involvement, but it also translates into stronger
control over workers or efforts to substitute labour for automatization (Bae & Kwon, 2008; Bae
& Lee, 2017). Moreover, the governmental bodies put more focus on employment and wage
systems than improving the consultation between unions and companies or employee
consultation within companies (i.e. industrial relations and employment relations), or, in the
words of Korean researchers on cash support to companies instead of enabling capacity
building (Bae & Lee, 2017). Unions oppose workplace innovation, believing it to be only the
employer’s agenda to increase labour intensity. Korea has a company-level unionisation
system, where unions are internalised in the company (Bae & Kwon, 2008) i.e., in larger
firms, but practically absent in most SMEs. This implies that unions have limited influence at
the sectoral and national level, and consequently a national policy to improve the quality of
working life is confronted by the dominance of liberal policies that see such policies as a
responsibility of firms themselves. Without the full involvement of major stakeholders and
constructive participation between management and labour, workplace innovation cannot take
place, and its scarcity is explained by the fact that workplace innovation is perceived as a
threat to management authority (Kim & Bae, 2005).
Practice and policy (9)
Policy Model national innovation systems
At the level of nations and regions, there are programmes to develop and improve work
organisation in general, under which we can head workplace innovation programmes Alasoini,
2009a, 2009b; 2018a; 2018b; Alasoini et al., 2010, 2011, and on a dialogical approach of
workplace innovation in Norway, see Garmann Johnsen et al., 2021). Finnish researchers
have applied a ‘best practice framework’ of Naschold (1994) to analyse such programmes as
a kind of national innovation system that takes six elements into account (Alasoini, 2009a,
2009b). Firstly, Naschold argues that the strategic justification for a workplace development
strategy should arise primarily from macro-level industrial policy issues rather than the IR
system or the R&D system. Secondly, on the programme and project level, the aim should be
to attain an international or global standard, rather than settling for a national or local standard.
The programmes and projects of other countries can be an important source of ideas and
inspiration for other countries and their workplaces. Thirdly, in development operations the aim
should be a type of indirect intervention that combines simultaneous design and process
orientation and broad workplace-level participation as opposed to traditional design solutions
provided by experts or centralized bargaining solutions by the social partners. An advanced
national development infrastructure which comprises a large number of experts is the fourth
underpinning element. Naschold considers it very important to pool different kinds of expertise
at the national level to support development strategies and not to utilize solely micro-level
approaches. Networking between players on the micro level, instead of stand-alone
development projects, is the fifth feature of the model. Nationwide networks are crucial for
dissemination. The sixth dimension concerns the adequacy of programme resources in
relation to the aims of the programme. The financial budget, the number and expertise of the
staff and the time span reserved for programme activities form the three critical resources for
programmes in the model.
A decade or so later, Alasoini (2019) proposes a new approach in examining ways of
increasing the effectiveness of work organisation development programmes (i.e., WPI
programmes) aimed at improving both productivity and the quality of working life. The concept
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of workplace innovation refers to collaboratively constructed changes in a company’s
organisational, management or other work-related practices that lead to simultaneous
improvements in productivity and quality of working life, which, in turn, also often support other
types of innovation (Alasoini, 2019: 8). A WPI programme is a widely used “soft” form of
regulation to promote working life reform in different countries. It is a policy instrument. Such
a programme has three characteristics: first, development is guided by a shared framework
that applies to several work organisations simultaneously; second, the content of the
framework has been accepted by management and staff of the work organisations in question
and other major stakeholder groups, such as policy-makers, social partners, and researchers,
consultants and other experts; and third, the involved work organisations engage in exchange
of information, interaction and cooperation.
Based on previous work on institutional entrepreneurship and system transitions, the author
develops a theoretical framework for analysing the likelihood that WPI-programmes would be
successful. Subsequently, he engages in a discussion of how the framework could be used to
develop programmes that are more likely to be successful in achieving both improvements in
productivity and the quality of working life. First of all, the author contends that present and
former WPI-programmes have limited success due to institutional isomorphism, which is the
similarity between the systems and processes of institutions. This similarity can be through
imitation among institutions or through independent development of systems and processes.
The consequence is no or too little innovation or change. The reason is that actors in the
system have a contradictory relationship with the present situation and a new situation.
Alasoini writes that:
“It is interesting that the same institutions of the expanded triple helix model that are
seen as key promoters of workplace innovation may, under certain circumstances,
also act as significant impediments to workplace innovation activities. This inherently
contradictory relationship of the various actors towards the development of workplace
innovations is rarely explicitly recognized in evaluation studies and other analyses of
work organization development programmes.” (Alasoini, 2019: p. 24).
Therefore, such inherently contradictory relationships of various actors involved in the
expanded triple helix cooperation towards the promotion of workplace innovations and working
life reform in general should be made clear. This lays bare the power relationships in such a
context “an issue rarely seriously discussed in the context of work organization development
efforts”, says Alasoini (2019: p. 27). Agents should operate as institutional entrepreneurs. The
concept of institutional entrepreneur refers to change agents who initiate changes that break
with the prevailing institutional logic (the isomorphism) within a given context by actively
participating in the implementation of these changes through the active mobilisation of
resources. In the case of WPI programmes, this means an ability to attract a large number of
various stakeholders to join forces in the search for new paradigmatic alternatives to existing
established managerial, organisational, or other work-related practices.
Next to these behavioural qualifications, agents should apply the multilevel perspective on
sociotechnical transitions (MLP). According to many evaluation studies that have been
conducted in different countries, WPI programmes have often been successful in producing
significant improvements in productivity and quality of working life in individual work
organizations that have participated in publicly supported development projects. However,
although the success rate of demonstration (pilot) projects in such programmes is generally
good, the experiences of many programmes indicate that the “good practices” that these
projects create spread poorly, according to the author. Basically, applying MLP means that
agents should use a broader perspective beyond the immediate goals of the WPI-programme.
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By making use of the MLP, it is possible to build a more structured framework for analysing
external effects of WPI programmes at various ‘levels’. Besides changes at the level of
individual work organisations, programmes should be able to contribute to increased
awareness, knowledge spill overs and the emergence of new cooperative networks around
perfectible workplace innovations; in MLP terminology, this process can be called “scaling-
up”. This framework is expected to realise substantial change not only at the level of
organisations, but also among agents of the triple helix stakeholders. The assumption is that
this neo-institutional ‘structured approach’ with its institutional entrepreneurship that is
targeting a multi-level sociotechnical transition landscape is a framework that can bring real
breakthroughs in motion.
