Work Design Variation and Outcomes in Call Centers: Strategic Choice and Institutional Explanations
This study examines reasons for variation in work design (defined by job discretion and performance monitoring) and how work design affects organizational outcomes. Drawing on a 2003–2006 survey of 2,359 call centers in 16 countries, the authors test strategic human resource management theory’s implication that firms’ strategic and operational contexts influence work design variation within countries, and “varieties of capitalism” theory’s implication that national institutional frameworks influence cross-country differences in work design. Results of a multi-level analysis indicate that job discretion was higher and performance monitoring less frequent when management strategy targeted business customers rather than mass market customers; when there was an emphasis on building customer relationships; and when the setting was a coordinated economy. Regarding organizational outcomes, job discretion was negatively associated with quit rates and labor costs, while monitoring was negatively associated with call abandonment rates and positively associated with quit rates and sales growth.