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RESEARCH QUESTION

The purpose of this study is to begin investigation into the unanswered questions surrounding the strategic implications of contingent work use in entrepreneurial firms.  Existing research suggests that entrepreneurial and non–entrepreneurial firms may have different use patterns for contingent work;  this study is designed to specifically address this question.  Also, existing research yields many contradictory results due, in part, to aggregating many different kinds of contingent work use across different industries.  This study untangles these potentially confounding influences by examining use patterns of one kind of contingent work in one industry with methods that allow for more in–depth analyses.  Lastly, this study begins to address the question of how contingent work affects organizational processes and outcomes.
 

RESEARCH METHODS AND FINDINGS

In order to untangle the complex phenomenon of contingent work and to begin investigating how contingent work affects important organizational processes and outcomes, qualitative methods were selected.  Qualitative methods were selected because they are particularly well suited to process oriented research (Strauss & Corbin, 1990), and to investigating underexplored phenomena (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).  The objective of this research is to present a rich portrait of technical contingent resource use in entrepreneurial and non–entrepreneurial firms.  The scope was narrowed to include only technical contingent resources in order to understand how this particular form of contingent work, with the potential to affect core competencies and competitive advantage, affects firms.  These portraits are also used as the basis for the inductively derived implications discussed at the end.

In–depth face–to–face semi–structured interviews were conducted with key informants.  When possible, the person in charge of product development was interviewed.  In some instances, the person in charge of human resources was the most knowledgeable about how contingent work was used.  In these instances, a human resource executive was interviewed.  The interview questions were formulated from a prior series of unstructured interviews on contingent work conducted with 1)  professional / technical contingent workers in various fields, 2)  human resource individuals responsible for contingent staffing and 3)  contingent worker placement agency personnel.  Unstructured exploratory research prior to designing a study is one method to refine the focus of further studies and contributes to construct validity (Sieber, 1973).

All interviews were transcribed.  These transcripts were then reviewed, coded, and analyzed to develop the descriptions discussed below.
 
 

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