There are different reasons why WPI-programmes come into existence (Pot, 2011). Firstly to
maintain the level of welfare and well-being and social inclusion (for example enhance the
labour productivity). Secondly to create added value and competitive power (for example
develop and utilise new skills and competence of the workforce). Thirdly to enhance the
valorisation of innovation by making technology work (for example workplace innovation
smoothens technology adoption). And fourthly, to counter technological deterministic
management ideologies that underutilise the potential of workplace innovation (for example,
research shows that successful performance of organisations depend more on non-
technological innovations than merely technological innovations).
Next to WPI-programmes there is a growing attention for workplace innovation in
policymaking, for example, at the level of the European Union (Pot et al., 2016, 2017). Of
course, the EU and national WPI-programmes are connected to this policymaking. The
European Workplace Innovation Network project (EUWIN 2013-2017), for example, which
intended to disseminate and stimulate workplace innovation via network meetings across
Europe, slowly originated from the Europe 2020 vision and strategy development (since 2009)
after the European Commission’s DG Enterprise and Industry (later DG Growth) connected its
industrial and innovation policy to the topic of workplace innovation. In an earlier phase, the
DG Employment, responsible for labour market policy and social security, connected its policy
to the growing attention for innovation, in particular, social innovation (in its meaning to support
and socially include social groups in new ways), and started with the European Social Fund
(ESF). The ESF and its successor EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation
(EaSI) not only promotes employment and social inclusion, but also offered the opportunity for
companies to develop projects in the context of workplace innovation. These examples show
that integration of policies that can be beneficial to the uptake of workplace innovation is lurking
(for an overview of the European policy see Pot et al., 2016, 2017, 2021).
EUWIN Policy EUropean Workplace Innovation Network
Rooted in approaches and movements to support new ways of working and good quality jobs
across Europe, the researchers who advocated workplace innovation started with the
formulation of a statement to address politicians and policymakers to back up their initiative:
the ‘Dortmund Brussels Position Paper on Workplace Innovation’ of 2012. That placard struck
a sympathetic note in Europe, with The European Workplace Innovation Network (EUWIN)
being created in 2013 at the request of the European Commission (DG GROW). The support
of Flanders Synergy was instrumental to put the topic of workplace innovation on the agenda
of DG GROW. Built on the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme, the
objective was to stimulate workplace innovation in Europe by connecting stakeholders from all
relevant backgrounds. It was initially led by TNO and Workplace Innovation Limited (now
Workplace Innovation Europe CLG). Its aim since then has been consistent: to promote the
concept of workplace innovation throughout Europe as a way of enhancing capacity for
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product, service and process innovation, increasing business competitiveness and creating
better working lives for our citizens. EUWIN grew rapidly as did its impact, reaching over ten
thousand people and companies through conferences and workshops. Hundreds of thousands
found inspiring cases, articles and evidence on the Knowledge Bank Workplace Innovation
(https://www.workplaceinnovation.org/). Hundreds of experts and collaborators pushed the
message across to thousands of companies all over Europe. EUWIN also guided the
development of major new policy initiatives for workplace innovation in the Basque Country,
Scotland and elsewhere. The lessons of the EUWIN-initiative made DG GROW to support
several specific funding projects, to run small scale experiments in different countries. The
networks supporting EUWIN, decided in 2017 to continue the EU-wide network. Since then
EUWIN has functioned as a network run by its partners, supporting activities in several
countries and promoting the further development of workplace innovation in European policy
frameworks. In 2021, an update of the Dortmund Brussels position paper saw the light,
‘Workplace innovation: Europe’s competitive edge: A manifesto for enhanced performance
and working lives’ (EUWIN, 2021). This manifesto summarises the nature, origins and policy
significance of workplace innovation, making a case for enhanced recognition throughout
Europe’s policy eco-system (https://workplaceinnovation.eu/wp-
content/uploads/2021/11/EUWIN-MANIFESTO.pdf). Initiatives of a Global Organization and
Workplace Innovation Network took off in 2015 but got no strong foothold until now (see the
GLO.WIN manifesto at https://stsroundtable.com/wp-content/uploads/GLOWIN-
MANIFESTO.pdf).
National Agencies
Aside from national policies (see 8) some European countries developed national practices
and programmes that can be linked to workplace innovation. Three examples stand out, as
these mention workplace innovation in particular.
The first is the Netherlands Center for Social Innovation (NCSI), established in 2006 jointly by
employer organisations, trade unions, universities and a research and technology
organisation, and closed in 2012 (Xavier & Pot, 2012). The government plays no active role,
because the line of policy is that the social partners are in the lead. Moreover, governmental
activities were more focused on technological innovation. Some ministries, however,
understood the importance on non-technological innovation and provided financial support.
The purpose of NCSI was mainly to disseminate best practices, carry out field experiments,
and stimulate research, and was meant as a temporary booster to foster workplace innovation.
A second example is the Belgian initiative Flanders Synergy, started in 2009, which passed
into Workitects rather recently (https://workitects.be/over-workitects). Flanders Synergy was
an innovation platform with the aim to improve organisations as ‘innovative organisations’, to
make them more competitive and create good quality jobs. Their philosophy was based on
modern sociotechnology. The innovation platform functioned both as an expertise center and
as a pool of consultants. Its successor Workitects, since 2019, has broadened its services to
topics that are needed to make sociotechnical redesign effective, such as leadership, cultural
change, teamwork and strategy. Whereas Flanders Synergy consisted of staff that guided
change projects, Workitects trains (external) trainers and consultants to carry out the guidance
of organisations. The platform transformed into a network.
The third example we mention is Scottish Enterprise, Scotland's national economic
development agency (Totterdill & Exton, 2021). In 2016, Scotland set out its vision for the
future of work which included a practical blueprint and a new type of dialogue between
employers, employees and trade unions, public bodies and the Scottish Government. In
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response, Scottish Enterprise launched a portfolio of initiatives to promote workplace
innovation, amongst the most significant of which is the two-year pilot Workplace Innovation
Engagement Programme (WIEP). The core of WIEP is a programme that brings diverse
cohorts of companies together on a nine-month shared journey towards the sustainable
transformation of workplace practices. Scottish Enterprise is guided by an external
consultancy organisation specialised in workplace innovation change trajectories, namely the
Ireland based Workplace Innovation Europe CLG.
