Is it worth investing in high-quality HRM in the case of temporary workers? (People and Society)
Investigação | 17 abril 2015 Is it worth investing in high-quality HRM in the case of temporary workers? (People and Society)

An analysis of human resource management, work engagement and organizational commitment among temporary and permanent workers.

Researcher: Filipa Castanheira

A group of researchers including Nova SBE’s Professor Filipa Castanheira have published the results of a study which compares the employment relationship of temporary agency and permanent workers in two different sectors - manufacturing and call centers - with distinct tradition on contingent employment.

Results confirm that, among blue-collar workers (manufacturing), the relationship between Human Resource Management (HRM) and affective commitment was stronger for temporary agency than for permanent workers. No differences were found among call center workers with different contract types.


HRM and Organizational Commitment

The assumption is that employees reciprocate with affective commitment in accordance to their individual experience of human resource practices (HRM). Affective commitment is the worker’s desire to maintain organizational membership.

Does the context matter?

Compared with permanent workers, temporary agency workers (TAWs) have lower expectations about their treatment by the organization and consequently TAWs’ attitudes are more contingent on their perception of organizational treatment.
The researchers also consider that this moderation may be different in two sectors: call center and manufacturing.
• In call centers, temporary agency work is a widely implemented strategy and the treatment of workers is similar regardless of work status: permanent or temporary.
• In the manufacturing sector TAWs sometimes are used as a cost-reduction strategy to perform peripheral tasks with lower investment in HR practices when compared with permanent workers. Therefore, TAWs may hold lower expectations regarding temporary employment conditions.


First, HRM is related to affective commitment, regardless of the contract type.
• This outcome is especially important in the case of TAWs because it suggests that TAWs’ attitudes are not explained solely by the nature of their employment situation, but are a function of the perceived treatment received in the client organization.
• Contrary to the Theory of Human Capital, it is worth investing in high-quality HRM even in the case of TAWs.

Second, the relationship between HRM and affective commitment was stronger for TAWs than for permanent workers in the case of the manufacturing sector.
• TAWs are much more responsive to the organizations’ treatment because these workers tend to develop lower expectations toward the inducements provided by the organization;

Third, this moderation was not found in the sample of call center operators. In this sample TAWs and permanent workers reciprocated in similar ways to the perception of HRM investments.
• These results highlight the need to consider differences between these two sectors in which the traditions and experiences with TAWs are different.
• In the manufacturing sector TAWs may have lower expectations regarding temporary employment conditions than TAWs in the call center sector.

Practical and research implications

• Researchers should not simply assume that all behavioral theories will apply equally well to nonstandard workers.
• The nature of the employment relationship should not be a reason to decide whether or not to develop high-quality HR practices.
• TAWs’ commitment is related to perceptions of HRM, giving legitimacy to the ethical codes that prohibit discriminative treatment (Commission of European Communities, 2002)
• The current labor legislation does not mandate client organizations to invest in those workers that are not their direct employees.
• The temporary agency is the contractor of TAWs and is thus the first entity responsible for ensuring that there is no discrimination by the client.

This article is based on the paper “Temporary agency versus permanent workers: A multigroup analysis of associations between human resource management, work engagement and affective commitment.” authored by Filipa Castanheira (Nova SBE), Maria João Chambel and Filipa Sobral (Faculty of Psychology, University of Lisbon) and published in Economic and Industrial Democracy.

What's happening