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A study of the core-periphery model of work flexibility in the Irish hospitality industry.
Abstract:
Various studies of organisational flexibility have looked at the links between numerical and functional flexibility. They have tried to explain how organisations are able to obtain these concurrently. This can lead to competitive advantage. According to Kalleberg (2001), this link is achieved using the core-periphery model. In this paper it is proposed to discuss the merits and shortcomings of the core periphery model and to test this model in the Irish hospitality industry. The author analysed 177 completed responses from employers and 246 completed responses from employees. The results presented here would reflect Kalleberg's thesis that the core-periphery model is not an accurate representation of how firms organise their manpower. Furthermore, the findings here would not support the theory that it is necessary to have a group of temporary workers with low paid, insecure jobs and low commitment in order to protect a core group of employees who are highly committed and who enjoy functionally flexible stable employment. As reflected already, we see that part-time employees have many benefits, some have training and they are involved in team working and multi-skilling. No relationship was found between numerical and functional flexibility. This is at variance with the thesis of the flexible firm, which claims that numerical and functional flexibility are pursued in a strategic way by firms. The study extends the debate on the flexible firm to include work-life balance as the findings show that numerical and functional flexibility are positively correlated with work-life balance.

Keywords: work flexibility, core periphery, part-time

Subject:
Hospitality industry (Human resource management)
Hospitality industry (Industry forecasts)
Economic growth (Analysis)
Work-life balance (Analysis)
Author:
Farrell, Kathleen
Pub Date:
01/01/2009
Publication:
Name: Journal of International Business and Economics Publisher: International Academy of Business and Economics Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business, international; Computers Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 International Academy of Business and Economics ISSN: 1544-8037
Issue:
Date: Jan, 2009 Source Volume: 9 Source Issue: 1
Topic:
Event Code: 280 Personnel administration; 010 Forecasts, trends, outlooks Computer Subject: Company personnel management
Geographic:
Geographic Scope: Ireland Geographic Code: 4EUIR Ireland
Accession Number:
208535021
Full Text:
1. INTRODUCTION

Various studies of organisational flexibility have looked at the links between numerical and functional flexibility. They have tried to explain how organisations are able to obtain these concurrently. This can lead to competitive advantage (Tarique and Schuler, 2008). According to Kalleberg (2001), this link is achieved using the core--periphery model. The core is associated with more regular workers having good employment conditions. The periphery consists of those having a more casual employment relationship.

More specifically, according to Kalleberg (2001, p.2) the literature presents two different perspectives on the labour market: (a) "improving workers ability to carry out a variety of jobs and to take part in decision making, and (b) cutting costs by constraining workers' involvement in the establishment". These two strategies have been called by a variety of names e.g. functional versus numerical flexibility (Atkinson, 1984a). In this paper I propose to discuss the merits and shortcomings of the core periphery model and to test this model in the hospitality industry.

2. ATKINSON'S FLEXIBLE FIRM

The core-periphery arguments trace their academic roots to the idea of safeguarding the resources and competences of an establishment. This is perceived to be central to its competitiveness. There is a call for adequate flexibility strategies for both employers and employees (Kerkhofs et al., 2008). Atkinson proposed a model of the flexible firm. In the flexible firm model flexibility is defined as functional, numerical and financial flexibility (Atkinson, 1984b).

Functional flexibility is concerned with the ability of employees to handle different tasks and move between jobs, i.e. multi-skilling. This approach enables employers to match changing workloads, production methods and/or technology. Numerical flexibility refers to the power to adjust the number of workers or the number of hours worked, in response to changes in demand. Financial flexibility refers to a firm's capability to change employment costs in response to supply and demand in the external labour market. This facilitates the objectives of functional and numerical flexibility. Furthermore, it involves a move away from standardised pay structures. It is directed towards more individualised systems dependent upon performance.

