Brokerage from the bottom up: Union leaders as algorithmic brokers in hotel housekeeping work | Research Seminar with Christine Riordan

When and Where

Wednesday, November 15, 2023 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm
CIRHR Research Seminar Room


Christine Riordan, Assistant Professor


Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 892 0721 0756
Passcode: 723963

Automation and artificial intelligence are reshaping hospitality work. Such technologies are one of many ways the industry seeks to streamline operations and improve its economic bottom line, especially since the pandemic. Automation is also transforming labor, where high-touch, face-to-face interactions are becoming increasingly mediated by technology. The use of algorithmic management (AM) systems in hotel housekeeping departments are a case in point. These systems automate, to various degrees, the dispatch of guest room attendants (GRAs) (i.e., housekeepers) and other personnel to hotel rooms for cleaning and maintenance. Although GRAs identify certain benefits of AM, such as increased information and the ability to make what is often considered “invisible” work visible in AM applications, they also describe its challenges. Chief among these is the loss of autonomy, discretion, and judgment in carrying out their work, as well as work intensification, consumption of time, and transformed social relations. In this presentation, I draw from multiple sources of qualitative data (workshops, prototyping sessions, interviews, and observation) collected from a multi-year project conducted in partnership with UNITE HERE, to: 1) unpack these findings on job quality worker well-being and 2) demonstrate an emerging theme from our fieldwork and the topic of an ongoing interview study: how GRAs address such effects through what we term “brokerage from the bottom up.” Conceptualized as a new form of occupational work derived from AM, “algorithmic brokers” (Kellogg et al 2020) draw on a repertoire of strategies and practices to disseminate knowledge and problem solve, in the process generating benefits for organizations. In housekeeping, such roles emerge organically from within GRAs’ workplaces and unions. Yet they face limitations in how effectively they can perform certain brokerage functions, such as aligning interests and perspectives of different occupational groups (e.g., managers and workers), derived from both their position within hotel hierarchies and their work context. I discuss these limitations, as well as implications for practice and future research directions

Professor Riordan’s research and teaching interests are grounded in industrial relations but also pertain to organizational theory and the sociology of work and occupations. One stream of her research focuses on organizational restructuring and implications for work and job design. Another stream of her work probes the nature of conflict in today’s employment relationship. Professor Riordan is also a contributor to work that aims to build industrial relations theory with insights derived from micro- and macro-level organizational theory, and has published on the employment relationship and inequality as well as immigration and work.

Our CIRHR Research Seminar series invites industry leaders and researchers to present their findings. Future guest speakers include:

  • December 6, Brian Rubineau, McGill University, Desautels Faculty of Management