Innovation and Participation at Work

Innovation and Participation at Work

Year: 2018-19
Course code: MGT4033
Course credits: 15
Taught: Semester 2
Course co-ordinator
: Professor Martin Beirne
Entry requirements: Normally admission to an honours programme in Business & Management
Available to visiting students: Yes
Contact for more information: Cherisse McLaren

Course description

Innovating and modernising programmes have figured prominently in the world of work, variously aiming to intensify and control employees or to humanize their jobs and provide scope for empowerment and participative decision making.  Focusing on recent popular movements and contemporary initiatives, this course will enable students to identify fads and fashions, to track the influence of more sustained and considered workplace interventions, to recognize continuities in underpinning theory, to appreciate the significance of enabling conditions and constraining factors, to evaluate benefits, costs and consequences for stakeholders, and to reach informed views about management options and dilemmas for the future of work and employee relations.


  1. To provide students with an historically based and conceptually rigorous understanding of major movements and tendencies in work organization and employee relations
  2. To provide students with the opportunity to develop reflective, analytical and evaluative abilities, and focus these towards considered and convincing independent judgments about the significance (or otherwise) of popular innovations, novel interventions and recent regulatory changes in work and employment relations

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  1. Identify recent trends and tendencies in work design and workplace modernisation, and relate these to historical movements and established theoretical traditions
  2. Contrast and evaluate Guru contributions, consultancy interventions, action research programmes, and prescriptive and promotional accounts of desirable and viable innovation
  3. Explain and evaluate the role of trades unions, and understand the priorities and relative value attached to direct and representative forms of employee participation
  4. Demonstrate a detailed understanding of modernisation programmes within relevant case organizations and be able to apply this knowledge to enhance group exercises, class room presentations and the coursework assignment
  5. Explain the logic behind regulatory interventions by national governments and the European Union and provide a balanced assessment of available empirical research on influence and impact

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures: 2hrs x 10 weeks

Please refer to MyCampus for timetable.

Course texts

Beirne, M. (2013) Rhetoric and the Politics of Workplace Innovation: struggling with empowerment and modernization, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 

Copies can be consulted via the Main, Short Loan and Adam Smith Libraries.  This is also available as an e-book from Elgaronline.

This text covers the core theoretical and empirical material from which the course takes its departure.  However, the scope of the course and extensive literature in this area entail that specialist journal references have to accompany the sessions.  Dedicated reading lists will be issued as a further guide to each of the specific areas covered in class.


A 2-hour degree exam (April/May) (100%)