In addition, Atkinson proposes an ideal model of the fully flexible firm (cf. Figure 1, 1984b). Such a firm would employ a numerically fixed core group of employees. The core would consist of full-time employees who carry out the key activities of the firm. Surrounding the core employees are the peripheral groups. The latter insulate the core from the effects of changes in demand. Peripheral group one employees have permanent contracts. However, they have few career opportunities and less job security. Peripheral group two employees are more numerically flexible. They are mainly part-timers, job sharers or employees on short-term contracts. These two peripheral groups are in their turn surrounded by external or distanced groups. They are not directly employed by the company and include sub contractors, self-employed workers, temporary staff agencies and outsourcing. According to Bryson and Blackwell (2006) a rise in numerical flexibility through temporary contracts is unsatisfactory due to inconsistencies and lack of stability for management.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

This model offered management and government policy makers a framework for identifying the main practices for development. The aim would be to obtain both functional and numerical flexibility. It suggested that they should seek to establish long-term employment with the core regular permanent workers. These are highly trained, skilled and committed to the organisation. At the same time, they externalise other activities and /or persons by means of transactional contracts. This approach is supposed to achieve cost effectiveness. The numerically flexible, nonstandard peripheral workers are used to protect the regular core labour force from changes in demand (Kalleberg, 2001; Johnson, 2004).

2.1 CORE-PERIPHERY MODEL (Figure 1)

The flexible firm represents the structure towards which Atkinson believes UK firms are moving.

In summary, the author has identified the main features of Atkinson's flexible firm i.e. functional and numerical flexibility. Most commentators still broadly perceive labour utilisation in core-periphery terms. The core contains the more regular workers, with relatively favourable conditions of employment. The periphery group has a more casual employment relationship. The debate raises the following question: Is the core-periphery model a relevant model for today's workplace? The next section will examine in more detail the various stances adopted.

2.2 CRITICISMS OF THE FLEXIBLE FIRM

While the framework of the flexible firm has many merits, criticisms have also been documented. The criticisms of the model focus mainly on three aspects (Legge, 1995, p. 153)

* "Sloppiness in conceptual specification

* Lack of unequivocal empirical support for the model as description

* The covert ideological agenda embodied in the model as prescription".

The concept of core and peripheral workers has been interpreted by managers in different ways. Attempts to equate the core with skilled, flexible workers and the periphery with unskilled, inflexible workers have been criticized as too simplistic. Furthermore, there is the additional complication of dual status. This occurs when a worker may simultaneously be a core and a peripheral worker, depending on the point of reference. The ambiguity inherent in the distinctions between core and peripheral workers can also lead to the apparent contradiction of temporary work lasting longer than permanent work (Pollert, 1988, 1991; Legge, 1995)

Firstly, the model's assumption of homogeneity within the core group and within the peripheral group is not an accurate reflection of reality. It is also difficult to analyse the make-up of the core. Some writers have discussed a variety of work arrangements that comprise the periphery, but have tended to treat the core as a fairly homogenous group. Moreover, there is a counter argument to this. To view core and peripheral workers as occupying positions in separate parts of the organisation is to neglect considering ways in which these groups of workers may work together within the same departments. They may even perform the same jobs within an organisation (Atkinson, 1984a,b; Pollert, 1991; Kalleberg, 2001).

Secondly, the relationship between the core and periphery sector(s) is more elaborate than is generally assumed by the core-periphery model. It may not always be the case, for example, that workers in the periphery are used to protect the core. In addition, these two groups of employees may be related in other ways, such as recruitment and selection of temporary agency staff for permanent positions (Kalleberg, 2001).

Also, it is questionable whether the flexible firm model shows both the core and periphery labor force as separate employment categories. Some writers have found that in the hospitality industry, part-time and temporary staff are extensively used to provide essential core services. There is some evidence from the British retailing and hospitality industry that part-time, temporary and casual staff make up the core rather than the periphery. They are essential to the organization. Others have found that the use of temporary workers is more likely to occur where demand is predictable. Also, overtime is the preferred method to achieve temporary flexibility where demand is unpredictable. Thus temporary workers are not replacing standard workers. On the other hand, there is evidence that suggests that employers and many trade unionists regard part-time workers as marginal. Part-time and temporary employees are also treated as distinct labor force segments. Other studies show that temporary work appears to be a screening procedure to recruit permanent staff rather than a strategy to increase a periphery. Furthermore, there is evidence that the chief reason for using self-employed workers is for specialist skills which are unavailable in the core work-force. It is not to provide numerical flexibility (Pollert, 1988; Legge, 1995; Buultjens and Luckie, 1997).

