THE WORKER, FIRM, AND REGION NEXUS: HOW REAL PEOPLE AND REAL WORK SHPAE THE REGIONAL INNOVATIVE CAPACITY IN THE KNOWLEDGE-BASED INDUSTRY
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This study proposes to rethink the current framework of the innovative region by placing an emphasis on a much under-studied dimension: the workforce and organizational capacity. In particular, this paper pays attention to commitment-based HR practices as critical factors in shaping organizational competency and innovation. Existing studies on innovation at the regional scale have identified a set of factors external to organizations as the main mechanisms of innovation, including knowledge spillover, local or global collaboration, and proximity to research universities and institutions. However, there is increasing evidence that the exclusive emphasis on external factors of innovation may capture only one side of a continuum in which creativity and innovation are strongly influenced by internal organizational factors – i.e. internal skill pools and workplace culture (Lampel, Lant, and Shamsie, 2000; Collins and Smith, 2006). I propose a new conceptual framework for the workforce-firm-region nexus and analyze the case of a high technology community in Seoul. Using the new conceptual framework and drawing from both survey data and in-depth interviews, the case study magnifies the relationship between workers and firm performance, as well as the importance of a firm’s human resource management practice in reinforcing the reciprocity between workers and a firm. I present that the roles carried out by workers in day-to-day routines are an important source of new ideas and product development. I also show evidence that commitment-based employment practices shape the firm-specific human resource that are critical in creating a distinctive competitive advantage for firms, whose aggregate success ultimately translates to local and regional economic strength Finally, I propose to extend the current theoretic framework of innovation studies in the knowledge-based industries into workforce and human resource practice dimensions and explore the directions of local and regional policies that potentially strengthen the worker-employer relationship in a way that increases the employment rate and continued growth of workforce.
The author wishes to thank for comments from Ed Feser, Josh Drucker, Karen Chapple, Kieran Donaghy and other friends and colleagues.
labor requirement; organizational practice; innovation; local and regional workforce policies