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4 A historical approach to understanding the concepts
and connecting them to streams
This Chapter contains an overview of streams and concepts of research into work, and how
that connects to workplace innovation. We start with looking at how concepts of workplace
have developed and where they do come from. After that, we connect those concepts to
research in the sociological, psychological, economical and management fields of work. Finally
we address the question whether we see divergence or convergence in the field of workplace
innovation and those streams. Anticipating answering this question we observe at least some
convergence of research towards the general topic of ‘good jobs’. Our approach is not a
chronological overview, but an attempt to understand whether this research has certain
commonalities and how that developed over time.
Development of workplace innovation concepts
Workplace innovation is a concept or construct that is used to either explain characteristics of
work, jobs, organisations and behaviour or as a desirable situation in companies and
organisations that demand policy support and facilitation from various agents. We looked at
workplace innovation from different levels before this, now we turn to the question of where
the concept comes from. We contend that all workplace innovation approaches strive to
explain or support the improvement of the situation for persons (employees, managers) or the
organisation. Indirectly or directly, workplace innovation contributes to more well-being and
more welfare for persons, organisations, and society. And although it may not be deliberately
stated by its representatives, workplace innovation practices can be easily linked to a ‘good
jobs strategy’ in general terms. As such it follows the initial purpose of the quality of working
life movement.
In Europe the term workplace innovation is related to values of the European Social Model
(ESM). The ESM is a defining feature of the EU and its Member States, and is meant to capture
the European alternative to rampant (neo-liberal) free-market economies (in the US) by
providing a model of sensible economic policy-making in which economic, welfare and
employment policies form a central part (Rogowski, 2008). The core of the EU policy is to
advance economic growth, social inclusion and employment, and stimulate innovation and
knowledge development. In this context and as a response to economic setbacks and crises,
many projects in Europe, and largely commissioned by the European Commission, dealt with
these topics. Not only under the flag of workplace innovation, but often using different names
for concepts with great similarities, such as ‘new ways of working’, ‘innovative workplaces’ and
‘sustainable work systems’. Concrete topics under research were, for example, fighting
unemployment, reducing the deskilling of labour, developing new ways of working and
organising, new types of work and work organisations, social security programmes and
measures, and innovation policies and (re-)skilling the labour force (see Pot, Totterdill &
Dhondt, 2016; 2017; 2020). The ESM focussed on the quality of working life and contrasted
with global trends towards Lean Production and Japanisation, with their narrow structural
emphasis on productivity, and a tendency towards job enlargement rather than job enrichment
(Totterdill, 1997). The ESM tries to balance four values: “the humanisation of work through
advanced job design and social relations; the widespread scope for innovation throughout the
organisation; the design and deployment of technology in ways which maximise workforce
potential and environmental protection; and increasing employment to reduce the waste of
human resources in the labour market.” (Totterdill, 1997: 203).
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When exactly the term workplace innovation was coined (in Europe) is hard to tell. References
to ‘workplace innovation(s)’ can be found in literature from the 1990s, generally referring to
the introduction of any new forms of work organisation and any new forms of direct employee
participation as innovation strategies connected to the notion of embedment in high road
infrastructures (Totterdill, 1997; 1999). One of the first attempts to operationalise the concept
of workplace innovation was the Hi-Res report (Totterdill, Dhondt & Milsome, 2002), which
stands for ‘High road concept as a resource to support the creation of new forms on
intervention (…)’, aiming at a better understanding of the ‘high road’ and how to get there,
which is through a rather messy interplay between several factors. Hi-Res summarised
workplace innovation’s defining characteristic in terms of the creation of jobs and practices
that empower workers at every level of an organisation to use and develop their full range of
knowledge, skills, experience and creativity in their day-to-day work, leading to high
performance simultaneously with high quality of working life. It built on diverse traditions
including both Socio-Technical Systems Design (Mohr & Van Amelsvoort, 2016) and
Scandinavian Democratic Dialogue (Gustavsen, 1992), and stressed both content and
process factors.
From a historical perspective, we can distinguish streams in research that are related to
variants of workplace innovation concepts, and that can be connected towards a tendency to
realise ‘good jobs’. These streams are located in the field of sociology & organisation research,
in safety science & organisation research, in economics & strategy and HR research, and
psychology & behavioural research. Moreover, these streams go beyond Europe, implying we
can distinguish more geographical approaches of workplace innovation. Although there is
overlap between the streams, we tried to demarcate them as accurately as possible in Figure
2, which we shall describe.
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Figure 2: Research streams connected to workplace innovation and good jobs strategy
Sociology &
organisation
res ea rch
Safety
science &
organis ation
res ea rch
Economics &
strategy a nd
HR research
Psycholog y &
behavi oural
res ea rch
Until 1950 -Between 1950 and 1980 -Between 1980 and 2000 -Between 2000 and 2021 -
Sociotechnical
systems design
Human relations -
Tavistock
Humanisierung
der Arbeit -
Germany
Labour proces s
approac h
Democratic dialogue -
Scandinavia
Modern
sociotechnics-
The Lowlands
Workplace
innovat ion EU
variant
Fifth
Element
Strategic
choice
Hig h Reliability
Organisations Resilience
Engi neeri ng
Resource Based
View of the
firm
Hig h
Performance
Work Systems
Dynamic
Capabilities
approac h
Managerial
Technology
ER IM Moni tor
ISHIP Index
Hig h Road
Perspective
Quality of
work
Job Content
Ques tionna ire /
Job
Characteristics
Model
JC DS Model
JD-R Mod el
Innovati ve
work
behavi our
Relational
coordina tion
Job desi gn /
work design
Workplace
Innovation
Scale
SMART
Work
design
model
Job crafting
TO P model
Norma l
Acci dent
Theory
Theory of the
firm
Autonomous
tea ms
General /
open systems
theory
Complex
systems theory
Social Ps ychol ogy
of Organizing Profes -
sional
autonomy
Good jobs
strategy
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Fields of research that are connected to workplace innovation
The row ‘sociology & organisation research’ (Watson, 2017) in Figure 2 depicts the
development in a timeline of the mentioned European variant of workplace innovation. As said,
it goes back to Socio-Technical Systems Design that stresses the joint optimization of the social
and technical system for success, in conjunction with the presence of (semi-autonomous) team-
based work. From there arrows go over to Human Relations, Humanisierung der Arbeit
(Humanisation of work), Strategic Choice, and from there to Democratic Dialogue and Modern
sociotechnics. Subsequently, arrows are going to the High-Road perspective, eventually feeding
into the EU variant of workplace innovation. What these approaches have in common, at least
in Europe (Totterdill, Dhondt & Milsome, 2002), is the weight put on a skilled workforce with
decent jobs as a driver for innovation and performance. There is a choice to choose for High
Road perspectives, for which it is important that top management is supportive and that power
relations are not too asymmetrical (as is suggested by the Labour process approach). The EU
variant of workplace innovation is a mixture of sub-variants, as there are definitions by
policymakers, researchers, and consultants, who each stress different aspects. Their common
ground is the European Social Model and its values. The variant of workplace innovation that is
proposed by EUWIN, the European workplace innovation network, is the Fifth Element Model
(Totterdill & Exton, 2014b). Expanding the Hi-Res framework, The Fifth Element identifies four
bundles (or ‘Elements’) of working practices with a strong association between high
performance and high quality of working life, namely: 1] Jobs, Teams & Technology; 2]
Employee-Driven Innovation & Improvement; 3] Organisational Structures, Management and
Procedures, and 4] Co-Created Leadership & Employee Voice. Alignment between these
Elements creates a synergy in the form of the ‘Fifth Element’, a system of mutually
interdependent parts that leads to a sustainable culture of innovation and empowerment
embedded throughout the organisation. The purpose of the Fifth Element model is to achieve
win-win outcomes for organisations and their employees. This then links with an arrow to the
‘Good job strategy’.
