Research Programs


What do employees know? Are they merely means to achieve organisational goals, or can they actually contribute in more ways? During the early Taylorism era, the answer you would hear most often would probably be: employees do, company owners think and delegate. However, in the contemporary society, our view has changed: employees have a voice and are actively involved in all kinds of tasks and decision making. Innovation however, is still seen as something that should be done by people whose job description clearly tells them to – most often people in R&D departments.

But could shop-level employees also contribute to innovation? After all, they stand directly in contact with the organisation’s customers and clients, and often have to solve problems by using their discretion. So if we assume that shop-level employees could contribute to innovation, how would you stimulate that, which skills and knowledge would they need to do so, and how do their innovative ideas transform from creative ideas into actually implemented solutions? Those questions describe what we term ‘employee-driven innovation’: the creation and implementation of new or improved organisational processes and products by employees who do not have the task to be innovative.

The three PhD candidates involved in this NWO-facilitated project started in September 2014 on different sub-projects: Milana Korotka focuses on which bundles of HRM practices have positive effects on organisational innovative performance, Maarten Renkema examines the relationship between HRM and employee-driven innovation from a multilevel perspective, and Jorrit van Mierlo investigates the implementation process of innovative HRM practices and the role organisational actors play in this process.


Driven by ongoing technological advancements and far-reaching digitization, industrial structures are changing. More specifically, Smart Industry, also called Industry 4.0, are not a future perspective but it is happening right now. It is built on a combination of three pillars: use of production technology, digitization, and a network approach. The aim of smart industries is to become more competitive through faster and better adoption of what the information technologies have to offer.

The effects surrounding Smart Industries, digitalization extends the impact towards monitoring consumer behaviors, Big Data interferes in monitoring and steering the work processes and job tasks with high level of preciseness and globalization turns offshoring to reshoring, results in a shift of employment relations from High Performance Work Practices (known as HPWPs) towards High-Resolution HR Practices. Usual tasks of managers and HR professionals, like managing knowledge – skills – abilities of employees, get a new dimension in times of Smart Industries, sometimes called “Do – It – Yourself” management.

This PhD project joins the initiative on Smart Industries from the Human Resource Management point of view. It aims to conceptualize and explore new HR practices to support the progress of Smart Industries as well as examine characteristics of Human Capital (knowledge, skills and attitudes) that best influence the performance of Smart Industries.