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High Performing Workplaces Under Scrutiny


27 July 2005

High Performing Workplaces Under Scrutiny

One of the world's leading researchers on high performing workplaces is in New Zealand this week and next at the invitation of The University of Auckland Business School.

Professor Eileen Appelbaum from Rutgers University in New Jersey, and a former Director at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC, is the keynote speaker at a mini-conference to be held on Thursday July 28, hosted by the Tamaki Division of The University of Auckland Business School. Media and the public are welcome to attend.

"The High Performing Workplace: Insights from Leading Edge Research and Experience" features research findings from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Professor Appelbaum's presentation, Innovative Management Practices and Competitive Advantage, examines the reasons why many firms don't adopt high performance work practices, despite the advantages they offer for both employers and employees.

Other speakers at Thursday's mini-conference include Dr Marc Orlitzky from The University of Auckland Business School and Dr Keith Macky from Massey University, Albany.

Dr Orlitzky's presentation, Alternative Pathways to High-Performance Workplaces, draws on research undertaken in Australia with Professor Stephen Frenkel of the Australian Graduate School of Management. The presentation compares four workplace performance models, two of which have high road or enabling characteristics. These are the 'strategic HRM' and 'organisational trust' models, respectively. The other two models motivate workers to raise productivity through the use of the stick (coercion) rather than the carrot. Based on a representative survey of Australian workers, the capacity of each model to explain relative workplace productivity is examined.

Dr Macky's presentation, Employee Responses to High Performance Work Systems - A Story in Three Parts, uses research findings from a randomly selected national sample of New Zealand employees. The presentation addresses the general assumption in the research on high performance work systems that both employers and employees will benefit from the application of such systems, that the interaction between management practices included under the HPWS banner will create positive outcomes greater than the sum of the parts, and that there is a uniform bundle or cluster of people management practices that all firms would benefit from implementing.

Professor Appelbaum - who is in New Zealand as a University of Auckland Foundation Visitor - is also presenting two seminars at the Business School next week, both of which are open to media and the public:

"How Trust Really Works in Organisations"

This seminar examines the links between high-performance work practices, workers' trust in management and organisational commitment, and organisational performance. It is based on an extensive, multi-method study in the US steel industry.

"Paid Family Leave: The Californian Experience"

California introduced paid family leave for new parents and for family illness care, based on payroll tax, in 2004. This seminar draws on two recent large-scale surveys to examine employers' and employees' attitudes and responses to the new law. Awareness is found to be surprisingly limited, and concentrated among those previously entitled to paid family leave, undermining the intent of the programme.

Biographical Note on Professor Appelbaum

Professor Eileen Appelbaum is Professor, School of Management and Labor Relations, and Director of the Center for Women and Work, at Rutgers University. Formerly she was Research Director at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC. Two of her books, The New American Workplace: Transforming Work Systems in the United States (1994) and Manufacturing Advantage: Why High Performance Work Systems Pay Off (2000), are landmark studies in innovations in contemporary work organisation. In addition, Professor Appelbaum has also published widely on work-life practices of organisations, with an emphasis on issues related to work time and flexibility, most recently co-authoring Shared Work - Valued Care: New Norms for Organizing Market Work and Unpaid Care Work (2000), and on the labour market experiences of women, most recently co-editing Low Wage America: How Employers Are Reshaping Opportunity in the Workplace (2003).

Mini-conference and seminar details:

The High Performing Workplace: Insights from Leading Edge Research and Experience

Thursday, 28 July, 2-6pm

School of Population Health Building,

Tamaki Campus, University of Auckland

To register, contact

How Trust Really Works in Organisations

Tuesday, 2 August, 12-1.30pm

Room 501, Commerce C Building, 18 Symonds St, Auckland

To register, contact

Paid Family Leave: The Californian Experience

Wednesday, 3 August, 1-2.30pm

Room 501, Commerce C Building, 18 Symonds St, Auckland

To register, contact


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