The row ‘safety science & organisation research’ in Figure 2 takes another route (Woods et al.,
2010; Weick & Sutcliffe, 2015). The start is, like in the former row, the Open systems theory.
This connects to the theory of Complex Systems and, the complexity view of, the Social
Psychology of Organising, and the Normal Accident theory. From there arrows go over into High
reliability organising and Resilience engineering. Both theories build on the need of
professionals to deal with risks in a non-standard manner because these professionals must
find solutions for problems that are difficult to predict and, therefore, very hard to handle. They
must be prepared for the unexpected, think out of the box, and suppress the psychological habit
to simplify complex issues. For this reason, professional autonomy is indispensable and that
requires a design of jobs and teams that can operate highly autonomous. Although the term
workplace innovation is not used in this context, the term learning organisation is, and therefore
this type of work must take human needs into account that enable professionals to operate
flawlessly under tiring conditions. Paradoxically, their work is at times extremely stressful and
risky, but at the same time extremely rewarding when operations are successfully ended.
Moreover, it is striking that the organisation of work is highly flexible and adaptable during
operations, while it is rather bureaucratic and formalistic namely hierarchic, with formal
briefings and debriefings, and intensive training when there is no disaster to combat. To attract
highly qualified staff it makes sense to follow a good jobs strategy. In nuclear plants and power
plants, this is often the case, but not always in the case of professions of first responders in, for
example, health care institutions. High-reliability organisations consider safety as very
important, perhaps the most salient outcome of their processes-, but this may go at the expense
of a well-elaborated good jobs strategy.
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The third row ‘economics & strategy and HR-research’ that we present here (in Figure 2) has a
focus on the effects of HR-bundles and intangibles of organisational performance. The
Resource-based view of the firm (RBV), stemming itself from the Theory of the firm, studies the
strategic resources a firm can exploit to achieve sustainable competitive advantage (Barney,
1991). The RBV proposes that firms are heterogeneous because they possess heterogeneous
resources. This means that firms can have different strategies because they have different
resource mixes. The RBV focuses managerial attention on the firm's internal resources to
identify those assets, capabilities, and competencies with the potential to deliver superior
competitive advantages. In a similar vein, the theory of Dynamic Capability is about the
capability of an organisation to purposefully adapt an organisation's resource base. The
resource-based view of the firm emphasizes sustainable competitive advantage; the dynamic
capabilities view, on the other hand, focuses more on the issue of competitive survival in
response to rapidly changing contemporary business conditions (Teece, Pisano & Shuen,
1997). Both theories have inspired developers of the High Performance Work Systems theory
that studies which elements of ‘HR-systems, bundles and measures’ contribute to a firm’s
competitive advantage. Eileen Appelbaum and her colleagues (2000) compared traditional
production systems with flexible high-performance production systems involving teams, training,
and incentive pay systems in three industries. The plants utilising high-involvement practices
showed superior performance. Besides, workers in the high-involvement plants showed more
positive attitudes, including trust, organisational commitment, and intrinsic enjoyment of the
work. Various studies have demonstrated links with productivity. It is often linked to the notion
of employee voice and empowerment (Boxall et al., 2019; Boxall & Winterton, 2018). On the
one hand, the elements of high-involvement and high-commitment of employees, which is part
of the HPWS concept, fed into the workplace innovation concepts applied by EU researchers
(see first row ‘Sociology & organisation research’). On the other hand it nourished economic
and strategic research that was interested to investigate the effect of intangibles on business
performance, such as studies into Managerial technology by Bloom and Van Reenen (2010).
The managerial technology theory states that some aspects of management are considered as
a technology or “best practice”, and that adopting organisational best practices would improve
productivity in a typical firm. Bloom & Van Reenen identify several basic management practices,
that, for example, point to human resources management measures, company governance
measures, and performance monitoring measures.
The RBV and HPWS stream influenced the construction of the ERIM Monitor and, to a lesser
extent, the ISHIP index, which were discussed earlier. The ERIM Monitor (in full: The Erasmus
Research Institute of Management’s ‘Erasmus Competition and Innovation Monitor’) is a yearly
research into the competition and innovation capabilities of Dutch firms. The monitor measures
‘social innovation’ and has a strong overlap with the EU workplace innovation concepts. The
monitor shows over the years that the business performance depends more on social innovation
than on technological innovation, which is an indication for firms of the relevance to investing
more in social innovation than they do thus far (Volberda et al., 2013; Volberda, & Van Den
Bosch, 2004). ISHIP stands for Intrapreneurship Index, and its goal is to create insight into the
conditions (organisational and individual) for entrepreneurship within established organisations
(Stam, 2018). The ISHIP index (Intrapreneurship index) includes a construct of workplace
innovation which is measured by assessing to what extent operating employees or work floor
employees are involved with innovation or renewal. In this stream of economic and strategy
related studies there is less attention for a good jobs strategy. It is absent in the ERIM Monitor
and ISHIP Index, which both will be discussed further in the next section, and only partially
related to the managerial technology studies.
