Temporary agency workers shake a work community: a social capital perspective

Riitta Viitala (Department of Management, University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)
Jenni Kantola (Department of Management, University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 8 February 2016



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the kinds of effects that using a temporary agency workforce may cause on an organisational level, especially on relations between employees. In this study the authors explore the organisation as a community, leaning on the theory of social capital.


The data were gathered via semi-structured interviews with 18 temporary agency workers and five employees in permanent positions. Discourse analysis with some degree of pragmatism was employed in comprehending the speech of the interviewees.


The position of agency workers may be problematic from the perspective of social capital formulation in a work organisation. The short duration of contracts and different conditions of employment shake relations in a work group. Agency workers may also be outside the information flows. Additionally the norms and rules may be different for temporary and permanent employees and thus cause confusion.

Research limitations/implications

The findings will hopefully provoke researchers to investigate the effects of using a temporary agency workforce in different organisational contexts. In addition, the study indicates that the theory of social capital is fruitful for investigating the topic on the organisational level.

Practical implications

The use of agency workforce should be considered comprehensively in organisations. Its effects on work organisations may be conflicting. If temporary agency workers are needed as interim help, HRM practices should be developed in order to minimise the potential problems in terms of social capital.


The study adopted an organisational perspective on the agency workforce, which is still rare in studies on the topic.



Viitala, R. and Kantola, J. (2016), "Temporary agency workers shake a work community: a social capital perspective", Employee Relations, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 147-162. https://doi.org/10.1108/ER-01-2015-0012



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