On a more optimistic note, there are now opportunities for skilled, flexible workers to improve core production and to be in a better core position in the work-force. This is in contrast to Braverman's (1974) idea of a general downgrading of the labour process under capitalism. In brief, functional flexibility may not always be used to complement the quality of work. Neither can numerical flexibility be viewed as a low-cost approach. Both methods can be used within the same workplace.

Many authors disagree with Atkinson's idea of the flexible firm. Although there has been a trend towards more flexible working arrangements, there is no clear demonstration of a major change in employment style (Marginson et al., 1988, Morley et al., 1995). In addition, Pollert has questioned the trend towards increased use of peripheral workers. Pollert's arguments are supported by MacInnes (1988) who claims that the flexible firm lacks cohesion. It has not been effective in practice. In contrast, this conclusion by MacInnes (1988) was challenged by Geary (1992). In his study of employment flexibility in American Electronic Plants, it was found that the flexible firm did have a substantial impact on industrial relations. In one of the plants, Astra, seventy per cent of the employees were temporary in keeping with Atkinson's second peripheral group. Geary also found evidence to suggest that peripheral workers were subject to minimised labour costs. In contrast, core workers were treated to benefits, e.g. cafeteria vouchers, to win motivation and commitment (Geary, 1992).

Various studies that have focused on the relationship between functional and numerical flexibility in organizations, have tended to view this interrelationship mainly in terms of a relatively simple core-periphery model (e.g. Atkinson, 1984a,b; Olmsted and Smyth, 1989). The debate here has focused mainly on whether it is an accurate representation of the organization of manpower by employers. However, it could be argued that this approach ignores different ways in which the two flexible forms of work organization may be related. Also, employers have created various practices in order to balance the advantages and disadvantages associated with both forms (Kalleberg, 2001). Similarly, another study has found that the core-periphery contrast is not refined enough as a workable model (Hunter et al., 1993). Internal labor markets are changing as a result of subcontracting, contingent work, discretion in employment decisions regarding hiring and firing and increased autonomy in work groups (Cappelli, 1995). He found that these market-mediated arrangements did not correspond to the core-periphery model in Britain. However, these studies have weaknesses where the information about employees comes from employers, with the main focus being on the employer perspective (Hunter et al., 1993; Walsh and Deery, 1999). Furthermore, a study conducted in Ireland on the top trading and non-trading companies has shown that there is a move towards more flexible work practices. However, the evidence does not support the flexible firm thesis (Morley et al., 1995).

Also, Pollert (1991, p. 31) stated that the flexibility debate

In summary, empirical research consistently concludes that the flexible firm model is insufficient to explain the changes observed in organisations. The theoretical distinction made between core and peripheral workers appears to be unsupported in a majority of cases. However, others argue that the lack of a devised and written strategy in the upper strata of the firm is not conclusive proof that strategic change does not exist. Small changes are occurring in various flexible areas. This adds up to a considerable driving force (Proctor et al., 1994).

3. CONTEXT OF STUDY

The evidence points to a lack of service-based empirical research (Lucas, 1996; Hoque, 2000; Illeris, 2002). Many of the flexibility debates of the 1980s focused on manufacturing and failed to give due importance to the service sector. Furthermore, this approach does not take into account the fact that the hospitality industry developed these working practices during the 1960s and 1970s (Baggauley, 1990).

The importance of services, and the extent to which that importance has increased, is yet to be reflected within empirical research, despite the fact that it is sections of the services sector that will shed the greatest light on the future employment relationship (Hoque, 2000, p.2).

Further, Van Scotter and Culligan (2003) have pointed to the need for more hospitality research.

In addition, there is a need to research the small establishment as Irish industry is mainly made up of small businesses (Okumus, 2002). Also, the literature highlighted a lack of human resource research in Ireland and insufficient research in the non-unionized sector (Hoque, 2000; Bird et al., 2002).

