Nieuwe manieren van werken en de ontwikkeling van Human Capital

With the radical change from an industrial to a knowledge society comes the increased significance and autonomy of knowledge workers. Developments in technology and society have given rise to more openness in the processes and practices of these knowledge workers. Coordinating, learning and innovating are less constrained by organizational, geographical and cognitive boundaries. The challenge that organizations increasingly face is to combine this openness with integration across individual knowledge workers, units and areas of expertise, and counter inherent threats of fragmentation.

To address these and related challenges, Marleen Huysman together with some of her colleagues at the KIN Research group: Marlous Agterberg, Hans Berends, Bart van den Hooff, Philipp Tuertscher, and Maarten de Laat of the Open University, start this summer with an NWO funded 5 years research project entitled New Ways of Working and Human Capital Development.

The premise of this project is that the development and utilization of employees’ human capital requires that coordinating, learning and innovating are mutually reinforcing. Two PhD students and one Postdoc researcher will study how to manage human capital development across boundaries by means of in-depth studies of organizations that are in the process of such organizational changes, have already successfully changed in such directions and offer alternative ‘best open practices’ for other organizations to learn from.

This significance of human capital in our knowledge society has major implications for understanding how to manage knowledge intensive organizations, and complicates matters even more in situations of organizational openness. In fact, while the vast literature on knowledge management discusses how to improve acquisition, transfer and retention of knowledge within organizations, present insight falls short in understanding how to manage knowledge across physical, organizational, cognitive and epistemological boundaries. This lack of understanding is becoming more problematic over the past years, as developments in technology and society have given rise to more openness in organizational processes and practices making employees less constrained by boundaries that otherwise would impede knowledge sharing. Yet, understanding how to manage knowledge in situations of organizational openness is still an unresolved yet urgent question that needs to be addressed in order for organizations to capitalize on potential benefit from changes in terms of human capital development.

One of the major problems of traditional organizations and the reason for not being able to renew and adapt to changes, is that working, learning and innovating are considered separate activities. Whereas working happened during daily production activities, learning occurred in training sessions and courses, isolated from daily practice and innovating was considered exclusively belonging to R&D units. This study uses instead an integrative approach to the three knowledge practices of working, learning and innovation. Instead, effective working, learning, and innovating requires that these processes are mutually reinforcing, which typically occurs when knowledge workers engage in shared learning, coordinating, experimentation and problem solving with others with whom they share a practice or passion, independent of functional boundaries. New, and often digitized ways of working are believed to allow these interactions to occur across various boundaries.

The researchers will work closely together with a consortium of private and public partners: the Belastingdienst, CERN, Kentalis, Rijksdienst voor Cultureel Erfgoed, Sparked, and VUMC. Data will be collected by combining qualitative and quantitative methods and by tracing developments and effects over time. Combining multiple methods will allow to validate data by triangulation.

Huysman, MarleenFor further inquiries about the research project, please contact Prof.dr. Marleen Huysman, Department of Information, Logistics and Innovation, de Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, m.h.huysman@vu.nl