Human Resource Management in Project-Based Organisations : Challenges, Changes, and Capabilities

Abstract: This doctoral thesis addresses human resource management in project-based organisations. The aim is to explore the challenges for HRM in project-based organisations and the changes in people management systems to meet these challenges. The thesis consists of a compilation of six papers and an extended summary. The research reported in the thesis is based on a combination of multiple, comparative, and single case studies of project-based organisations. The core case studies have been conducted at Saab Aerosystems, AstraZeneca, Volvo Car Corporation, and Tetra Pak. The results indicate central challenges regarding competence development and career structures, performance review processes and reputation of project workers, and the increased responsibility and pressured work environment for project workers. They further indicate that many of these challenges are handled through a more HR-oriented line manager role, while HR departments are downsized and centralised. The thesis hence emphasises the need to understand HRM as a dimension of management in which various players share the responsibility for its design and performance. To conclude, the thesis applies a capabilities perspective on project-based organisations and develops a conceptual framework that embraces people capability: the organisational capability to manage the relation between people and their organisational context. In this framework, people management systems improve people capability when they integrate it with strategic, functional, and project capabilities. It is suggested that the people capability framework provides new possibilities to analyse HRM in project-based organisations and to explain the changes in people management systems that are needed to align them to the project-based context.