Dr Mark Williams

Senior Lecturer in HRM
BSc (LSE), MSc (Oxon), DPhil (Oxon)



I am a Senior Lecturer in HRM, with expertise in compensation and reward, job quality, and wellbeing. My core research is on mapping socio-economic disparities in the quality of work, in particular disparities across occupations (different professions or fields of work). My research uses large-scale survey and administrative data to establish and explain statistical regularities in these and related areas among the working population. Although my main focus is on Britain, my research has spanned the United States, China, and Europe.

My research has been published in a number of HRM, employment relations, management, and sociology journals and has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the British Academy, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the European Commission.

I joined Surrey Business School in 2013. Prior to Surrey, I was a Fellow in the Department of Management at LSE. In addition to my role at Surrey, I also Lecture at HKU SPACE, University of Hong Kong and I have engaged in consultancy/advisory work for government in the UK and internationally, as well as for trade unions and professional bodies. I am also an Editorial Board Member at Work, Employment and Society and an Academic Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Research Interests

  • Occupational stratification
  • Compensation and reward
  • Job quality
  • Wellbeing
  • Quantitative analysis of large-scale data

Departmental duties

  • On Sabbatical Leave until August 2019


Research interests

My publications


Zhou Ying, Zou M, Williams Mark, Tabvuma V (2017) Is the grass greener on the other side? A longitudinal study of the impact of employer change and occupational change on job satisfaction, Journal of Vocational Behavior 99 pp. 66-78 Elsevier
Research shows that individuals experience a honeymoon-hangover pattern when they change employers. This study provides further insight into this pattern by comparing the experience of those who change employers within and across occupations. Drawing on the longitudinal data from the British House Panel Survey 1991-2008, we find that the honeymoon effect was primarily driven by the experience of those who change employers across occupations. Patterns of post-transition adaptation also differ between the two categories of job changers. While there is evidence of adaptation of job satisfaction to employer change within occupation, those who change employers across occupations experience a steady decline of intrinsic job satisfaction which continues for at least six years after the transition.
Williams MT (2016) Understanding variation in efficacy of financial participation across Europe: the role of country-level factors, Economic and Industrial Democracy: an international journal Sage
Little is known about variation in the efficacy of financial participation across countries. This article examines the relationship between two types of financial participation (profit sharing and employee share-ownership) and labour productivity across 29 European countries using a representative workplace survey. Consistent with theoretical expectations, profit-sharing is associated with superior labour productivity when it is open to all employees, whilst the evidence for employee share-ownership is more mixed. Analysis reveals considerable variation in the efficacy of both schemes across Europe. Country-level collective bargaining coverage has the greatest explanatory power in accounting for cross-country variation in efficacy. In countries with higher levels of collective bargaining coverage, profit-sharing performs less well, whereas employee share-ownership performs better, relative to countries with lower collective bargaining coverage. These findings shed light on the comparative dimension of the of the financial participation-labour productivity link.
Williams M (2015) What Unions No Longer Do, WORK EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIETY 30 (1) pp. 202-204 SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD
Williams MT, Booth JE (2013) Union members are more likely to give to charity, and to give more when they do., In: Union members are more likely to give to charity, and to give more when they do.
While union membership has benefits to workers themselves, could these benefits have spill over effects that are also a boon to society? Jonathan Booth and Mark Williams look at the effects that union membership has on charitable giving, and find that being a union member makes people 5 percent more likely to give to charity, and also to give 30 percent more than non-union members. These findings, they argue, may have important implications for society in a time of declining union membership.
Williams MT, Koumenta M (2016) An Anatomy of Zero-Hour Contracts in the United Kingdom, CIPD/ARC/2015/1 CIPD
Williams MT (2012) British wage inequality: what occupation you have has never mattered so much, In: British wage inequality: what occupation you have has never mattered so much
Mark Williams looks at how occupations relate to the massive rise in British wage inequality between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s, finding that growing inequality largely between groups and is driven by a small handful of occupations.
Williams Mark, Gardiner Elliroma (2017) The Power of Personality at Work: Core Self-Evaluations Earnings in the United Kingdom, Human Resource Management Journal 28 (1) pp. 45-60 Wiley
Organisations are increasingly taking an interest in personality as certain traits purportedly predict desirable attitudes and behaviours. We examine the relationship between one increasingly popular construct?Core Self-Evaluations (CSEs)?and earnings. We argue that if high levels of CSEs really are valuable traits, then high CSE individuals should be observed to earn more than those with moderate or low levels of CSEs. Using the nationally-representative British Household Panel Survey, we find little evidence that individuals with very high CSEs earn more than those with only moderate levels. However, we do find the existence of a pay penalty for individuals very low in CSEs. Similar patterns emerge for the Big Five model of traits. Although the exact mechanisms remain unclear, our findings imply that organisations should play a greater role in the career development of employees scoring lowly in ?desirable? traits?especially in a context of increasing career fluidity.
Williams MT, Gallie D, Inanc H (2009) The vulnerability of the low-skilled, The low pay, low skill, and low income (LOPSI) cross-cutting workshop
