At social enterprises are more value-driven and

At the Centre for
Industrial Relations and Human Resources, I want to explore labor relations in
social economy organizations. Specifically, I am eager to examine the
governance structure of social enterprises, and unpack internal labor-management
relations.

 

I plan to empirically
research the meso-level patterns of bargaining in third-sector organizations,
particularly in worker cooperatives, and conduct a pluralist analysis of
employee “voice” through studying the labor-management relationship. I propose
to do this by examining governance structures of social enterprises in Canada
along two dimensions – employee loyalty and retention, and conflict resolution
mechanisms.

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Social enterprises
occupy a unique position in terms of organization structure and motive.

Broadly, social economy organizations operate with a commercial function
in the market, but pursue social, cultural, environmental or societal goals.

They have an explicit aim of benefiting the community and are characterized by limited
profit distribution (Bacchiega and Borzaga, 2001).

 

Typically, social
enterprises tend to use a mix of monetary and non-monetary components in their
remuneration package. This is derived from the inherent challenge of this
organizational arrangement, that is the ability to deliver services at least as
effectively as their alternatives (traditional non-profit, for-profit, and public
sector organizations). They must also simultaneously conserve their social
nature, and maintain a close relationship with their values and mission. The
dominant approach in social economy literature stresses that employees of
social enterprises are more value-driven and enriched by the intrinsic value of
socially oriented work (Mirvis and Hackett 1983; Mirvis 1992; Preston 1990,
1994, 1996; Onyx and Maclean 1996; Borzaga 2000). Cooperatives legally form a
part of social enterprises in Canada, as profit is not distributed along the
share-ownership basis, and they are meant to cater to the needs of the members,
not external shareholders

 

There is a growing need
to answer questions that have not been addressed as yet – namely how employee
loyalty affects employee retention in cooperatives and other social
enterprises. This is significant because the challenge of maintaining
competitive efficiency relies on a low level of permanent staff turnover
(Watson and Abzug, 2005). Given the added constraint of finding value-driven
employees, employee loyalty and retention will form the first dimension of my
doctoral research.

 

The second dimension, that
of conflict resolution, is an important insight into the nature of decision
making and labor-management relationship in cooperatives and in the larger
field of social enterprises. Equity theories in particular can help analyze the
larger collective bargaining relationship between labor and management. This
line of questioning in my proposed research will also be able to shed some
light on the social cost of exclusion in a non-multi-stakeholder governance
structure.

 

Conducting this work in
the Canada context is timely for two reasons. In 2017, the Canadian federal
government announced investment in a newly formed Social Innovation and Social
Finance Strategy. This points to to a growing interest in
the concept of social innovation at the national level.  Additionally,
British Columbia and Nova Scotia have introduced similar new legal forms
designed specifically for social enterprises. The key innovative feature of
both these new legal forms is that they build the social enterprise’s social
purpose into its legal
structure, while giving the social enterprise more freedom to operate
like a regular for-profit business in terms of finances, governance and
administrative burden (BC 2013) (O’Connor, 2014). This embeddedness of the two
competing dimensions of business efficiency and social utility make
cooperatives a ripe site for this type of research. To be able to compare how
different organizations end up carrying the mandate forward will provide a
unique insight into their governance models.      

 

Methodologically, this
area of research will have to account for regional differences due to varying
laws and regulations, hence comparative study would be necessary. This will
require a combination of statistical, econometric and qualitative methodologies
to be able to measure employee-level outcomes through interviews, focus groups
and surveys, and link these measures with efficiency and performance of the
enterprise.

 

The work done at the
Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources is extremely relevant to
this. I am very interested in placing this work within the Centre’s broad focus
on balancing equity, efficiency and voice as important organizational and
employment relationship outcomes. Prof. Dionne Pohler’s research on the
employment relationship, worker cooperatives and organizational governance is
particularly pertinent to my future research interests, and others at the
Centre, including Prof. Marco Gonzalez-Navarro, share my previous interests in
development.

 

My research will investigate labor relations
issues in social economy organizations, which have not been studied in as much
detail as the work done in private, for-profit institutions. I see a a growing
need for research that connects labor and employment theory with contemporary
advances in social innovation. Changing legal structures, social norms around
work and employment, and an increasingly competitive economic landscape provide
an excellent and timely opportunity to conduct this type of research.