Disrupting HRM: Is it time for new ideas and new practices?



Industry 4.0 is transforming the world of work, creating a technological revolution and reshaping the way organisations do business. This, coupled with disruption to labour markets globally caused by the Covid 19 pandemic paves the way for significant transformation in the way leaders build future-ready organisations.  Many policies and procedures created in times of predictability and stability to optimise long term efficiency and effectiveness are no longer fit for purpose and yet it seems some organisations are determined to get back to ‘normal’ with now outdated operating models, perhaps particularly in the field of HRM. 

In an era where people are driving the culture of the organisation, where sustainability is integral to business goals, where the future of work is uncertain, and where organisations are going to have to work that much harder to recruit and retain the best people, adaptation to new practice is slow.  Human Resource Management does not, currently, seem well-suited to the new digital age or rapidly changing contexts.  Indeed, it might be argued that HRM is stuck in legacy and industrial thinking, driven by a policies and procedures approach when it is dynamism and agility that is required. Approaches to key aspects of the HRM system, such as recruitment, performance management and learning and development seem stuck in a time-warp. This is particularly relevant when we consider how the world of work is changing: remote working, gig working, increasing use of technology and so on.  Because the future of work is uncertain and will be undeniably different from how it is now, a new HRM is needed that fits this changing environment more effectively.  Furthermore, to understand this future better we need a much more multidisciplinary approach to understanding the role of HRM in this context.  It is important to balance the psychologization tendency that has tended to dominate in recent years, with the valuable contributions that can be made through economics, sociology, IR/ER and more macro perspectives on HRM’s role.

This need is highlighted in that workforces are increasingly diverse and working practices are more complex.  New technologies have driven flexible workplaces, enabled global collaboration, agile ways of working, non-standard working hours and different career paths.  Increasingly, employees are questioning the work that they perform and where and why they do the work they do.  There is a growing ‘anti-work’ movement, questioning why employees should be subjected to the regulatory discipline of having to spend x number of hours in the office.  This is, itself, a legacy of the industrial era. To survive and flourish going forward organisations will need to look beyond financial goals to create working environments and spaces that are more inclusive without losing site of issues of organizational profit, efficiency and effectiveness.  They will also need to be much more innovative and disruptive in the practices of people management and work design.

 Aims and Scope

What does this mean for the practice of and research into HRM?  Never before has the people team had so many tools at their disposal, but who are confronted with  the question of how these tools can be used  effectively to create workplaces that:  focus on capabilities rather than jobs, where people strategies are creative and hybrid, where performance management is re-imagined and more flexible and where health and well-being is at the core of every good business decision.  Equally, if not more importantly, how can we reformulate Strategic HRM in this context.  In recent years it appears that the study of HRM has been dominated by the obsession with the individual and a micro I/O psychological approach.  Useful conceptualizations and practical applications of ideas about HRM depend much more on a multi-disciplinary approach.

This Special Issue is open minded regarding methodological approaches, however,
we specifically encourage submissions that:

  1. disrupt current thinking and practice about the HR role and activities.
  2. are multidisciplinary and/or offer ideas from more macro perspectives; for example, economics, sociology, industrial relations rather than industrial/organisational psychology or organizational behaviour.
  3. meaningfully connects academic research to practice in such a way that it meets the needs that HR leader-managers see as important.
  4. take a qualitative approach.

List of topic areas

  • Qualitative studies that use frameworks and ideas from a range of disciplines.
  • Empirical studies that highlight innovation and disruption in HR practice.
  • The impact of technology on HR and its limitations and ethical issues.
  • New ways of working and its implications for disrupting HR practice.
  • Case studies of disruptive and innovative HR practices.
  • Alternative HRM systems.
  • Alternative and disruptive approaches to specific HRM practices, recruitment, performance management, job/work design, human resource development etc.
  • Critical and disruptive approaches to the idea of ‘talent’.
  • New ways of envisaging strategic HRM.
  • The role of professional associations in constraining or encouraging innovation in HRM.

Guest Editors

Kay Maddox-Daines, UK, University of Suffolk

Steve McKenna, Australia, Curtin University

Laxmikant Manroop, USA, Eastern Michigan University 

Submissions Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at:   https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/prev

Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see: https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/journal/pr#author-guidelines

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key deadlines

Closing date: 1st of November, 2023