Ireland has over sixty per cent of the labour force is employed in services and the vast majority of this employment is full-time. Furthermore, part-time employment in the services sector is significantly lower in Ireland, than in either the Netherlands or the UK (Humphreys et al., 2000). In the economy in general, tourism is responsible for the employment of about one in twelve of the nonagricultural workforce and approximately one tenth of those engaged in the service sector (Irish Hotel Federation, 2001).

3.1. DATA SET

The author's view was that a structured direct survey would be most appropriate in order to provide broad coverage of an integrated study of work flexibility. The author decided to conduct a survey of employers and employees throughout Ireland. For the employer survey, a stratified sample design was chosen in relation to star rating and geographical spread. Because hotels provide a broad range of facilities, they are classified from 1 * to 5 * categories in increasing order of quality and service. All five * hotels were selected and a random sample of one in two of four *, three *, two *, one * and unclassified hotels. All five star hotels were selected which included 23 at the time of the survey. Also, these hotels offer a wide range of facilities. They have the most sophisticated product. The key respondent for the employer survey was the human resource manager and, in his/her absence, the general manager. A total of 470 employers were surveyed. This served to generate a response rate of 40% for employers which included 177 usable questionnaires out of a sample of 442. Qualitative interviews with leading Irish hotel industry spokespersons were used to clarify and confirm aspects of the research setting.

It was decided to survey employees of five, four and three star hotels in a unionised group, a non-unionised group and two family-run hotels, including a four * and a three *. In approximately half of the hotels the human resource manager distributed the questionnaires to employees and in the balance of hotels the author went along in person and distributed the questionnaires at lunch time. This resulted in 246 successfully completed questionnaires out of a sample of 946 which was a 26% response rate.

3.2 QUESTION TYPE

0n the whole, forced choice questions were used. In response to the literature and the pilot survey, a complete range of responses were listed wherever possible (de Vaus, 1993). Likert-style rating scales were used. In addition, semantic differential formats were used in some cases. Ranking formats were also used. The questions on work-life balance issues were taken from a successful survey conducted by the Industrial Statistics Unit, Trinity College Dublin in 2002.

3.3. METHODOLOGICAL PROCEDURE

A pilot test was conducted among HR managers to ensure validity and reliability. For reliability of attitude type questions a reliability analysis-scale alpha was conducted which showed alpha to be .6872; this was significant and demonstrated the ability of the questions to test what they set out to test (Farrell, 2006, p. 103). A variety of statistical techniques were used such as frequencies, cross tabulations, correlations and regression analysis.

4. FINDINGS

4.1. LINKAGE BETWEEN NUMERICAL FLEXIBILITY AND FUNCTIONAL FLEXIBILITY

There is no relationship between the extent of numerical and functional flexibility. This relationship can only be investigated for the employer survey. In other words, hotels that operate numerical flexibility do not necessarily engage in functional flexibility practices. The extent of numerical and functional flexibility is correlated with the extent of work-life balance supports (Table 1). Hotels that have a high level of functional and numerical flexibility also provide many work-life balance supports. The respective correlation coefficients are .394 and .310. Employees concur with the employer. According to the employee survey, the correlation between the extent of functional flexibility and work-life balance support is .256.

4.2. NUMERICAL FLEXIBILITY

According to employers, the vast majority of hotels have permanent part-time employees. As regards employees, of those who work fulltime, approximately one tenth would prefer to job share. Those who work part-time are happy to continue to do so. This is a significant finding (p<.05) which supports the view that it is the fulfilment of one's own personal values, purposes and goals that is driving the worker, as opposed to money, power and job security. The interview with the HR manager highlighted the fact that employees are demanding not just a job to provide them with their primary needs, but also family time and social interests outside the work environment.

Staff are employed on a supply and demand basis. There is evidence in all hotels of part-timers being employed with no fixed number of hours. It was found that part-time work does not lead to a heavy workload. In addition, approximately half of full-time staff regularly work longer than standard hours. In relation to the employees surveyed, approximately half of the full--time employees work longer than standard hours, as compared to a minimal number of part-time employees. This is statistically significant (p<.05) and reflects standard practice in the hotel industry regarding the long hours culture. Full-time employees are not usually compensated for this work, whereas part-time employees are usually paid by the hour. Furthermore, the findings show half of all employees are of the opinion that putting in extra hours helps career prospects.

