Annalisa Cristini, Alessandro Gaj, Sandrine Labory, Riccardo Leoni

Flat Hierarchical Structure, Bundles of New Work Practices and Firm Performance

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In the last decade a growing economic literature has been devoted to the relationship between firm organisation and performance. Empirical analyses mainly focus on the relationship between human resources management and firm performance, neglecting the role played by organisational designs. The aim of this paper is to integrate the analysis of this relationship and verify the extent to which it is relevant for Italian firms. The data set, for a sample of manufacturing firms located in Lombardy, is composed of a cross-section survey information on workplace organisation and a balance sheet panel. We confirm the major results of studies carried out in other countries, namely: practices appear in clusters, have positive effects on productivity and are favoured by high skills. Moreover we find that a flat hierarchical structure is a condition "sine qua non" for some practices to be implemented and become productive; however, practices like the degree of autonomy of the team, consultation, information sharing, selective hiring and cognitive training are productive only if the horizontal structure is accompanied by good industrial relations. The latter appears to be one of the complementary conditions for radical reorganisation leading to a flat structure and a consequent empowerment of human resources. The road of internal firm flexibility appears to be a strong source of productivity, able to fully exploit the potential of new, more complex and versatile equipments based on investments in advanced manufacturing and in the so-called "general purpose technologies". Policy implications in terms of diffusion of workplaces re-engineering are derived and discussed.

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