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CEP discussion paper

Participation in Organisations: Economic Approaches


Under the auspices of the debate about high performance work systems, it has been suggested that the evidence of positive results is disappointing and that one reason is that there has been a lack of theory. This paper argues that there is indeed a great deal of theory that could be used to reformulate the basic research questions, much of it coming from labour economics broadly understood. It includes a meta-survey of research on the effects of participation on performance since the landmark survey by Levine and Tyson in 1990 which was very positive. It finds that the evidence is less clear cut now. It is argued that this is due in part to consideration of a wider range of performance outcomes, improved data and methods, and to the wider diffusion of such practices compared with the 1980s. It is also suggested that the debate needs to be widened to include a broader range of participatory structures.


Almudena Caņibano and David Marsden

August 2009     Paper Number CEPDP0945

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Labour markets programme.