The most common qualification for full-time staff was a degree, whereas for part-time staff it was Leaving Certificate. More full-time workers are pursuing an educational qualification. Also, one half of employers say that employees take up working time arrangements in order to have more time for education. One third of employees surveyed expressed the same opinion. The vast majority of people have been less than three years in the present employment. The majority of employees surveyed were working in a non-managerial capacity.

There are seven types of employees working in hotels i.e. permanent employees, temporary employees, permanent part-time workers, fixed-term contracts, casual employees, trainees and contract labour. Table 2 shows the extent of numerical flexibility. Hotels are represented as having a range varying from one category of worker present, to all seven categories of worker employed.

4.3. FUNCTIONAL FLEXIBILITY

The majority of employers are of the opinion that functional flexibility practices lead to greater job satisfaction, improved service quality, opportunity to develop new skills and a more productive workforce. Although employees are also positive, they are not emphatic in their views about these work practices. A majority agree that service quality results improve. Half agree that greater job satisfaction and opportunity to develop new skills also result. A majority say these practices do not result in greater decision making.

There are five types of functional flexibility present in hotels, i.e. team working, quality circles, multi-skilling, job rotation and problem solving groups. Table 3 shows the range of functionally flexible work practices in hotels. Figures vary from .00 meaning no functional flexibility, 1 signifying one practice present, up to all five types of functional flexibility.

A regression analysis was done for functional flexibility and the various independent variables which could impact on it (Table 4). In relation to the independent variable functional flexibility c1a-c1e, job type was significant (p<.05). It was found that managers and supervisors have a higher level of functional flexibility than employees. Regarding the independent variable functional flexibility outcomes decision making, job type was also found to be significant (p<.1) This means that managers and supervisors and those with a high level of functional flexibility (10 per cent level) are more likely to be positive about decision making. In relation to the independent variable improved service quality, type of hotel was found to be significant (p< .05). The family-owned hotels and those with a higher number of stars are more positive about service quality. When we chose the independent variable developing employee skills, star rating was found to be significant (p<.05). Hotels with a higher number of stars are associated with developing employee skills. This is as expected, as these hotels have more resources at their disposal for staff development. No difference was found when we tested with job satisfaction as the independent variable.

There is no difference between full-time workers and part-time workers for team working, multi-skilling, problem solving groups, quality circles and job rotation

Part-time work results in the following benefits: improved employee productivity, greater employee satisfaction, less absenteeism/sick leave, less labor turnover, improves business results, helps retain key employees, improves service quality and increases cost savings.

In a minority of cases, employees working part-time are paid less than employees working full-time in comparable jobs. In addition, there are cost savings with respect to fewer employee fringe benefits. An employee working part-time usually gets an appropriate full-time job very quickly. This was found to be more a feature of family-run hotels and independent groups. Part-time workers are eligible for full-time work in all hotel types. In non-unionised hotels, there was a greater tendency to recruit part-time staff from the external labour market, as part-timers.

Furthermore, the vast majority of all hotel employers were of the opinion that there was no difference between part-time work outcomes and full-time work outcomes. This could be due to the fact, that in the hospitality industry, both part-time and full-time employees work side by side, usually in a team. On the other hand, the interview with the HR manager highlighted the fact that in his hotel having part-time staff created an imbalance in the work environment. They were not perceived to be as serious as full-time staff and based on this experience the hotel in question now has no part-time staff.

The literature shows that part-time work has clear benefits for management in helping them to adjust to circumstances and control costs, while still meeting their targets. Approximately half of those surveyed are of the opinion that part-time work leads to lack of job security. A minority think that it leads to lack of promotion prospects.

Over half of employers are of the opinion that part-time work improves service quality.

