Through the eyes of industrial researchers: how new “Connect & Develop” practices change the role of human resources in the lab
An intense debate is going on about more “open” strategies that are supposedly diffusing in industrial R&D. We here discuss the relationship between such practices and Human Resources Management (HRM) in industrial R&D Labs. The paper in fact aims at representing an original attempt of looking at the linkage between R&D strategy and HRM in some Italian high-tech firms. In particular, we identify, select and discuss a set of variables related to the management of HR in R&D that fit with the reconceptualization of innovation proposed by Chesbrough in the “Open Innovation” (OI) paradigm and inspired by the example of P&G’s model of Connect and Develop (C&D). More precisely, our objective is that of investigating the role of HRM in the shift towards “Open Innovation” through the bottom-up lenses of industrial researchers’ characteristics, feelings and behaviours. What we here suggest is that by observing behaviour and expectations of R&D workers, we can investigate the acceptance and implementation of new R&D management practices. Our empirical base is represented by 330 questionnaires completed by R&D personnel and collected through an online survey. The results have been discussed with the HR managers of each company, in order to also gain a “top-down” perspective on the observed dynamics. The research is carried out around three main groups of issues: HR characteristics (e.g., demographic parameters, productivity, time horizons, satisfaction, expectations, mobility, education), job organization aspects (e.g., teamwork vs. individual research, flexibility, decisional centres, work time allocation, type of relationships, communication flows), and HRM tools (e.g., talent attraction, training, evaluation methods, goal definition, roles, leadership, responsibility, incentives, career systems, problem sources). According to Chesbrough, firms fitting the OI model present characteristics related to the R&D structure itself. Nonetheless, even if this model has been widely enthusiastically discussed and sometimes criticized by both practitioners and researchers, we still lack a comprehensive understanding of how such changes effect dynamics and daily operations of an R&D lab. Our empirical analysis ultimately aims at understanding to what extent the shift towards an extended definition of R&D, which includes the new concept of C&D, can be considered as one of the main potential factors of change in HR organization. Beyond the relevance of our findings for the debate among scholars, we argue that managerial implications may derive from a better knowledge of individual perceptions and behaviours of R&D personnel. In fact, the changing pattern of innovation processes implies parallel changes in the organization of R&D labs, where the role of the most important component, i. e. researchers themselves, is not always adequately considered. This paper is a first attempt to explore these relationships. Through a convenience sample we first attempted to test various strategies to best collect data, provide timely valuable feedbacks to our industrial partners and better define our framework, matching early results with existing theories. Further research will aim at making the sample representative of the Italian industrial R&D system.
|Date of creation:||07 Aug 2008|
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