Putting the process back in: rethinking service sector skill

Ian Hampson, Anne Junor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Service skill definitions have been over-extended, by equating compliance with skill, and underdeveloped, by not recognising service jobs’ invisible social and organisational aspects. Existing approaches to determining service skill levels draw on occupational qualifications and capacity for labour market closure, on knowledge worker/ knowledgeable emotion worker dichotomies, and on the conceptual conflation of labour process deskilling, unskilled jobs and unskilled workers. The theoretical and empirical basis for a new framework identifying hitherto under-specified ‘work process skills’ is outlined. This framework allows recognition of the integrated use of awareness-shaping, relationship-shaping and coordination skills, at different levels of experience-based complexity, derived from reflexive learning and collective problem-solving in the workplace. Political struggles over the use of combinations and levels of these ‘skills of experience’ may result either in jobs designed to reduce autonomy, or in improved skill recognition and development, enhancing equity and career paths.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)526-545
Number of pages20
JournalWork, Employment & Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • articulation work
  • emotional labour
  • equity
  • service work
  • skill
  • work process knowledge
  • workplace learning


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