The low-skilled are a critical category for analyses of labour market marginalization. Class analysis has tended to depict low-skilled employees as sharing a broadly similar position with respect to both employment and labour market conditions. Their employment relationship is defined by a specific type of contract ? the labour contract ? characterized by precarious pay, low asset specificity and high job insecurity. This contrasts with employees who benefit from a service relationship which is designed to bind employees to the organization on a longer term basis. Recent neo-institutional theories however have emphasized the diversity of employment conditions between advanced capitalist societies, depending in particular on the nature of their production, employment and welfare regimes. An important issue is whether such divergences apply only to more skilled categories of the workforce (and hence lead to accentuated polarization) or also affect the employment conditions of the low-skilled. Are the low-skilled significantly more integrated into the labour market in some countries than in others and hence less vulnerable in times of economic restructuring? The paper will examine this by comparing a number of EU-15 countries that have been regarded as reflecting contrasting institutional regimes. It will focus in particular on the position of the low-skilled with respect to pay, training and job security.
Williams MT (2013) Occupations and British Wage Inequality, 1970s-2000s, European Sociological Review 29 (4) pp. 841-857
Although there was a ?massive rise? in British wage inequality, relatively little is known about the relationship between occupations and growing British wage inequality. Since sociologists traditionally have tended to place a great deal of emphasis on occupations, we might expect them to play a key role in accounting for trends in overall British wage inequality. More recent strands of stratification theory, however, have challenged the idea that occupations structure economic inequalities as well as they once did, and argue that the link between occupations and wages might have been weakening; instead predicting that growing wage inequality mostly occurs within occupations. We decompose trends in British wage inequality into between-occupation and within-occupation components and show that, although most wage inequality is within occupations, it is inequality between occupations that accounts for the lion's share of growing wage inequality. Trends in between-occupation inequality cannot be ?explained away? by fundamental labour market changes such as rising educational attainment and the decline in collective bargaining, indicating occupations really did structure the ?massive rise? in wage inequality. We also demonstrate what the rise in between-occupation inequality can be more or less described as growing between-class inequality.
Williams M (2017) Civil Service Pay Trends 2007 to 2016, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)
Williams MT (2009) How does the workplace affect the quality of employment?,
Hodder A, Williams Mark, Kelly J, McCarthy N (2016) Does strike action stimulate trade union membership growth?, British Journal of Industrial Relations: an international journal of employment relations 55 (1) pp. 165-186 Wiley
Most of the literature on strikes has addressed one of four issues: causation, variation between sectors and countries, trends over time and the relationship between strikes and other forms of collective and individual protest. Very little research has addressed the equally important questions of strike outcomes and trade union membership despite the substantial body of research on the causes of trade union membership decline and strategies for membership growth. In this paper we reverse the usual sequence of trade union membership as a causal factor in the genesis of strikes and examine the impact of strikes on trade union membership levels. After setting out the relevant theory and hypotheses, we use a unique seven year dataset of trade union membership joiners and leavers from a major British trade union with a substantial record of strike activity. Controlling for other possible determinants of trade union membership, we find that months in which there is strike action, whether national or local, are associated with a significantly higher rate of membership growth, measured both by the number of joiners and by the ratio of joiners to leavers. Data from new union members suggests that perceived injustice and perceived union effectiveness both motivate the decision to join.
Williams Mark (2017) An Old Model of Social Class? Job Characteristics and the NS-SEC Schema, Work, Employment and Society 31 (1) pp. 153-165 Sage
This article explores the relationship between the job characteristics underlying the Goldthorpe model of social class (work monitoring difficulty and human asset specificity) and those underlying theories of technological change (routine and analytical tasks) highlighted as key drivers for growing inequality. Analysis of the 2012 British Skills and Employment Survey demonstrate monitoring difficulty and asset specificity predict National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC) membership and employment relations in ways expected by the Goldthorpe model, but the role of asset specificity is partially confounded by analytical tasks. It concludes that while the Goldthorpe model continues to provide a useful descriptive tool of inequality-producing processes and employment relations in the labour market, examining underlying job characteristics directly is a promising avenue for future research in explaining dynamics in the evolution of occupational inequalities over time.
Williams MT, Zhou Y (2017) Paying for performance in Britain: Does the type of job matter?, CIPD Article number CIPD/ARC/2016/6
Booth J, Lup D, Williams Mark (2016) Union Membership and Charitable Giving in the United States, Industrial and Labor Relations Review 70 (4) pp. 835-864 Cornell University
Using panel data for the United States 2001 ? 2011, the authors examine general differences in charitable giving between union members, free-riders, and the non-unionized. Results indicate that union members are more likely to give and to give more to charity relative to the non-unionized, whereas free-riders are the least generous. Similar effects are found when examining joining a union or becoming a free-rider: joining a union positively affects charitable giving, while moving into free-riding makes individuals' behavior less charitable. Evidence also suggests that the positive effect of union membership on giving does not diminish over time. Taken together, these results provide new solid evidence that union membership generates civic engagement in the form of charitable behavior, but also suggest the need to further investigate the civic behavior of free-riders.
Occupations traditionally played a central role in stratification accounts. In the wake of the Great Recession, debates regarding the extent and nature of occupational stratification have been reinvigorated. An exploration of occupational wage stratification patterns defined by both detailed occupational unit groups and the broader occupational class categories of the National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC) reveals the proportion of wage inequality between occupations and occupational classes has remained broadly stable 1997 to 2015. No compelling evidence is found for growing wage inequalities between detailed occupations within NS-SEC categories. This article underlines the continued utility of occupations and particularly the NS-SEC grouping of them in describing the structure of stratification in contemporary Britain.