In relation to training, according to employers, an employee working part-time who engages in training during non-work hours would get time off in some cases and would be paid for working extra hours in a majority of cases. This was found to be a feature of companies and international chains and four and five star organisations. With respect to employees surveyed, the majority replied that they are compensated for training. There is no difference between full-time, part-time and job-share in relation to compensation for training. As expected, full-time employees spend more time training. The majority of full-time and part-time employees are compensated for training. There is considerable divergence between employers' views on training and those of the employees. Employers' figures for training available and compensation are higher than employees' experiences.

Contrary to some findings in the literature which found that part-time jobs are dead end and insecure, the findings here show that, in a large proportion of cases, an employee, working part-time, usually gets an appropriate full-time job very quickly. The majority of employers reflected the viewpoint that there is no difference between full-time and part-time employees in terms of productivity, motivation, absenteeism, turnover and work organisation.

It was found to be statistically significant that the majority of full-time and part-time employees are happy with their present working arrangements. In summary, part-time workers tend to be of both genders, younger age group, work as an employee, less likely to work more than standard hours, more likely to pursue an educational qualification, more likely to work in the banqueting department, and less likely to work in front office (Farrell, 2006, Appendix B, Tables B13-B19).

5. DISCUSSION

5.1 CORE-PERIPHERY MODEL OF WORK FLEXIBILITY

There is no relationship between the extent of numerical and functional flexibility. In other words, hotels that operate numerical flexibility do not necessarily engage in functional flexibility practices. This is at variance with the thesis of the flexible firm, which claims that numerical and functional flexibility are pursued in a strategic way by firms (Atkinson, 1984a,b).

The results presented here would reflect Kalleberg's thesis that the core-periphery model is not an accurate representation of how firms organise their manpower. Furthermore, the findings here would not support the theory that it is necessary to have a group of temporary workers with low paid, insecure jobs and low commitment in order to protect a core group of employees who are highly committed and who enjoy functionally flexible stable employment. As reflected already, we see that part-time employees have many benefits, some have training and they are involved in team working and multi-skilling. According to O' Connell et al. (2004) approximately one fifth of establishments had implemented new work practices such as team working /multitasking/ quality circles.

According to employers, the vast majority of hotels have permanent part-time employees (Table 2) and this reflects change in recent years in government legislation which confers increased employment rights on part-time employees, which are comparable to full-time employees. This is in keeping with the findings of CERT (2001) who found that 90 per cent of employees in the hotel industry are employed on a permanent basis. Approximately half of those surveyed are of the opinion that part-time work leads to lack of job security. A minority think that it leads to lack of promotion prospects. There are literature references to one particular perspective on flexibility which attributes the spread and development of flexibility to the economic requirements of employers. At its most extreme, it is a manner of degrading and cheapening the work and security of the employees involved (Braverman, 1974). Furthermore, certain studies which reflect the perspective of the employer found that cost savings for flexible workers can only be achieved if they are effectively managed. Cost considerations for employers include training, productivity issues, legal liability, workplace safety and managerial problems. It was found to be statistically significant that the majority of full-time and part-time employees are happy with their present working arrangements. This shows that part-time work is an optimum choice for some employees. As the findings have shown earlier, this may be connected to work-life balance priorities (Aybars, 2007). This discounts the notion of part-time work being a poor option. Part-time workers have enhanced status as the findings show, and part-time working is the preferential option for some people. The vast majority of people have been less than three years in the present employment. This reflects that fact that many employees perceive working in the hospitality industry as a path to another career. Staff are employed on a supply and demand basis. There is evidence in all hotels of some part-timers being employed with no fixed number of hours. This finding reflects research conducted by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureau--NACAB (1997), who found that flexibility can lead to work procedures that are irresponsible.

As the evidence shows, there are some employees who have secure employment but may not form part of the core. Also, there are peripheral employees working in key areas of the hospitality industry. The flexible firm model shows both the core and the periphery as separate employment categories. However, there is evidence that part-time, temporary and casual staff are part of the core rather than the periphery. Also, they are essential to the organization. My findings support this latter perspective. The evidence would also support Legge's theory that the rise in numerical flexibility is not necessarily part of a deliberate strategy but rather an opportunistic decision. The evidence here shows that full-time employees work longer hours. This shows the establishment's ability to get numerical flexibility from core workers. Part-time employees only occasionally work longer hours. Furthermore, the evidence presented here shows that both full-time and part-time employees are involved in functional flexibility. In the hotel sector, these groups of workers may work together within the same departments. Also, they may even perform the same jobs within an organization.