The fourth and final row ‘psychology & behavioural research’ has its focus on individual and
group or team behaviour. The basis is the experiences of the Human Relations school and the
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Quality of work movement. The driving force was the question of how work can satisfy
fundamental human needs (Parker et al., 2017). Job characteristics theory is a work design
theory, and it provides core characteristics for enriching jobs in organisational settings, namely
skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback. These characteristics
affect five work-related outcomes (i.e. motivation, satisfaction, performance, and absenteeism
and turnover) through three psychological states (i.e. experienced meaningfulness, experienced
responsibility, and knowledge of results) (Hackman & Oldham, 1975). In 1980, Hackman and
Oldham modified the Job Characteristics Theory. The main changes included the addition of
two more moderators- Knowledge and Skill and Context Satisfaction, removal of the work
outcomes of absenteeism and turnover, and increased focus on Internal Work Motivation.
Several of the outcome variables were removed or renamed as well. In addition to the theory,
Oldham and Hackman also created two instruments, the Job Diagnostic Survey (JDS) and the
Job Rating Form (JRF), for assessing constructs of the theory (Hackman & Oldham, 1980).
The Job content questionnaire (JCQ) has its roots in the functioning of stress theory and is a
questionnaire-based instrument designed to measure the content of a respondent's work tasks
in a general manner (Karasek et al., 1998). The JCQ originated from the Job-Control/Job-
Demand-Control model (Karasek, 1979; Karasek & Theorell, 1980). The three central scales
are Decision Latitude (a combined scale of Skill Discretion and Decision Authority),
Psychological Demands, and Social Support (a combined scale of Supervisor and Coworker
Support). These are used to measure the high-demand/low-control/low-support model of job
strain development. The demand/control model predicts, first, stress-related risk and, second,
active-passive behavioural correlates of jobs. The JCQ has been elaborated over the years and
is still expanding. Other aspects of work demands are assessed as well, such as Physical
Demands and Job Insecurity. Nowadays there is a JCQ1 and a JCQ2 which is a multi-level
questionnaire, allowing worker’s job content to be assessed at the job level and the company
level. Even more elaborations are underway (https://www.jcqcenter.com/questionnaires-jcq-
jcq2/).
Another branch that is connected to the Job Characteristics model and the Job content
questionnaire is the Job-Demands Resources model (Bakker & Demerouti, 2014, 2017). The
JD-R is used to predict employee burnout and engagement, and consequently, organisational
performance. The JD-R model assumes that employee well-being is explained by job demands
and job resources. Research has provided evidence for the existence of two simultaneous
processes: the health process and the motivational process. High job demands exhaust
employees’ mental and physical resources and therefore lead to the depletion of energy and
health problems (i.e., the health process). In contrast, job resources foster employee
engagement and extra-role performance (i.e., the motivational process). Several studies have
shown that job resources may buffer the impact of job demands on stress reactions. In addition,
research has confirmed that job resources have motivational potential particularly when job
demands are high. However, it is less clear what demands are most significant, and what
features of the work meet these demands (Oldham & Fried, 2016). While the JD-R model and
the Job Demands-Control-Support model of Karasek (1979) are both concerned with individual
well-being, the latter plays a larger role in the design of jobs and organisations (mainly at the
team level as in modern sociotechnology), whereas the first plays a larger role in the
management of burn-out, stress and engagement (mainly at the individual level). The JD-R
model includes more subjective or personal job resources than Karasek’s model, whose focus
is on objective job characteristics as job resources.
Another offspring of the quality of work movement is the stream of job design and work design
(Knight & Parker, 2021; Oldham & Fried, 2016; Parker et al., 1997, 2017a, 2017b, 2020). Job
design refers to the actual structure of jobs that employees perform, thus job design focuses on
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the work itself, i.e., the tasks and activities that employees complete for their organisation on a
daily basis (Oldham & Fried, 2016). Work design is broader and encompasses also the
organisation of work, the crafting of work and includes the team level (Parker et al., 2017). Job
design dates back to the days of Taylor and scientific management when job simplification and
standardisation were key to improve operations and profit. Counter-productive behaviours such
as tardiness, productivity restrictions, and soldiering behaviour, however, made people aware
that jobs should be enriched instead of simplified to improve productivity. This inspired the
quality of work movement, for example, in the Motivation-Hygiene theory of Herzberg. To
enhance employee performance and job satisfaction work should include ‘motivators’ to foster
employee responsibility, achievement, competence, recognition, and advancement (Oldham &
Fried, 2016). Job / work design is a core element of the Job Characteristics model and its
successors the Job-Demand-Control model and Job Demand- Resources model, and its more
recent variant of Job Crafting (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001). Small wonder that job / work
design overlaps with these theories and sociotechnical-systems design and autonomous team-
approaches. In the early years, job design stressed characteristics, like task variety, autonomy,
task identity and feedback, that could enrich jobs by countering simplification and
standardisation and thus motivate employees. When, by the end of the century, a global shift
had taken place from a manufacturing economy to a knowledge and service economy, other job
characteristics grew stronger. These were social dimensions of work, for example, interactions,
feedback and social support (Oldham & Fried, 2016). Regarding the effects of job design, job
satisfaction and better performance were of central interest in the beginning. But in later years
there came more appreciation for a broader impact on individuals and their organisations, such
as health, well-being, safety, innovation and profitability. Since the eighties, there was a growing
consideration for the design of work performed by teams, with major topics like autonomy, self-
determination and self-directed teams, and team task-interdependency. New fields were
opened up that were connected to teams such as group dynamics, team effectiveness, and
team leadership (Parker et al., 2017). Job / work design partly evolved into the practice of job
crafting in the 2000s (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001; Tims et al., 2013a) and into team crafting
and collective job crafting in the 2010s (Tims et al., 2013b). The essential question is here how
individuals and teams can ‘craft’ their jobs, modify their tasks within certain limits, namely their
job discretion, and make their work more meaningful. In reverse, job / work design can create
room to manoeuvre for employees such that it affects their roles. Think for example of role
breadth, extra-role behaviour / organisational citizenship behaviour, proactive work behaviour,
which can be linked to the concept of role orientation, that captures how individuals (and teams)
construct their roles in different ways, and, related to the world of work promote better job
performance (Parker et al., 1997; 2017). This role orientation approach was further developed
into the SMART work design model, one of the latest branches of the job / work design stream.
The SMART work design model consists of a selection of the existing job characteristics studied
in the past 50 years, namely Stimulation (based on skill and task variety), Mastery (based on
role clarity and task identity), Agency (based on autonomy), Relations (based on social support
and feedback), and Tolerable demands (tolerable workload and stress risks), which shall be
discussed later (Hay et al., 2020a; 2020b).
