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Deadline: 1 June 2020

Special Issue Call for Papers

Human Capital in Small Enterprises

Human capital (HC) is highly related to the existence, competitiveness and sustainability of small enterprises. On the one hand, due to limited access to tangible and financial resources in small firms, it is the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) (i.e., human capital outcomes) that make it possible to create new products and services or implement innovations. On the other hand, small enterprises, due to their share in the labour market play a crucial role in managing HC. In the majority of OECD economies small and medium-sized enterprises account for over half of all employment. Thus, HC issues in these types of organisations can be a field of interesting and value adding research.

Despite the fact that issues related to HC, in organisations other than large ones, has received growing researchers’ attention, in most cases they focus on a group of small and medium enterprises jointly. However, the distinction between small and medium enterprise with regard to HC and HC management practices seems to be lacking. For example, small firms employing up to 50 people (according to the OECD definition) may introduce different practices than those having more workers. This special issue would like to address the gap in referring to human capital (HC) and human capital management (HCM) in small firms (i.e. having up to 50 employees).

When analysing paradigms that might be applied in the research on human capital in small enterprises, three theories seem to be most relevant. The first one refers to the entrepreneurship theory, according to which an entrepreneur’s HC is crucial at the start-up stage and is a driving force for company development on subsequent growth stages. However, HC that may be central to explaining one phase of the entrepreneurial process may have little influence on later phases. Thus, differentiation between formal, informal and idiosyncratic HC and its role in Human Resource Development (HRD) could be of value. The second theory refers to the resource based view, according to which, HC can be characterised by VRIN attributes, and hence it can be a source of sustainable competitive advantage. This perspective can be applied to small enterprises as they have limited access to tangible and financial resources. The third perspective refers to dynamic capabilities theory according to which firms may organise their internal processes in a unique way adjusted to their limitations, potential and expected outcomes. The way how small firms organise activities referring to acquiring, developing and making use of HC (especially in creating organisational and relational capital) can be perceived as a dynamic capability. Additionally, small firms’ research may require taking into account their variety - which refers to the size, market, industry, and business models applied. Thus, the potential scope of the theoretical foundations relevant to this special issue is presented in Fig. 1.

Figure 1 Scope of themes and approaches applicable to the special issue

The papers may refer to, but do not have to be limited to the following themes:

  • ImportanceHow is HC perceived in small enterprises?; How does it contribute to the overall performance?; Can investment and the acquisition of HC and its management be a foundation of small firms’ dynamic capability?
  • StructureWhich components of human capital are of the highest importance for small enterprises?; Do small enterprises pay special attention to particular knowledge, skills, attitudes, and abilities?; Is there a significant differentiation between general or industry/firm-specific HC in small firms?; Is the owner/manager the main source of HC and/or what is the role of employees, contract workers, subcontractors and other business partners?
  • PracticesHow are HC management practices organised in small enterprises?; Who in small firms is involved in HC management practices?; Which practices referring to HC acquisition, development and retention are applied?; What are the implications of increased HC management formality for firm owners and employees, especially for employees’ psychological contracts?
  • ImpactHow is HC linked with overall performance?; How can the level and specificity of HC impact small firms’ innovativeness?; How are particular components of HC transferred into organisational capital or relational capital?;
  • ContextShould HC in small firms be analysed within particular context it operates in, including national and regional contexts?; What is the difference between small, medium and large companies in HC acquisition, development, retention and management?; Does context specificity in which the firm operates impose any expectations referring to HC?
  • Methods - What methods might be applied in investigating HC issues in small firms?; What other theories may be referred to in research on HC in small firms?; What sources of information concerning HC should/might be applied?; What are the challenges and limitations in the research on HC in small firms?

This special journal issue will enable more dissemination of knowledge specifically related to HC from a research, practitioner and policy perspective. When submitting your paper we suggest applying the OECD definition of small firms according to which a small firm employs up to 50 workers .

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Guest Editors

  • Dr Renata Osowska, Edinburgh Napier University
  • Prof. Maura Sheehan, Edinburgh Napier University
  • Dr Urban Pauli, Crakow University of Economics

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Submission Guidelines

Articles need to be written in English and submitted via the online system before 1 June 2020.

Under the Select Article Type, please choose Special Issue Paper. Once you have uploaded your paper and have reached the section/category page, please select: Special Issue: Human capital in small enterprises

Submitted papers will be double blind peer reviewed and published in a special journal issue of Small Enterprise Research in 2021 or 2022.

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