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F. Kohlbacher, W.H. Güttel and B. Haltmeyer

the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration in Austria and involved in a large multidisciplinary research project on knowledge management in multinational companies.

1 Introduction

The current shift in demographics and the consequent potential lack of workforce, notably in many industrialised nations, as well as the attrition of skills and knowledge – also termed ‘workforce crisis’ or ‘shortage of skills and talent’ – present a major challenge to companies and societies alike. Even though this crucial issue has recently started to attract the attention of scholars, business leaders and politicians, research on managing the ageing workforce is still in its infancy. Human Resource Management (HRM), especially, is challenged to develop and implement appropriate instruments, strategies and methods not only to cope with the ageing workforce but also to benefit from elderly employees. In this sense, HRM has to support both the organisation and the individuals. Strategies and measures that can be performed by organisations in order to prevent competence obsolescence and knowledge management initiatives to prevent a loss of valuable experience when experts retire are only a few of the numerous questions relating to managing the ageing workforce.

The purpose of this special issue is to provide theoretical and empirical research that helps explain how human resource management can provide tools and strategies to manage the ageing workforce as well as ageing competencies and effectively deal with the challenge of a looming workforce crisis. To offer multifaceted insights into this field, the special issue features both papers from academics and from practitioners, including empirical and conceptual papers as well as practice papers.


Structure and papers

This special issue has three subsections: academic papers, practitioner papers and short think pieces. The first section contains six academic papers, the second two practitioner papers, and the third four think pieces. We now briefly introduce each paper in turn.

2.1 Academic papers Paper 1

In the first paper, ‘Strategies against competency obsolescence: the case of R&D-intensive organisations’, Güttel et al. present empirical results from R&D-intensive organisations (non-university research). Based on qualitative empirical data, they identified configuration types that perform different strategies for keeping their employees’ competencies up to date. The differences result from the dynamics in the organisation’s environment in relation to their internal learning dynamics. Consequently, the appropriateness of Human Resource (HR) strategies, measures and practices to keep competencies up to date depends on the configuration type the workers are employed in. ‘Best practices’ in one configuration type can be ‘worst practices’ in another. The

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