A final branch to mention is Relational Coordination (Gittel, 2016), which is a mutually reinforcing
process of communicating and relating for the purpose of task integration. Relational
Coordination (RC) proposes that highly interdependent work is most effectively coordinated
through relationships that are characterized by shared goals, shared knowledge and mutual
respect, and that are supported by frequent, timely, accurate and problem-solving
communication. Research shows an association between RC and a wide range of positive
performance outcomes for organisations and employees. The design of work systems can
support or undermine RC. RC is first of all communicating and relating for the purpose of task
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integration a powerful driver of performance when work is interdependent, uncertain and time-
constrained. RCs key concept is ‘team work’ (Gittell, 2016). RC can therefore be seen as a
special type of job / team design and element of High Performance Work Systems.
A relevant observation about the job / work design stream is that one part of this community
studies the psychological antecedents, moderators, mediators, outputs and outcomes in terms
of behaviours, attitudes and states, and where the main relation under investigation is the one
between person and job. The other part of the community seems driven to assess the conditions
of ‘good’ jobs and work in how the production process and operational process is organised and
designed, more or less irrespective of the persons that hold these jobs. That part pays more
attention to how technology and innovations are applied, and what is the range of options for
alternatives to the design of jobs, workplaces and organisations. The first part of the community
is dominated by researchers and professionals with a psychological background, while the
second part is dominated by researchers and professionals with a sociological background, or
a background in business administration or engineering / operations management. Eventually,
all approaches support the achievement of ‘good jobs’ in one way or another. We, however,
contend that psychologists underuse their potential for change because their overlooking
production and operation management issues, due to a lack of expertise (Karanika-Murray &
Oeij, 2017a, 2017b).
A final sub-stream of the quality of work movement to mention here is ‘Innovative work
behaviour’ (IWB) (Janssen, 2000; Scott & Bruce, 1994; 1998; West & Farr, 1990). Despite the
many empirical studies using this concept, the literature lacks a detailed definition and
conceptualisation of IWB, which leaves De Spiegelaere et al., (2018) to conclude that innovative
work behaviour deals with employee behaviour aimed at bringing about innovations. These
innovations can be products, processes, procedures or ideas that are new and intended to
benefit the relevant unit of adoption. Innovative work behaviour, as with the parent concept of
innovation, is a broad concept and has a strong overlap with other concepts such as creativity
in the workplace (Amabile, 1996), intrapreneurship (Bosma et al., 2010), organisational
citizenship behaviour (Organ et al., 2006), personal initiative / taking charge (Frese & Fay,
2001), and employee-driven innovation (Høyrup, 2012). The workplace innovation scale (WIS)
of McMurray and colleagues, discussed earlier, originated from this stream of psychological
behaviour (McMurray & Dorai, 2003).
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5 Diverging or converging concepts? Discussion and
avenues for future endeavours
This final section will draw conclusions and formulate points of discussion.
Conclusion
More than 426 publications were searched and screened to assess 170 dealing with ‘workplace
innovation’ and another 10 with ‘work design as an example of workplace innovation’. We
observed that the publications differ a lot in their use of the concepts of workplace innovation.
Many researchers only do lip service to the term but do not contribute to the elaboration or
understanding of workplace innovation. In order to get a grip on the literature we developed a
categorisation grid with one dimension on the type of research 1] fundamental, 2] evaluation,
3] practice and policy and another one on the level of analysis 1] persons and groups, 2]
organisation, 3] regional, national and international institutions. For the nine cells we selected
research which is making a substantial contribution to the field of workplace innovation as a
distinct field, including policy approaches that promote workplace innovation. We called these
prominent approaches, as they are telling examples that combine a certain type of research and
a certain level of analysis, that have a link to theory or a clear distinction as a concept. Two of
the nine cells remained empty.
Among the type of fundamental research, i.e. testing models and developing evidence-based
knowledge, there is one main example at the individual level which is the Workplace Innovation
Scale (WIS). Much research with this psychological measurement instrument has been carried
out in Australia and Asia. The other cell of fundamental research is dominated by European
research at organisational level. Here four measuring instruments are positioned that are
surveys to investigate the presence of organisational elements of workplace innovation
characteristics, namely WPI TNO-WEA, MWIP, ERIM Monitor and ISHIP Index. We observe
that that there is almost no interaction between the psychological approach and organisational
approaches. Since recently both strands do refer to each other, but use different definitions of
workplace innovation. Perhaps this is an indication for the need of multi-level research designs
that investigate individual and organisational levels in relation to each other. At the
regional/national/international level no fundamental research into workplace innovation is
present.
The type of evaluation research, aimed at developing knowledge for policy and practice, is only
found at organisational and higher levels, like industries, regions and national level.
Organisation level research are European studies by the European Commission and Eurofound
trying to empirically capture the workplace innovation characteristics of companies and
comparing these across Europe, or making inventories of variables that (can) measure
characteristics of workplace innovation (in diverse European datasets). Higher level research
into workplace innovation are national programmes within Europe and in Korea, evaluation
research into EU subsidy programmes, and evaluation of regional workplace innovation
programmes. The purpose of the type of evaluation research is either to better understand
empirical practices, or to get a grip on what should be done from a policy perspective to support
workplace innovation. Definitions of workplace innovation are often rather broad.
The practice and policy research type is dominated by tools and models for practice. At the level
of persons and groups the SMART model is positioned which supports the practice of job design
and work design. At organisational level there are organisational design tools (TWIN) and
consultancy methods or guides (EUWIN Guide, 5Th Element Model). At the regional, national
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and international level we observed policy models to support workplace innovation and analyse
and classify approaches in various countries, specific policy supporting bodies in Europe
(EUWIN) and in certain countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Scotland). These examples also apply
rather broad definitions of workplace innovation. It can be stated that policy approaches
sometimes use workplace innovation as a term to cover many different topics. It is no surprise
that ‘opportunistic’ proponents of specific change may use present fashion fads as a carrier for
their interests. Likewise, workplace innovation propagandists take every opportunity to frame
related policy and practices as an example of welcomed workplace innovation policy directions.
In conclusion the theoretical and empirical development of the field of workplace innovation are
scattered. Convergence requires active discussion and exchange of viewpoints between users
and looking for common research, political and practical goals. On the other hand, the present
applications of workplace innovation serve different goals, or goals that only broadly cover
similar topics, making it unpractical and less desirable to strive for scientific convergence, which
could put ‘the advancement of work’ at risk. Concerning practical convergence, however, it
would be recommendable to stress the good jobs strategy as a common goal for all of the
concepts.
