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Special Issue: Relationship between Intangible Assets and Productivity - Proved Fact or Wishful Thinking?

Special issue call for papers from International Journal of Manpower

Rhetoric about intangible assets as a powerful tool for increasing productivity of the organization is a growing stream of research, but the studies are quite eclectic and we may label those unproven or partly proved facts as myths or manifestations of wishful thinking, whereby the actual economic life and accordingly academic research are in need of more evidence. Increasing number of aging population, decreasing number of qualified workforce, growing generational disparity in work values urge looking for possibilities how to increase productivity and therefore the topic is important for business people. 

Productivity as a narrow concept is a measure where units of output is divided with units of input, but in many cases it is complicated to quantify output and then productivity is analyzed in more general terms (e.g. performance). In this special issue we welcome both productivity and performance as research targets but our main emphasis is on productivity. Intangible assets, a strategic resource of the organization (Kristandl and Bontis, 2007), lacks common definition. Some authors argue that intangibles consist two set of the resources: human capital and structural capital (Ibid, 2007). We proceed structural capital as an organizational capital, defined as a knowledge institutionalized within organizational structures, processes and culture (Brynjolfsson, et al, 2002; Youndt, et al, 2004), including relationships inside and outside of the organization. Human capital includes knowledge, skills, and abilities of people (Coff, 2002).

Some progress into the research on the impact of human and organizational capital on productivity has been made (e.g. Bakker et al, 2012; Crook et al, 2011; Frank and Obloj, 2014; Raffie and Coff, 2016; Syverson, 2010). Since empirical studies typically analyze the effect of a single element on productivity (e.g. FitzRoy and Kraft, 2005; Grafton et al, 2010; Mathew et al, 2012), there is no agreement about the relative importance of these elements for productivity; we also are not able to explain the mechanisms behind these relationships.

The call aims to open the venue for the critical approach to reexamine (and question if needed) the relationships between organizations’ intangible assets and its performance, especially productivity. Papers aiming to explain whether and what kind of possibilities exist to increase productivity through intangible assets are welcome. The editors of this special issue are pleased to receive papers where novel methodological approaches to the topic are applied – we welcome in-depth analysis in the case studies format that provide rich descriptions of measures taken for increasing productivity through intangible assets. Besides success stories we also encourage to write about the failures. Papers from various organizations (different age, size, industry etc) are welcome in order to discover  existing relationships between the concepts.

Prospective Themes of the Special Issue (Among Others)

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Relationships between the elements of organizational capital and organizational productivity.
  • Links between firm-specific human capital and productivity.
  • Cause-and-effect relationship between intangible assets and productivity on organization’s level.
  • What kind of organizations and which organizational practices encourage employees to take personal initiative and thus, to contribute to the raise of productivity.
  • Failures and pitfalls in increasing productivity through intangible assets.
  • Comparative analysis of relationships between intangible assets and productivity in different types of organizations.


July, 1 2018: Submission of full papers
September, 2018: Editorial decision
2019: Anticipated publication of the special issue

Submission Guidelines

Submissions to the International Journal of Manpower are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system. Registration and access is available at Full information and guidance on using ScholarOne Manuscripts is available at the Emerald ScholarOne Manuscripts Support Centre: Please also look at author guidelines at journal home page

Guest Editors

Maaja Vadi, Ph.D., professor, University of Tartu ([email protected])
Anne Reino, Ph.D, associate professor, research fellow, University of Tartu, ([email protected])
Anne Aidla, Ph.D., lecturer, research fellow, University of Tartu, ([email protected])


Bakker, A. B., Tims, M., & Derks, D. (2012). Proactive personality and job performance: The role of job crafting and work engagement. Human Relations, 65 (10), 1359-1378.
Brynjolfsson, E., Hitt, L. M., & Yang, S. (2002). Intangible assets: computers and organizational capital. Working Paper No. 138. Cambridge, MA: MIT Center for eBusiness
Coff, R. W. (2002). Human capital, shared expertise, and the likelihood of impasse on corporate acquisitions. Journal of Management, 28, 107– 128.
Crook T. R., Todd, S.Y., Combs, J.G., Woehr, D.J., & Ketchen D. J. Jr. (2011). Does human capital matter? A meta-analysis of the relationship between human capital and firm performance. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(3), 443-56.
FitzRoy, F., & Kraft, K. (2005). Co‐determination, Efficiency and Productivity. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 43(2), 233-247.
Frank, D. H., & Obloj, T. (2014). Firm-specific human capital, organizational incentives, and agency costs: Evidence from retail banking. Strategic Management Journal, 35(9), 1279-1301.
Grafton, J., Lillis, A. M. & Widener, S. K (2010). The Role of Performance Measurement and Evaluation in Building Organizational Capabilities and Performance. Accounting, Organization and Society, 35, 689-706.
Kristandl, G., ja Bontis, N. (2007). Constructing a definition for intangibles using the resource based view of the firm. Management Decision, 45(9), 1510-1524.
Mathew, J., Ogbonna, E. & Harris, L. C. (2012). Culture, Employee Work Outcomes and Performance: An empirical Analysis of Indian Software Firms. Journal of World Business, 47(2), 194-203.
Raffiee, J., & Coff,  R. (2016). Micro-Foundations of Firm-Specific Human Capital: When Do Employees Perceive Their Skills to Be Firm-Specific? Academy of Management Journal, 59(3), 766–790. 
Syverson, C. (2010). What determines productivity? Working Paper 15712. NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH.
Youndt, M. A., Subramaniam, M., & Snell, S. A. (2004). Intellectual capital profiles: An examination of investments and returns. Journal of Management studies, 41(2), 335-361.