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Research future of work
Enabling Human Impact
Future Leadership
Research projects
Innovative labor organization in residential care centers

Future Leadership

Innovative labor organization in residential care centers

Research into the impact on leadership of innovative labor organization in residential care centers.

Type project Project subsidized by the Flemish government (Minister Vandeurzen’s Cabinet and the Agency for Care and Health)
Project partners Workitects
Duration May 01, 2019 - November 01, 2021
Contact person Karen Wouters, PhD

"The workload in ‘residential care centers’ has increased above average over the past three years. Statistics reveal that workable work has indeed become problematic within residential care centers and that urgent measures need to be taken in this respect. As in the other areas of the health and welfare sector, there are constant signs of staff shortage and increasing workload. A considerate human resource management and innovative labor organization projects can be supportive and reduce the workload". (Concept Note on Residential Care for the Elderly, pp. 51-52)

It is high time that the residential care centers were given some breathing space. This can be done, among other things, by rethinking both the content and organization of work using the insights of innovative labor organization.

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This research is part of a broader project that studies how innovative labor organization can be used as leverage for better care and meaningful and workable work. In this case, AMS analyzes what leadership means in such an innovative labor organization.

Horizontal or vertical leadership

We first look at leadership from a structural point of view. Should vertical leadership, the most well-known form of leadership, be maintained, replaced or rather complemented by horizontal leadership? Do integrated self-organizing teams need a leader? What are the tasks and roles of this leader(s)? Is this role best placed inside or outside and above or next to the team?

Today's literature offers few leads to start addressing these issues in everyday practice. By means of action research, we will investigate how autonomous teams can be optimally managed.

In addition, we will look at leadership from the perspective of behavior and styles. We know from research that coaching and appreciative leadership are necessary and will be more prominent in the implementation of autonomous teams. But we know less about how managers can be trained in coaching and empowering their teams. With this research we want to measure the impact of an intervention that focuses on identity development.

Course of the project

In a first part, based on literature research and interviews with team leaders and team members from four cases that implement team leadership in varying ways, we will answer the following research questions:

  • How are self-organizing teams optimally managed?
  • Which factors determine whether a manager is needed?
  • How is this leadership position best embedded structurally (roles/tasks, within/outside the team, above/next to the teams)?

In the second part of the research, we organize and follow up on a leadership development intervention in twenty residential care centers. This should give us insights into how managers can be developed in coaching and empowering teams.

Leadership insights within residential care centers

Organizing in a different way requires a major change from management and managers, both in terms of role and task fulfillment and in terms of leadership style. Building on recent insights from research (see Wouters and Marichal, 2017; Van Gramberen, 2017), we will develop leadership insights and tools that take into account the specific context of residential care centers. These will enable them to successfully make the transition to an innovative labor organization and to strengthen the leadership in the new organization.

Research results

  • Scenarios of team leadership
  • Impact measuring of the transition towards coaching leadership for executives
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A question about this project?

Karen Wouters, PhD

Phone: +32 3 265 90 38


A question about this project?