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HRM in Knowledge Intensive Organizations

HRM processes have an important role to play in knowledge intensive organizations such as professional service firms and universities. However, the HR function in these kinds of organizations typically has a rather limited influence, and HR processes are left to professional themselves. In this project we focus on how HR practices are performed and with what consequences.

Background and research questions:

Knowledge intensive organizations such as Professional service firms and universities provide a unique context for HRM. With professionals expecting high levels of autonomy typical HR practices are often regarded as unwelcome and illegitimate interventions in this freedom. Research questions pursued in this context include:

  • What is the role of the HR function in these kinds of organizations?
  • How and by whom are typical HR processes performed?
  • How do professionals respond to typical HR practices?

Research approach:

In addressing the above questions, interviews with professionals and HR managers in a large number for knowledge intensive contexts have been carried out.

Key findings:

  • HRM processes in university departments are often performed badly – to the detriment of employees and performance (see Einola & Werr, 2020).
  • Meritocracy in professional service firms is often questioned by employees. These may react to this in different ways creating unintended consequences for the organization (see Kumra & Werr, 2017).
  • Career factories and Expert houses are two different HR models in professional service firms (see Schilling & Werr, 2017).

Further information:

The project has been partly funded by Handelsbankens forskningsstiftelser.

Referenced publications:

Einola, K., & Werr, A. (2020). HRM i Akademin - byråkratiskt nonsense eller vägen till en bättre arbetsplats? [HRM in academia - bureaucratic nonsense or a path to a better working place?]. In M. Alvesson, & S. Sveningsson (Eds.), Ledning och (sned)styrning i högre utbildning. Lund: Studentlitteratur.

Kumra, S., & Werr, A. (2017). Organizing expertise in the professional service firm - meritocracy in theory and practice. In: Furusten, S. & Werr, A (Eds.), The organization of the expert society. New York & London: Routledge, 185-198.

Schilling, A., & Werr, A. (2017). Career factory and expert house - two development environments for experts.. In: Furusten, S. & Werr, A (Eds.), The organization of the expert society. New York & London: Routledge, 171-184.