Dynamism and realignment in the HR architecture: Online labor platform ecosystems and the key role of contractors

Anne Keegan*, Jeroen Meijerink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
112 Downloads (Pure)


Given the widespread contribution of independent contractors to organizational innovation and competitive advantage, it is timely to reassess assumptions about the HRM practices appropriate to their management and the rationale for organizations to work with them. In the original and highly influential HR architecture model of Lepak and Snell (1999), contractor status is viewed as an outcome of the low value and/or low uniqueness of human capital resulting in the proposition to externalize and manage them using either none or minimal compliance-based HRM practices. Developments in digital technologies and algorithmic management epitomized by online labor platforms prompt us to reconsider these assumptions and to challenge the proposed links between value/uniqueness of human capital, employment mode and HRM practices that are assumed by the HR architecture model. Using insights from online labor platforms, we argue that the significant benefits to firms of working with contractors, coupled with the possibilities offered by algorithmic management to efficiently monitor and regulate their behavior, provide a compelling reason for organizations to choose external employment modes even when workers are key to value creation. We challenge the alignment and stability of the relationships proposed by the HR architecture model, and offer propositions to extend the model by reconsidering the rationale for, and nature of, HRM practices associated with contractors. This reassessment is both timely and relevant given the growing prominence of business models where externalizing workers is central alongside the development of new forms of algorithmic human resource management to control them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-29
Number of pages15
JournalHuman resource management
Issue number1
Early online date17 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • HR and technology
  • Inter-organizational environment
  • Performance management
  • Recruitment
  • Selection
  • Strategic HR


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