The effect of temporary workers and works councils on process innovation

Christian F. Durach, Frank Wiengarten, Mark Pagell

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This study aims to investigate the effects of temporary workers and works councils on process innovations at manufacturing sites. The impact of temporary workers, commonly viewed as a means of operational flexibility and cost savings, on firms’ ability to innovate is underexplored. Works councils represent and help integrate temporary workers, but are often equated with unions, which have been criticized as barriers to innovation, especially in the US. Design/methodology/approach: The authors use secondary data collected by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) of the German Federal Employment Agency. Specifically, the authors conduct a series of regression analyses using 11-year panel data covering the period 2009–2019 with 11,641 manufacturing site-year observations. Findings: The results suggest that the use of temporary workers initially promotes process innovation, but at too high a level, it impairs firms’ ability to innovate. Furthermore, the results suggest that works councils have a positive impact on innovation and dampen the curvilinear effect found with respect to temporary workers. Originality/value: Research has largely focused on the cost and flexibility benefits of temporary workers. The authors analyze the effectiveness of temporary workers in terms of innovativeness. By including works councils, the study also consider the contextual environment in which temporary workers are employed. Finally, the results reject the assumption that works councils have a similar negative impact as unions on innovation; in fact, the authors find the opposite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-801
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Employee representation
  • Precarious work
  • Process innovation
  • Temporary workers
  • Work councils


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