As regards recruiting full-time staff, less than half of all managers found it reasonably difficult. A further one third found it relatively easy. The recruitment of part-time staff from full-time staff, asking on their own initiative to go part-time, was cited as important. Likewise, there is some evidence of recruitment of part-time staff from full-time staff who are asked by the management to go part-time. In addition, regarding part-timers, there is evidence that full-time staff are being recruited as part-timers after a break in employment. In a majority of cases, direct recruitment of part-timers from the labour market is considered the least effective means of recruiting part-time staff. In this sense, the periphery employees protect the core in some respects.

Over half of employers are of the opinion that part-time work improves service quality. Service quality is central to the effectiveness of the hospitality experience (Irish Tourism Industry Confederation, 2002). It was found that functional flexibility leads to more service quality. There is some evidence of a positive link between flexible work and job quality even though there are costs involved here too (Kelliher and Anderson, 2008). Lasierra (2007) found a positive correlation between functional flexibility and competitive strategy using quality.

One could argue that the workforce is becoming increasingly polarized into those who undertake core (permanent, full-time) employment and those employed to take on peripheral (short-term contract and casual) employment. There are mixed signals about the extent of flexible work practices. The evidence presented here points to the spread of flexible work practices but there is little evidence of a move towards the flexible firm. There are small changes occurring in various areas of flexibility. Employers are seeing it as a source of competitive advantage. The research here shows that part-time work results in a more competitive edge for the hotel, increased productivity and better business results. Employees are benefitting from flexible work arrangements for life style considerations. In summary, the core-periphery model is not an accurate representation of the organization of manpower in the hospitality industry in Ireland.

1. The "leaving certificate" is the final examination in second level and the principal entry requirement for college.

6. CONCLUSION

Work flexibility is a complex issue with many ramifications. The existence of the core-periphery model is not supported in the Irish hospitality industry. There is evidence that flexibility is a strategy which works in hotels. Matching staffing levels to peaks in demand may indicate a more strategic approach to this question. Others argue that it may be a pragmatic approach to labour market fluctuations. On the other hand, employees are happy to choose flexible work arrangements for life style which clearly benefits them.

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Kathleen Farrell, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland

Dr. Kathleen Farrell earned her PhD at University College Dublin in 2007. Currently she is employed as a lecturer in management and communication in Dublin Institute of Technology. Her research areas include work-life balance, management and tourism.
should be abandoned as a framework
   for research and replaced with a more
   complex perspective, which relates to
   the untidy and contradictory dynamics
   of the real world.


TABLE 1
CORRELATION BETWEEN FUNCTIONAL/NUMERICAL FLEXIBILITY
AND WORK-LIFE BALANCE ISSUES (EMPLOYER SURVEY)

                          Correlations

                                                   work life
                                                    balance
                                                  supports b3

work life balance         Pearson Correlation                1
supports b3               Sig. (2-tailed)                  ...
                          N                                177

extent of numerical       Pearson Correlation             .310 **
flexability types qa6     Sig. (2-tailed)                    0
                          N                                176

numerical flexability     Pearson Correlation             .057
percentage qb1 types      Sig. (2-tailed)                 .447
of workers plus work      N
arrange                                                    177

extent of types of        Pearson Correlation             .394 **
functional flexability    Sig. (2-tailed)                 .000
e1                        N                                177

                          Correlations

                                                   extent of
                                                   numerical
                                                  flexability
                                                   types qa6

work life balance         Pearson Correlation             .310 **
supports b3               Sig. (2-tailed)                    0
                          N                                176

extent of numerical       Pearson Correlation                1
flexability types qa6     Sig. (2-tailed)                  ...
                          N                                176

numerical flexability     Pearson Correlation             .253 **
percentage qb1 types      Sig. (2-tailed)                 .001
of workers plus work      N
arrange                                                    176

extent of types of        Pearson Correlation             .085
functional flexability    Sig. (2-tailed)                 .261
e1                        N                                176

