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Workplace Organization And Human Resource Practices: The Retail Food Industry


  • Ben-Ner, Avner
  • Kong, Fanmin
  • Bosley, Stacie A.
  • Burns, W. Allen
  • Butler, Richard
  • Han, Tzu-Shian
  • Liu, Nien-Chi
  • Park, Yong-Seung


Most retail food firms adhere to traditional human resources management practices, with employees enjoying little involvement in decision-making and little participation in company financial returns. More than one tenth of non-food firms have innovative human resources systems, with much individual and group involvement in decision-making and financial returns, but only a minuscule proportion of food firms have such systems. At the other end of the spectrum, more than one-fifth of food stores and eating and drinking places (and nearly one-third of food wholesale firms) have traditional systems, as compared to only one-tenth of non-food firms. The tasks and the human resource practices typical of retail food firms are consistent with each other. Core employees in these firms perform tasks that are generally simpler and less variable than those in other industries, and the firms' human resource practices generally give workers less autonomy and incentives than those in other industries. Whether the structure and variability of tasks are the result of a particular business strategy or adoption of a certain technology is not known. Which came first, these simple tasks, the workers who perform them, or these human resource policies is similarly unknown. We arrive at these conclusions through analysis of an original data set composed of 806 Minnesota firms, including 211 food firms, which allows us to characterize the change in human resource practices since the early 1980s, and to examine differences in the organization of work across companies. Work organization and human resource practices in the retail food industry have changed substantially, although the change has been less pronounced than in most other industries.

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  • Ben-Ner, Avner & Kong, Fanmin & Bosley, Stacie A. & Burns, W. Allen & Butler, Richard & Han, Tzu-Shian & Liu, Nien-Chi & Park, Yong-Seung, 1999. "Workplace Organization And Human Resource Practices: The Retail Food Industry," Working Papers 14315, University of Minnesota, The Food Industry Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:umrfwp:14315

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ben-Ner Avner & Montias John Michael & Neuberger Egon, 1993. "Basic Issues in Organizations: A Comparative Perspective," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 207-242, June.
    2. Ben-Ner, A. & Jones, D., 1992. "An New Conceptual Framework for the Analysis of the Impact of Employees Participation, Profit Sharing and Ownership on Firm Performance," Papers 92-10, Minnesota - Industrial Relations Center.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elizabeth Davis & Matthew Freedman & Julia Lane & Brian McCall & Nicole Nestoriak & Timothy Park, "undated". "Product Market Competition and Human Resource Practices: An Analysis of the Retail Food Sector," Working Papers 0905, Human Resources and Labor Studies, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities Campus).
    2. Arando, Saioa & Gago, Monica & Jones, Derek C. & Kato, Takao, 2011. "Efficiency in Employee-Owned Enterprises: An Econometric Case Study of Mondragon," IZA Discussion Papers 5711, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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    Labor and Human Capital; Marketing;


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