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Human Capital, High Involvement and Well-being: Assessing progress and advancing understanding

Special issue call for papers from Employee Relations

Human Capital, High Involvement and Well-being: Assessing progress and advancing understanding

Guest Editors

Kenneth Cafferkey (Sunway University, Malaysia), Brian Harney (Dublin City University, Ireland), Keith Townsend (Griffith University, Australia) and Jonathan Winterton (University of Huddersfield, UK)


For some, human capital is preferable to human resources as a conceptual description of people at work on three grounds. First, and fundamentally, resources are exploited, whereas capital is invested, so the semantic difference puts the emphasis on development (Winterton and Cafferkey, 2019). Human capital accumulation is the principal outcome of human resource development (Garavan et al., 2001). Second, in stressing the competencies and qualifications that people have acquired, human capital offers a more differentiated consideration of people at work (Boon et al., 2018). The HR architecture literature specifically recognizes that employees with knowledge and skills that are valuable and unique are managed differently (Kang et al., 2007). Third, in considering demographic criteria and levels of educational attainment, human capital offers a more nuanced, individualized, and integrative consideration of the labour force. The World Economic Forum Human Capital Report (WEF, 2015), for example, constructed an index of ‘human capital composition’ based on labour force structure and demographic features, considering learning and employment outcomes by age category.

This special issue aims to expand the realm of human capital to include fields such as HIWP (High Involvement Work Practices) and AMO theory (Ability, Motivation, Opportunity), and due diligence as opposed to the extant notion of merely counting training initiatives. We endeavour to assess how individuals are genuinely treated at work and whether people related issues are a top concern for organisations (Cafferkey et al., 2018) in attempting to fully understand the employment relationship (Townsend et al., 2019).

Similarly, we take a wider and more nuanced view of well-being as opposed to narrow subjective assessments of one’s organisational happiness. To this end, we view well-being to include more than simply employee wellbeing but also possibly incorporating well-being at a societal level (a more educated society); an organisational level (a healthier organisation); or even within the supply chain, for example, to ensure there is no child labour, forced labour or exploitation within the supply chain.

This special issue will be the first to examine the relationship between human capital and well-being. The aims of this special issue are to widen the realm of human capital research beyond its predominantly quantitative empirical base, to that end we welcome qualitative and mixed methods research to essentially unearth the 'how and why' of human capital as opposed to the human capital accounting that appears to categorise the majority of research. Secondly, we are also very interested in the policy aspect of human capital, particularly at a national level and what endeavours governments undertake to ensure/ improve national wellbeing i.e. health, education, happiness, mental well-being etc. The type of topics of relevance to the special issue therefore include (but are not limited to):

- the relationship between high involvement practices, human capital and employee outcomes, especially well-being
- Human capital measurement, definition, application
- Holistic and multi-method assessments of the nature, role and impact of human capital
- Multi-level (individual, organisational, sectoral, national) approaches to enhance well-being
- Explorations of human capital enhancement, differentiation or movement on subsequent outcomes, including well-being
- Theoretical approaches which move beyond a traditional economic lens in exploring human capital


The deadline for submissions is May 31st 2020. All submissions to be made via the Employee Relations ScholarOne manuscript submission system -

Authors are encouraged to review the Employee Relations author guidelines, found here.

The guest editors welcome preliminary discussions and questions about potential papers for the special issue: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]


Boon, C., Eckardt, R., Lepak., D.  and Boselie, P. (2018) Integrating strategic human capital and strategic human resource management, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 29:1, 34-67

Cafferkey, K., Heffernan, M., Harney, B., Dundon, T. & Townsend, K. (2018) ‘Perceptions of HRM system strength and affective commitment: The role of human relations and internal process climate’ The International Journal of Human Resource Management, DOI: 10.1080/09585192.2018.1448295

Garavan, T. N., Morley, M., Gunnigle, P., & Collins, E. (2001). Human capital accumulation: the role of human resource development. Journal of European industrial training, 25(2/3/4), 48-68.

Kang, S. C., Morris, S. S., & Snell, S. A. (2007). Relational archetypes, organizational learning, and value creation: Extending the human resource architecture. Academy of management review, 32(1), 236-256.

Townsend, K., McDermott, A., Cafferkey, K., & Dundon, T. (2019) ‘Theories used in Employment Relations and Human Resource Management’ in Townsend, K., Cafferkey, K., Dundon, T. & McDermott, A. (eds) The Edward Elgar Introduction to Theories of HRM and Employee Relations, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, forthcoming.

WEF (2015) The Human Capital Report 2015, Geneva: World Economic Forum.

Winterton, J. & Cafferkey, K. (2019) ‘Revisiting Human Capital Theory’, in Townsend, K., Cafferkey, K., Dundon, T. & McDermott, A. (eds) The Edward Elgar Introduction to Theories of HRM and Employee Relations, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, forthcoming.