Personalmanagement in Professional Service Firms

Wir freuen uns sehr, dass vor einigen Tagen das Sonderheft „Human Resource Management in Professional Service Firms“ erschienen ist. Untenstehend sind die darin enthalten Artikel mit den jeweiligen Abstracts. Wir bedanken uns bei den Beitragenden, dem Verlag und den Herausgebern der Zeitschrift für Personalforschung, dass dieses Sonderheft zum Thema Personalmanagement in Professional Service Firms entstanden ist.

Stephan Kaiser, Arjan Kozica, Juani Swart, Andreas Werr
Human Resource Management in Professional Service Firms: Learning from a framework for research and practice

Success in human resource management (HRM) depends on the question of whether applied practices of HRM meet specific contingency factors and are appropriately configured. Using this argument, the present article examines HRM in professional service firms (PSFs) in pursuit of three objectives. First, we introduce a conceptual framework that illustrates how the constitutive characteristics of PSFs, as contingency factors, influence HRM practices and research. Second, based on this framework, we summarize key findings of research on HRM in PSFs and open up potential avenues for further research. Third, we reflect on the argument that HRM in PSFs can contribute to an understanding of HRM practices in other organizational settings, leading to the question of the mutual transferability of HRM practices. Aside from these three primary objectives, we also introduce the contents of the special issue.


Frans Bévort, Flemming Poulfelt
Human Resource Management in Professional Service Firms: Too good to be true? Transcending conflicting institutional logics

Why is it that HR specialists appear to have difficulty applying their knowledge, systems and techniques in a systematic way when it comes to professional services firms (PSFs) – particularly when the drivers for developing powerful HRM practices within such businesses seem more pressing than ever? This paper analyzes the ways HR specialists and PSF managers/partners differ in their understanding of organizations and their management. The analysis supports the argument that, while HR specialists and the discipline of HRM are governed by bureaucratic logic in their approach to management, PSF managers by contrast are driven by professional logic. This creates a number of subtle as well as explicit tensions and disconnects that will have to be tackled if the practices of HRM are to prevail in PSFs. This paper contributes to HRM literature as well as institutional theory, by applying an analysis of institutional logics to HRM practice in PSFs. The paper builds on interviews with five HR managers who have held positions in PSFs, as well as a longitudinal case study of PSF managers in one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms. The paper offers a number of tentative proposals around how HRM and PSFs might transcend the described gulf between the two approaches to management.


Susanne Ollila, Alexander Styhre, Andreas Werr
Managing knowledge integration: Balancing professional and managerial logics in an engineering consulting firm

Integrating professional expertise in professional service firms (PSFs) is a key strategic challenge in the contemporary economy and individual firms. Previous research has pointed out that the governance of key aspects of PSFs, including knowledge integration, is shifting from a professional to a managerial logic, a shift that is often pictured as conflict laden based on the incompatibility of the two logics. Based on a study of knowledge integration in an engineering consulting firm, the current paper shows how managerial and professional logics interplay in shaping knowledge integration practices. We identify both aspects in which the logics reinforce each other in enabling knowledge integration and tensions that threaten knowledge integration. We conclude that the professional logic is a key driver of knowledge integration, but that the managerial logic, including its formal HR practices, may support knowledge integration through secondary effects if applied in a thoughtful way.


Bernadette Bullinger, Corinna Treisch
Herding cats – Future professionals’ expectations of attractive employers

Professionals, like business consultants, have been described as crucial for modern knowledge-intensive organizations, but they are not always thought to be easy to manage or to attract. This might be due to a need for autonomy and commitment that is aimed more at the profession than at their employer. For their recruitment it is thus important for modern organizations like professional service firms (PSFs) to know what expectations applicants who are future professionals have regarding human resource (HR) principles and programmes. We refer to the institutional logics perspective to gain insights whether, in the context of PSFs, applicants’ expectations are associated with the logic of the profession, the corporation or the family. This article describes a discrete choice experiment conducted to analyse the influence of HR attributes in job advertisements used by PSFs to attract business management students. We use a hierarchical Bayesian analysis to carry out the conjoint analysis, as it enabled us to measure the relative importance of attributes on an individual level. The results show that first required job-related attitudes and then company and job description are the most important features of a job advertisement. Our study also indicates that future professionals simultaneously draw on different institutional logics when deciding which employer is attractive.