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Think Piece 4

The last think piece, ‘An ageing workforce: a major challenge to German SMEs’, by Leyhausen, focuses on the result of a 2006 survey on the ageing workforce in German Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). SMEs have to deal with the impact of the demographic change more professionally and seriously than they do today. Due to strong employer brands by German blue chips, SMEs have to be proactive to manage the effect of the demographic change on their business right on time. Therefore, SME managers need to identify the impact of ageing for every single unit in their company to set up appropriate tasks.

3 Outlook

In a knowledge economy, dealing with ageing employees’ competencies and the imperative to keep organisational capabilities up to date in order to remain competitive are challenges for both the present and the future. While, on the organisational level, current research on dynamic capabilities addresses this issue, the special issue at hand offers first insights into the relationship between strategic, organisational and HRM issues, focusing in particular on the last topic. Future research is needed that sheds light on the relationship between biological age and the updating behaviour of employees with regard to their different types of knowledge. Furthermore, we lack knowledge on the intragroup dynamics of knowledge and experience exchange between employees with diverse knowledge bases. On the organisational level, the impact of values and norms of the corporate culture on the updating behaviour of employees is of importance. The same is true for structural aspects such as working structures, compensation structures, the design of HR development systems or incentives resulting from career structures. Finally, whether firms invest more in the better use of already existing knowledge or in the detection of new knowledge is a strategic issue. Hence, different needs for organisational design, working group composition and individual updating behaviour emerge. We therefore intend to stimulate research in these fields, both qualitatively and quantitatively, in order to keep our insights on the ageing issue in the business context up to date.

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