Zhou Ying, Wu CH, Zou M, Williams Mark (2017) A longitudinal study of the impact of occupational mobility on job satisfaction trajectory, Best Paper Proceedings of the Seventy-seventh Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management. (nominated for AOM Careers Division?s ?Overall Best Paper? award) 2017 (1) 15471 Academy of Management
Previous research on job change has identified a common pattern of job satisfaction trajectory during the turnover process. Individuals often experience a sharp increase in job satisfaction upon initial entry into the new job which gradually returns to baseline levels over time. This study examines how this ?honeymoon-hangover? pattern is affected by the nature of the job change and the individual?s personality. Drawing on the longitudinal data provided by the British Household Panel Survey which followed approximately 10,000 individuals annually for eighteen years, this study shows that only those who successfully move up the occupational ladder experience significant ?honeymoon? effects. By contrast, individuals who make lateral or downward career transitions experience no significant honeymoon effects but dissatisfaction that lasts for years after the transition. However, the pattern varies depending on the individual?s level of neuroticism. Compared to emotionally stable individuals, those with high levels of neuroticism react more strongly to both upward and downward occupational mobility, with the job satisfaction gap between the two groups growing wider over time. These findings highlight the importance of taking into account both situational and dispositional factors for understanding individuals? reactions to career change.
Williams MT, Chen Y (2016) Wellbeing in the New China, British Journal of Sociology Wiley
We present the first nationally representative evidence on the relationship between religion and subjective wellbeing for the case of China. Research on Western societies tends to find a positive association between being religious and level of wellbeing. China provides an interesting critical case as the religious population is growing rapidly and the religious and socioeconomic environments are profoundly different from Western societies, implying different mechanisms might be at work. We hypothesise to find a positive association between religion and wellbeing in China too, but argue social capital, for which strong evidence is often found in Western societies, is unlikely to be an important mechanism because religion in China is generally non-congregational. Instead, we argue that the private and subjective dimension of religion matters for wellbeing in China by helping adherents have an improved sense of social status relative to the non-religious in the context of rapid social change and growing inequality. Our results generally support these predictions
Williams Mark, Bol Thijs (2017) Occupations and the Wage Structure: The Role of Occupational tasks in Britain, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 53 pp. 16-25 Elsevier
Occupations are central to the stratification system, including the stratification of wages. One compelling explanation for how occupations relate to the wage structure is through their task content. We consider the relationships between occupational tasks and the wage structure directly using unconditional quantile regression methods, examining a broader range of occupational tasks than normally considered. We find that occupational tasks have varied implications for the wage structure in ways not always consistent with dominant technology-based explanations. We conclude that the task-based approach to conceptualising how occupations determine the wage structure is a promising avenue for future research and outline some recommendations on how to proceed.
Chen Yunsong, Williams Mark (2017) Subjective Social Status in Transitioning China: Trends and Determinants, Social Science Quarterly 99 (1) pp. 406-422 Wiley
Objective: This study provides the first representative portrait of temporal trends in subjective social status (SSS) in China. SSS has been shown to be important for health and wellbeing outcomes, yet little is known how its determinants change over time. Methods: Using data from 10 nationally representative survey waves 2003 and 2012 (N=80,141), we examine descriptive and multivariate trends. Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition is used to decompose changes in determinants of SSS over time. Results and Conclusion: Results demonstrate that (1) average SSS has risen over time, yet there is an enduring tendency for the Chinese to place themselves in lowest levels in the social hierarchy; (2) objective socioeconomic variables such as income explain much of the rise in average SSS; (3) yet the strength of the relationship between socioeconomic variables predicting SSS has been weakening over time. This article adds to our understanding of the determinants of SSS in contexts undergoing transition.
Williams Mark (2018) Field of work determines pay, and increasingly so, Work in Progress: American Sociological Association Blog American Sociological Association
Sociologists have traditionally considered occupation - field of work - a central factor in differentiating people's life chances. This post summarizes new research reinvigorating sociology's preoccupation with occupation. It suggests that field of work is a critical factor determining pay, and increasingly so, and that this is the case because different occupations involve different tasks.
Koumenta Maria, Williams Mark (2019) An anatomy of zero-hour contracts in the United Kingdom, Industrial Relations Journal 50 (1) pp. 20-40 Wiley
We present the first attempt to locate zero-hour contract (ZHC) jobs?jobs that lack a guaranteed minimum number of hours?within theoretical frameworks of the employment relationship and occupational class and empirically explore their characteristics using successive UK Labour Force Surveys. In line with these theories, we find this contentious form of employment to be strongly differentiated by the nature of occupational tasks and to overlap with nonstandard employment features (e.g., part-time, temporary). They are also highly concentrated in a small number of occupations and sectors, with over half of ZHC jobs found in just 10 occupations. We further show that ZHCs are associated with indicators of inferior job quality such as low pay and underemployment. Although we find no evidence that ZHCs are a particularly pervasive feature of the UK labour market, further growth cannot be ruled out in certain occupations.
Koumenta Maria, Williams Mark (2019) Regulatory Effects of Occupational Licensing on Driving Instructors in UK, In: Study on the impact of liberalisation of access to certain professions European Commission