Discussion points
Is the shortfall of good jobs to be viewed as a massive market failure, a gross economic
malfunction instead of a source of inequality and economic exclusion (Rodrik & Sabel, 2019)?
This report is written in a time which is characterised by ongoing digitisation and COVID-19.
Digitisation is related to new technological applications like datascience, AI, VR/AR, machine
learning and algorithms and nanotechnology, but also to ongoing automation and robotisation.
As it affects IT-hardware and IT-software in almost any thinkable business the influence is
pervasive, and at the same time pretty unpredictable in its effects on the quality and quantity of
work. The effects can be either positive or negative, largely depending on the choices made by
decision makers who are surrounded by a volatile and fast changing world (Parker & Grote,
2020). While long term vision, the drive for sustainability, a greener economy and empowering
employees might favour the mindset towards a good jobs strategy, there is pressure to keep
costs controllable and limited room to invest in long term goals. That pressure comes from the
economic threat related to COVID-19 and the competition that may force companies to replace
employees by cheaper modes of production.
Against the background of digitisation, technological innovation, and new business models, the
distribution of economic value issues must be taken into account, for which a workplace
innovative organisation could offer solutions. Much research indicates that employees receive
less and less of the added value that is created in organisations (Elsby, Hobijn & Sahin, 2013).
Commitment to workplace innovative ways of producing requires at least a discussion about
how the extra profit is distributed (Dhondt 2021; Osterman, 2018; Rodrik & Sabel, 2019). The
introduction and impact of new technology is largely a matter of strategic choice by decision
makers. In the sociotechnical approach of workplace innovation for example, the organisation
design sequence is that the work processes must first be organised, and only then automated.
In practice, a lot of technology comes off the shelf and there is not much to organise. Bloom et
al., (2014) indicate that information technology and communication technology have a different
impact on how organisations function. Information technology ensures that employees
themselves have access to all the information they need to process. This technology
encourages a broadening of tasks. Communication technology, on the other hand, ensures that
management has a better view of the work and will be more inclined to manage processes
centrally. Specialisation of the work is a logical choice. In a similar vein Autor and Salomons
(2018) point to the automation choice between augmenting employees or replacing them.
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We know from decades-long research that the way new technologies are being implemented
results in changes in jobs or tasks. Some jobs improve in content; some become worse. Much
discussion in industries is on the possibilities for reskilling and upskilling of work. The general
trend seems to be that technology is skill-biased (Acemoglu 2002). More digital technologies
require that companies do more training and develop T-shaped job profiles (EMPIRICA et al.,
2020). T-shaped skills refer to both specialist and generalist knowledge. Many industries in
advanced economies indicate they are confronted with personnel shortages and have great
difficulties in attracting relevant staff. A major concern is to support the implementation into
more high-quality jobs and prevent the continuation or increase of bad jobs.
At the same time, digital technologies are also a threat to ‘good jobs’. Digital technology has the
potential to shape organisations. An example is the rise of platform work and click-work (Dhondt
et al., 2021). Organisations driven by these technologies tend to centralise all decision making
and reduce work to top-down assignments. The contribution of the worker (note they are not
‘employees’) to what they do and how they do it is very limited. Not only does the worker not get
much out of work financially, but they also learn very little from their work situation. Long working
days and bad work situations do not stimulate socially innovative behaviour (Warhurst & Dhondt
2020). Another threat is that digital technologies ensure a strong centralisation of decisions and
standardisation of work in companies. Software developments such as Enterprise Application
Integration (EAI) allowed companies to start integrating all company management domains.
Technical integration was seen as a precondition for managerial and cultural integration in very
large firms. The EAI technologies allowed companies to eliminate differences in practices
between parts of companies and all employees’ work practices. Quality of work, use of skills
and ownership of employees are affected negatively: instead of good jobs (or active work as
Karasek calls it; Karasek & Theorell, 1990), there was more passive and stressful work and
sometimes pointless work.
Moreover, an increase in the impact of digital technology is expected. Although the number of
robots remains low in industry (Müller et al., 2019), the application of Artificial Intelligence in
worker management systems can have unforeseen consequences for employees’ autonomy
(Das et al., 2020; Zuboff 2019). Employees are unaware what is driving them, thus lose the
opportunity to learn from work. Learning of the machine is part of the algorithm and the
unlearning of humans (Dhondt et al., 2021).
In practice, there is a broad set of technologies and employees and managers will have to be
aware of how they shape their composition of technology, for which a design theory can be a
useful tool. In this respect it is important to consider how employees can be involved in decisions
to shape technology and organisation (Dhondt, 2021). To create human-centered workplaces
the ‘old’ sociotechnical notion of a ‘joint optimisation’ of work, organisation and technology is
still valid (Hirsch-Kreinsen & Ittermann, 2021).
Coda
This report is a preparatory literature study for a research agenda on workplace innovation. That
research agenda will be prepared as a book chapter (planning for publication is 2022). Apart
from that, our purpose was to bring together all research that we could find with a connection to
‘workplace innovation’. By including research that was not published in academic journals alone,
but in books, reports, grey publications and on websites, we could make an overview and a
categorisation based on many sources. The categorisation in table 1 makes clear that there are
several researchers in the field that hardly connect to each other. Only since 2020-2021 we
have seen researchers from different disciplines start referring to each other’s work (McMurray
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et al., 2021b). There are even fewer cross-references between authors working in different
research streams beyond the focused topic of workplace innovation in Figure 2, requiring us to
think about realistic linkages of cooperation and cross-fertilizing of those striving after a ‘good
jobs strategy’.
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Acknowledgement
This report is a literature review on workplace innovation that serves as a pre-study for an
abbreviated chapter in ‘A Research Agenda for Workplace Innovation: The Challenge of
Disruptive Transitions’ (Editors Peter R.A. Oeij, Steven Dhondt, and Adela J. McMurray; Edward
Elgar Publishing).
Peter R. A. Oeij, is a senior research scientist & consultant affiliated with TNO Innovation for
Life, a Research and Technology organisation in The Netherlands. His field of work is innovation
management, workplace innovation, social innovation and team dynamics. Peter co-edited
Workplace Innovation: Theory, Research and Practice (2017, Series 'Aligning Perspectives on
Health, Safety and Well-Being’. Springer: Cham -Switzerland; DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-56333-
6), ‘Workplace innovation Social innovation: Shaping work organisation and working life’
(Special issue of World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable
Development, 2016, 12(1), pp. 1-129), and ‘Workplace innovation in the era of disruptive
technologies’ (Special Issue of International Journal of Technology Transfer and
Commercialisation, 2019, 16(3), 199-309).
