The “ILR Review,” the top journal in the field, has published a special issue focusing on entrepreneurship and employment. According to guest editor Diane Burton, chair of ILR’s Department of Human Resource Studies, the issue opens a conversation about future studies of entrepreneurship as a labor market and policy topic. The seven empirical papers are creative studies set in different countries and contexts that are rigorous across a range of disciplinary traditions, she said.
Q&A with Diane Burton
What interested you in serving as an editor for this edition of the ILR Review?
My entire career has been devoted to studying employment-related issues in entrepreneurial firms. Entrepreneurial firms are engines of job creation and the choices that founders make about how to organize and manage their firms impact not only their lives and careers, but also the lives and careers of all of those who work for and with them.
Early in my career, I studied how founders made organizational design choices and how their choices impacted their ability to attract investors, develop products and build sustainable firms. I then turned to how founding teams evolved and scaled. For the past several years, I have focused on the employees of entrepreneurial firms, how much the get paid, how their careers unfold. I am trying to understand when, and for whom, founding or working in an entrepreneurial firm is a good idea.
I’m on an evangelical mission to encourage other entrepreneurship scholars to look beyond founders and investors to the people who work in and for entrepreneurial firms. Of course, the “gig economy” is a part of this. But, there is a broader conversation about when and why founders work with independent contractors as opposed to hiring employees. Moreover, when they do hire employees, are they hiring them into good or bad jobs?
This special issue on the labor market and human resource management aspects of entrepreneurship is the capstone to a trio of special issues that I’ve been working on. The first was a special issue of “Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice” on entrepreneurial careers. The second was a special issue of “Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal” on the entrepreneurial organizational design.
Why does the theme of entrepreneurship warrant its own issue of ILR Review?
The ILR Review special issue was focused on labor market and human resource management aspects of entrepreneurship. It is the perfect vehicle for such a topic because the journal brings together scholars from across a number of disciplines who have common interests. Prior to the special issue, there had been a couple of papers in “ILR Review” about entrepreneurship. But, the special issue allowed us to collect a set and feature them as a group. It’s a way to bring attention to the topic.
Was there a paper you found particularly interesting, or one that’s research could have a significant impact?
I’m proud of the entire volume. It’s a compelling set of papers that shows a variety of topical areas, a range of methods, and rely on data from around the world.
I think if readers look at the papers as a set, they will begin to see opportunities for cross-national comparisons. This is something that is particularly welcome in the industrial relations field.
I’m also very excited about the newly constructed Census data that can be used to study entrepreneurship. We published a technical note describing the data as part of the special issue and I hope it will catalyze future scholarship.
What do you think is looming in the future of entrepreneurship?
I’d like to see us move beyond the hype of entrepreneurship as a great option for all kinds of workers. I’m not at all sure encouraging high school and college students to start companies is a good thing to be doing. We need to better understand the pros and cons of different career pathways. This kind of critical analysis is the important work that academics do to inform policy and practice.
What things do you tell your students about entrepreneurship?
I teach a course on entrepreneurship and small business. In the course, we examine the myths and realities of entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial process in the United States using modern and historical case studies. The course offers a social science perspective on entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship and small business in the U.S., with a strong emphasis on the historical context and social institutions that enable and support entrepreneurial activity. We look at various forms of entrepreneurship, including self-employment, franchising, small and family businesses, high-technology ventures and social entrepreneurship. An important concern of the course is how the experience of being an entrepreneur and creating a new organization is different for different categories of people. A key takeaway is that there are lots of ways to be entrepreneurial.
Read the entrepreneurship and employment issue at: https://journals.sagepub.com/toc/ilra/72/5.