It was not until the introduction of the driving test in 1935 that any serious attempt was made to coordinate the ways in which people learned to drive. Even then however, the state did not see the need for a parallel system to formalise eligibility to teach individuals driving skills so for many years there were no legal controls over the training and qualifications of those who taught driving. The first initiative came from the Motor Schools Association and the Royal Automobile Club (both independent associations formed by driving schools owners) who also in 1935 produced their own independent registers of qualified driving instructors and schools. Each organisation outlined its own version of the basic skills that were needed to join the register. The register of approved driving instructors (ADIs) was finally approved by Parliament in 1964 but remained voluntary until 1970. During that time, at various occasions the state attempted to persuade the industry to formalise the standards and put in controls without success. However, it was not until the driving lessons industry grew substantially that driving instructor training was formalised and membership of the register of approved driving instructors became compulsory. In practice this has meant that any person giving paid instruction in the driving of a motor car whose name is not on the Register is guilty of an offence. As such, the evolution of regulation in the occupation can be understood as a shift from voluntary membership of a register belonging to a professional body to legally enforced state regulation in the form of specific training requirements to practice (as evidenced by one?s membership of the Approved Driving Instructor register or ownership of a trainee license). As we shall show below however, in reality a dual market of fully trained and trainee driving instructors is in operation.

