Changing employment practices in UK banking: case studies

Storey, John; Cressey, Peter; Morris, Tim and Wilkinson, Adrian (1997). Changing employment practices in UK banking: case studies. Personnel Review, 26(1/2) pp. 24–42.



When viewed from a cross-sectoral or cross-national perspective, the common and shared features of the industrial relations and human resource practices of British banks seem all too easy to trace. However, when the focus is adjusted in order to examine the detailed practices of particular banks, it is the variety – even the singularity – of their circumstances and behaviour which become evident. Examination of this theme raises the issue of strategic choice versus determinism. The purpose of this article is to contribute to the debate by examining the similarities and contrasts in employment management strategies and practices in four British banks.

These case studies are used to explore different patterns of reaction to a fast-changing business environment. How radical are the current changes in British banking? Which are the most significant changes? To what extent is it true that all the banks are simply copying each other’s initiatives? Comparative analysis of a number of cases across the sector should enable us to unlock these questions. The study has relevance beyond this particular sector because it sheds light on the managerial reactions to current competitive pressures and the extent to which “industry recipes” are adopted and adapted.

The article is organized into four sections. The first describes the main contours of change in this rapidly transforming sector and introduces the key theoretical literature which attempts to interpret these changes. The second section describes our own research methodology and introduces the case studies. The third section presents the main findings on the changing policies and the altered patterns of employment. The fourth section undertakes the main discussion and analysis of comparisons and contrasts in human resource strategies.

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