                          Correlations             numerical
                                                  flexability
                                                  percentage
                                                 qb1 types of
                                                 workers plus
                                                 work arrange

work life balance         Pearson Correlation            .057
supports b3               Sig. (2-tailed)                .447
                          N                               177

extent of numerical       Pearson Correlation            .253 **
flexability types qa6     Sig. (2-tailed)                .001
                          N                               176

numerical flexability     Pearson Correlation               1
percentage qb1 types      Sig. (2-tailed)                 ...
of workers plus work      N
arrange                                                   177

extent of types of        Pearson Correlation            .086
functional flexability    Sig. (2-tailed)                .254
e1                        N                               177

                          Correlations

                                                 extent of types
                                                 of functional
                                                 flexability e1

work life balance         Pearson Correlation             .394 **
supports b3               Sig. (2-tailed)                    0
                          N                                177

extent of numerical       Pearson Correlation             .085
flexability types qa6     Sig. (2-tailed)                 .261
                          N                                176

numerical flexability     Pearson Correlation             .086
percentage qb1 types      Sig. (2-tailed)                 .254
of workers plus work      N
arrange                                                    177

extent of types of        Pearson Correlation                1
functional flexability    Sig. (2-tailed)                  ...
e1                        N                                177

**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

TABLE 2
COMPOSITE FIGURES OF THE EXTENT OF TYPES OF NUMERICAL
FLEXIBILITY (QA6)

    Extent of Types of
   Numerical Flexibility       Yes percentage    Number

One category of worker         2                 N=3
2                              17                N=29
3                              26                N=46
4                              27                N=48
5                              19                N=34
6                              5                 N=9
Seven categories of worker     4                 N=7
Total                          100               N=176

TABLE 3
COMPOSITE FIGURES OF TYPES OF FUNCTIONAL FLEXIBILITY

      Extent of Types of Functional          Yes Percentage   Number
              Flexibility e1

?.00                                         10               N=18
One type of functional flexibility           26               N=45
2                                            37               N=66
3                                            20               N=36
4                                            3                N= 5
All five types of functional flexibility     4                N=7
Total                                        100              N=177

Table 4
MULTIPLE REGRESSION OF FUNCTIONAL FLEXIBILITY C1a-C1e (EMPLOYEE
PARTICIPATION IN TEAMWORKING, QUALITY CIRCLES, ETC.), FUNCTIONAL
FLEXIBILITY OUTCOMES DECISION_MAKING, FUNCTIONAL FLEXIBILITY
OUTCOMES SERVICE QUALITY ANF FUNCTIONAL FLEXIBILITY OUTCOMES
DEVELOPING SKILLS

 Employee and Organisational    Dependent Variables
       Characteristics
                                            Func.Flex
                                            Outcomes
                                Func.Flex   Decision
                                C1a-C1e     Making

Number of Stars                 -.009       .098
Type of Hotel                    .102       .113
Age                             -.109      -.138
Gender                           .002       .062
Highest Educational
  Qualification                 -.019      -.040
Pursuing an Educational
  Qualification                  .006      -.091
Trade Union in
 Organisation                   -.013      -.072
Job Description                 -.201 *    -.150 **
Func. Flex. C1a-C1e                         .153
R                                .224       .295
R Square                         .050       .087

 Employee and Organisational    Standardised Beta
       Characteristics
                                Func.Flex   Func.Flex.
                                Outcomes    Outcomes
                                Service     Developing
                                Quality     Skills

Number of Stars                  .175        .261 *
Type of Hotel                    .297*       .174
Age                             -.081       -.100
Gender                          -.044        .042
Highest Educational
  Qualification                  .040       -.051
Pursuing an Educational
  Qualification                  .079        .020
Trade Union in
 Organisation                    .030        .038
Job Description                  .054       -.010
Func. Flex. C1a-C1e              .060        .035
R                                .276        .239
R Square                         .076        .057

* p<.05 ** p<.1
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