More recently, various changes have taken place with regards to requirements for regular periodic assessments that instructors have to undergo as well as proposals to reform the occupation in terms of training requirements to practice. In this study we assess the impact of these proposals on outcome and value-added type of indicators.

Williams Mark, Koumenta Maria (2019) Occupational Closure and Job Quality: The Case of Occupational Licensing in Britain, Human Relations SAGE Publications
The notion of job quality has been at the forefront of academic and policy-debates, best crystallised in the pursuit to create more but also better jobs as a route to economic prosperity. Motivated by the need to better understand how occupational-level structures shape job quality, we derive predictions from the occupational closure literature to explore how occupational licensing?the strongest and fastest growing form of closure?shapes job quality in Britain. Using nationally representative data over several decades, we find that the effects of licensing tend to be confined to jobs in the most stringently licensed occupations, with such jobs having higher pay, lower job insecurity, greater opportunities for skill-use, and higher continuous learning requirements?relative to jobs in similarly-skilled unlicensed occupations. Of particular concern, however, is the finding that jobs in stringently licensed occupations are also characterised by significantly lower task discretion and significantly higher job demands. Overall, our study adds a new dimension to job quality debates by highlighting the role of emergent occupational-level institutional structures in shaping job quality, and further, that despite the overall positive effects closure strategies have, they may come at a cost to certain critical intrinsic dimensions of job quality.
Higher managerial and professional occupations are now the most incentivised occupational class in Britain. It is not yet known whether the rise in pay for performance (PFP) signifies an erosion or enhancement in the ?service relationship? that purportedly characterises these occupations. Taking an occupational class perspective, this paper investigates the implications of the rise in PFP for the employment relationship and conditions of work across the occupational structure using two nationally-representative datasets. In fixed-effects estimates, PFP is found to heavily substitute base earnings in non-service class occupations, but not in service class occupations. PFP jobs generally have no worse conditions relative to non-PFP jobs within occupational classes. The article concludes the rise in PFP should be conceptualised more as a form of ?rent sharing? for service class occupations, enhancing the service relationship, and as a form of ?risk sharing? for non-service class occupations.