Flexible staffing practices in Dubai: a study with reference to Atkinson's model.

AuthorBose, Indranil
PositionReport - Abstract


Flexible practices in the organization often reflect the calculated decisions, though just the whim or impulse is also not uncommon in many cases. From the business point of view, unpredictability has sharply increased because of the choice set before consumers has never been so diverse and great. Today's customers have the expanding ability to shop around through access to mobile phones, motorcars, tele-text and internet. A study on one thousand university students in India across three major cities has revealed that almost 40% of them prefer shopping of electronic gadgets online, whereas, the same rate increases up to 80% among European and American students (Sanders & Sydney, 2009). In the given situation, the business establishments are in increasing competition to provide convenient shopping opportunities through extended opening hours, telesales, on-line sales etc. In employment terms, such flexibility in current and medium term activities has caused many employers to extend the use of temporary employment policies. These have taken a variety of forms associated with the new concept of 'complementary workers' (Royece, 2010). The other techniques becoming popular in such situations are the extensive use of short term contracts, casual and temporary agency staffs, in-house and out-sourcing contracts, implementation of weekly hours as well as annual hours systems etc. Another conceptual development in this context is 'going beyond contract', which denotes flexibility in terms of both vertical and horizontal ways. In the vertical sense, employees carry out work which could be regarded as above their job, such as supervisory or managerial aspects, and work below their level, such as cleaning up or helping out in routine tasks. In the horizontal sense, employees' skills and knowledge are stretched to cover a variety of activities in the areas, which are related to, but not within the areas of job descriptions in strict sense (Stredwick & Ellis, 2008).

Core & Peripheral Workforce Model

In the enthusiastic analysis of flexibility in the early 1980s, the seminal and much quoted model depicting the divisions between 'core' and 'peripheral' workforces has been developed. John Atkinson and his colleagues have classified the workers into 'core', 'first peripheral', 'second peripheral' and 'external groups'. Under this model, the 'core' workers are full time permanent career employees whose security is won at the cost of accepting 'functional' flexibility both in the short term (multi-skilling, multi-responsibilities) as well as in the longer term (career changes, lateral movements). Their terms and conditions reflect their importance with a raft of benefits and salary increases depending on their achievements and those of the team and the organization. The 'first peripheral' group enjoy less job security and access to career opportunities. Atkinson has termed this kind of jobs as 'plug-in' jobs, which means that such jobs are not skill specific to the organization, but is filling the gap type as and when required type of situations. As per the model, the 'second peripheral group' is the extension of the first, with much part-time working, twilight shifts, zero hour and short term contracts with maximum flexibility. Such terms' and conditions in general minimize organizational commitment to the employee, job security and career development. The other major group of recruitment as per the model is known as 'external groups', which attempts to give additional support to numerical flexibility by filling positions which are very mundane like office cleaning, very specialized IT services or any other services on purely contract or self employment basis. The model has also talked about extended use of trainees, who bring with them some form of public subsidy through the latest re-badging of government regulations like apprentices under Apprenticeship Act in India, Youth Training Scheme under NSE program in UK etc. Table 1 shows the basic differences of different types of staffing on the basis of some key parameters:

Despite the popularity of this model, it does not fit every situation in practice. Though, in the food chains like McDonald's , KFC etc., operations very much depends on second periphery of work-group, who are mostly part-timers in many parts of the world, the Information Technology industry in India, USA and many other countries, the project managers' appointments are being done on the same principle. Moreover, distinguishing the core of the business from periphery is becoming a serious philosophical argument over the years. British Airways, for example, were quite prepared to outsource both their cabin crew and aircraft maintenance operations in late 1990s and early 2000. However, under the glooming threat of deteriorating industrial relations scenario, the organization was forced to abstain from implementation of such a plan. In India, such philosophical argument is quite common over last two decades. Indian aviation industry, public sector dominated steel and manufacturing industries, banking and insurance industries and government run railways have witnessed several disputes and stalemates on the same issues (Antony & Merter, 2010).

Research Objectives

The present research attempts to study the different dimensions of flexible workforce model, with reference to Atkinson's model, as used in private sector industries in India. The research has been carried out by incorporating observations made by the selected executives of three different major private sectors, located at Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The key objectives of the present research are:

1) To understand the flexible workforce model practiced by the selected private sector organizations in Dubai.

2) To study the effectiveness of the flexible work practice model practiced in the private sector medium organizations in Dubai, from the observations of the selected organizations' executives.

3) To...

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