Steven Dhondt is a Professor of Sociology at the KU Leuven, Belgium, and Senior Research
Scientist at TNO, The Netherlands. His research interests include work and organisational
change, inequality and diversity and the impact of digitalisation and robotics.
Adela J. McMurray is Professor of Management/HRM and Innovation at Flinders University,
Australia. She is the co-editor of The Palgrave handbook of workplace innovation (2021,
London: Palgrave McMillan. DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-59916-4). Adela has over 350 publications
and holds numerous research grants. Adela’s research addresses leadership, ethics, HRM,
culture and innovation.
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Annex 2: Work design references as an example of
WPI
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Chapter
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Digitalization is transforming the way we move and produce, encouraging the industry to use the best available technologies focusing on people. Non technological innovations, especially, Workplace Innovation (WI) will play a key role in the digital revolution and acceleration of the technological advances, improving the competitiveness of the companies. This draws attention to the importance of the innovation culture and employee engagement focused on improving employee motivation and working conditions, thereby improving labor productivity, organizational efficiency, innovation capacity, market reactivity, and, as a result, business competitiveness. WI is a combination of structural and cultural practices that boosts employees’ participation, improving the quality of work and organizational performance. These strategies aim to promote innovative work behavior to create, introduce and apply new ideas, processes and products. To address these issues this chapter analyses WI in rail sector and defines WI Scheme for rail sector. A theoretical background is presented based on a sample of 203 railway entities across European Union (EU). Then, data analysis and results are examined and the guide to implement WI scheme is defined. Finally, the results of the research, including limitations and concluding remarks are discussed.
Article
Full-text available
Purpose The creative employees with innovative ideas tend to engage with the latest technologies and the needed organizational processes for the survival of the companies. The culture of workplace innovation (WIP) causes, strengthens, sustains and incentivizes employee performance to enhance employee innovativeness. This paper explores as to what employees perceive on and how to go about WPI; the study of the perception of knowledge professionals about nature, extent, the association and the outcomes of workplace innovation, therefore, assumes importance. Design/methodology/approach Knowledge professionals were surveyed to collect data regarding workplace innovation. And 481 collected responses were analyzed to infer the results and employed structural equation modeling (SEM) to validate the proposed research model. The results of the reliability and validity tests show that the proposed model has satisfactory psychometric properties. Findings The present study looked into how culture facilitates WPI and enhances employee innovativeness and performance. The level of trust between employees and organizations has to be very high, and the organization has to have a close-knit working environment to ensure that organizations remain in the market retaining their market standing. This is so particularly in the context of today's global scenario where organizations have access to technologies, and technologies have changed the way we live, consume and meet people. The success of an organization depends on the culture of the organization. Research limitations/implications The study has certain constraints. Foremost, the sample collected comprises a good percentage of entry and middle managerial level employees while the proportion of senior managerial level employees is relatively less. In a way, it represents the actual population, as in general, the senior managers make a very less percentage in information technology (IT) organizations. Practical implications To accomplish the goal of marinating high performing and innovative organizational workforce, the policymakers and the management of organizations should adopt an employee-centric approach by employing nontechnical innovation at the workplace, namely WPI. The results of this study pronounce the same. The more favorable the culture of an organization, the more likely the employee thrives and continues in it. Hence, the major step from the employer side could be to develop and maintain a supportive and constructive organizational culture. Originality/value The value of this original research lies in the understanding of the literature reviewed that it is the first survey of its kind done in India, and it helps the Indian IT organizations and knowledge professionals to understand that the WPI enhances employee innovativeness and job performance.
Chapter
Full-text available
The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the importance of workplace innovation to sustainable development of the organizational change process. Workplace innovation has been distinguished from the technical innovation and its significance to intangible service improvements. It has addressed how sustainable development is affected by workplace safety, health, productivity, and wellbeing at the workplace. The chapter also attempted to see the three pillars of sustainable development against the six pillars of sustainable development dimensions from prospective points of the previous studies. The previous studies’ findings considered sustainable development dimensions as economic, social, and environmental dimension, while the recent study has introduced additional three new sustainable development dimensions emanating from the existing dimension such as cultural, political and technological dimensions. Therefore, the paper tried to address the workplace innovation, its importance, model, and its impact on sustainable development of the global society.
Article
Full-text available
The accurate and efficient diagnosis of rare diseases, many of which include congenital anomalies, depends largely on the specialists who diagnose them – including their ability to work alongside specialists from other fields and to take full advantage of cutting-edge precision medicine technologies and precision public health approaches. However, highly specialized clinicians operating within a historically-siloed healthcare system is antithetical to the multi-disciplinary, collaborative, and creative approach that facilitates the diagnosis of rare diseases. The Western Australian Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP-WA) successfully re-designed the work of the involved clinicians to facilitate teamworking across silos. To understand the effectiveness of the Western Australian program, we draw on a SMART work design perspective (i.e., work that involves Stimulation, Mastery, Agency, Relations, and Tolerable demands). We propose that the redesign was successful in part because it improved crucial psychosocial work characteristics that are less prevalent in the broader work system, as identified in the SMART model. Based on the effectiveness of UDP-WA and its SMART design, we provide a framework that clinicians, healthcare managers, and policymakers can consider when they re-design work so that they can create SMART jobs within healthcare.
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Governmente enact innovation across the public sector through public sector organizations; however, little is known abotu how innovation works within them. This research identified a significant relationship between organizational culture and workplace innovation finding that public sector managers can invest in developing positive cultural environments to support the development of workplace innovation.
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The rail sector is a sector with a significant impact on European industry and it is therefore important that it follows the current innovative trends. We live in an increasingly digitised society but, until now, digitisation has not been a priority issue for the sector as the rules that apply to the entire value chain have hindered the digitisation process. Even so, technologies are not enough, and innovation must be implemented in companies at the organisational and employee level. The RailActivation project has experimented with workplace innovation to foster innovation capabilities in the railway sector, providing elements for companies to remain as innovative and competitive as possible, as well as to have additional tools to adapt to these challenges. In order to help in this process, this article proposes a series of recommendations based on the lessons learnt during the implementation of the project. These recommendations establish a link between policy and workplace innovation practices and could be a reference framework for further research and policy. The suggested policy recommendations are focused on companies and policy makers and are based on the results obtained from the different consultations with the stakeholders involved in this research.