Human Resources Management in Professional Service Firms (CfP)

Special Issue on the Topic:

Human Resources Management in Professional Service Firms

to be published in:
Zeitschrift für Personalforschung
(German Journal of Research in Human Resource Management)

Due Date for Abstracts: February 28th, 2014
Due Date for Paper Submissions: June 30th, 2014.


Stephan Kaiser, Universität der Bundeswehr München, Germany
Arjan Kozica, Universität der Bundeswehr München, Germany
Juani Swart, University of Bath, United Kingdom
Andreas Werr, Stockholm School of Economics, Swede

The German Journal of Research in Human Resource Management is the highest ranked German journal covering research on all issues related to Human Resource Management (HRM) and is listed by the SSCI. The Special Issues published in English receive considerable attention both in Germany and internationally.

In recent years, knowledge has been recognized as the main resource for the creation of competitive advantage of organizations and businesses have therefore become much more knowledge-intensive. ,Professional service firms’ (PSFs) such as accounting, law firms, business or technical consulting, architecture firms, advertising agencies, and investment banks offering services mainly based on knowledge have emerged as focal point within these developments (von Nordenflycht, 2010; Kaiser & Ringlstetter, 2010). Professional service firms rely on their human assets much more than other types of organizations (Maister, 1993) and they spend much time and effort in recruiting, training, motivating their employees and professionals, and planning their careers. HRM seemed to be more informal in PSFs, but meanwhile explicit HRM practices become more important. Consulting firms, for instance, tend to move from the traditional governance model of the professional partnership to the managed professional business, in which HRM seems to have a more central role. HRM in professional service firms has some distinct characteristics. Staff of professional service firms is composed of knowledge workers and “professionals”, which are often claimed to have high aspirations for autonomy and a focus on their clients rather than on exclusive loyalty to their employing firm (Kinnie & Swart, 2012). Professionals “walk out of the front door every evening” (Scott, 1998, p. xii), which increases the importance of HRM issues in PSFs. Control and motivation of professionals is hence a central issue in dealing with of the ‘centrifugal forces’ of professionals. In larger professional service firms, organizational culture plays a major role in integrating the organizations (“The one firm firm”), and HRM shapes this culture and the identities of the professionals to a great extent (Alvesson & Kärreman, 2007).  How professional service firms (do or should) cope with their HRM issues is important for a broader context. Organizations, that used to be structured bureaucratically (such as industry corporations) struggle with transferring their established HRM practices upon the newly created knowledge intensive business services in which knowledge workers and professionals react differently upon established HR practices. By looking at how HRM “works” in PSFs we can learn much about the management of knowledge workers in other types of organizations. Despite these developments HRM in professionals service firms has been discussed in research only to a limited extend (e.g. Werr & Schilling, 2011; Kinnie & Swart 2012; Malthotra, Morris, & Smets, 2010; Behrends, 2007; Swart & Kinnie 2012). Several questions remain of great interest for researchers and practitioners. Against these developments, the German Journal of Research in Human Resource Managements will publish a Special Issue about Human Resource Management in Professional Service Firms. Papers might address topics such as:

  • Gender issues related to HRM in professional service firms
  • Different archetypes of PSFs and (strategic) HRM; Roles and functions of HRM in different archetypes
  • The role of HRM in archetypal change of professional service firms
  • Motivating and ensuring commitment for professionals in front of the contemporary shift in values of young professionals
  • Work-life balance for knowledge workers and professionals
  • Global talent management in international professional service firms
  • Functions of HRM in different types of professional service firms
  • Different models or configurations of HRM in professional service firms
  • HRM models that operate at the network level across PSFs
  • The relationship between HRM practices and professionals willingness to share or seek others’ knowledge
  • HRM practices and the shaping of professional identity as a control mechanism
  • The organization of HRM in PSFs – How is responsibility for HR issues distributed within firms?
  • How is professional competence defined and assessed in PSFs?

However, we are not limited to these topics and are interested in conceptual and empirical papers offering new insights within the broader scope of HRM in professional service firms. We further welcome contributions from both the more normative tradition of HRM research and the tradition of critical HRM. In order to be considered for publication in this Special Issue, an abstract of two pages should be sent to the editors by February 28th, 2014. The submission process is competitive, and the Editors will review the abstracts and contact authors with an invitation to submit full manuscripts.

The deadline for submitting the full papers is June 30th, 2014. All submitted full papers will be subject to an initial quality check by the editors and a double-blind review process. Submitted papers must represent original work that is unpublished and not currently submitted or under review for possible publication in other journals. Abstracts and full papers should be written in English and should be sent per email to Arjan Kozica. Publication of the Special Issue is scheduled for 2015.

For any questions please contact:
Dr. Arjan Kozica
Universität der Bundeswehr München
Werner-Heisenbergweg 39
85579 Neubiberg, Germany
Phone: +494086676774

Formal guidelines for final submission are available from: or here.