Direct involvement, partnership and setting: a study in bounded diversity
This paper brings a comparative aspect to the analysis of direct involvement as the foundation for partnership. It considers how various forms of direct involvement can represent components of a broader partnership paradigm of people management, or a limited shallow partnership concession to facilitate the diffusion of top-down human resource management policies. Through the use of survey evidence, we explore the settings in which involvement is more likely to be encountered. Contrary to predictions in much of the literature as to their universal applicability, we found that they tended to be concentrated in specific locales, organisational types and sectors, as part and parcel of wider cooperative production paradigms; in practical terms, if involvement is a prerequisite for meaningful partnership, then the latter is more likely to be encountered in more coordinated varieties of capitalism. This does not suggest, however, that ‘shallow’ or instrumentalist partnerships do not occur, or that in infertile ground genuine partnerships are not possible. On one hand, national variations encountered were broadly on the lines of the literature on comparative capitalism. On the other hand, there was much diversity within national settings; we identify the contexts in which such engagement is more or less likely and consider the implications.