Evelyne LEONARD & Bénédicte VANDE VELDE
Institut d´Administration et de Gestion
Université Catholique de Louvain
In the last decade, two broad types of topics have been given much attention in the literature in human resource management: on the one hand, commitment strategies constitute a major topic in publications; on the other hand, the flexibility of labour is studies as a major trend in managerial practice around Europe.
On the commitment side, authors refer to managerial practices oriented towards greater employees´ development, autonomy, empowerment, participation, or team work. On the other side, we can find a large amount of publications on flexibility, flexibilization of labour, or numerical flexibility, involving all types of strategies oriented towards a greater adaptability of companies to market demands through various kind of flexible work: short – term contracts, self employment, outsourcing, agency temporaries, etc.
Both types of strategies – commitment strategies and flexibility of labour – are considered as being major trends in human resource management on the long run. Do they coexist in managerial practice or are they incompatible? In other words, do companies use both types of strategy or do they, rather make a clear – cut choice between flexibility and commitment?
The paper addresses this central question and examines the different types of answers given in the literature. These answers are synthesised here under five types of approaches or models: the advocacy of commitment management, the models of the deregulation of work, the differentiation of management strategies models, the core –periphery approach or the segmentation of the workforce model, the model of the combination contrasted management practices. For each model, the paper synthesises empirical evidence supporting it or, on the contrary, calling in into question.
Finally the paper examines further the hypothesis of the coexistence of the flexibilization of labour and commitment strategies within companies. This coexistence is considered at two levels: at the level of management strategies, the question of the possibility and development of contrasted but joint strategies is raised, at the level of the impacts on workers; the question of intertwined effects employees is examined.
KEY WORDS: HRM, flexibility of labour, commitment strategies, commitment management.