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Kenneth Cafferkey

This vignette briefly discusses an altercation regarding a comma between a PhD student and a Professor at a first-year PhD progress review.

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Kenneth Cafferkey

This chapter addresses some of the practical implications involved in conducting case study research including finding a suitable research question, negotiating access, and gaining participation. The chapter also delves into the less spoken of area of interference in the research while finishing with a discussion on the project management aspect of case research to ensure the research is kept on track. Each section provides a ‘lessons learned’ section providing practical advice for case researchers.

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Jonathan Winterton and Kenneth Cafferkey

This chapter provides a chronology of understanding of human capital theory tracing its roots back to the pioneering work of Adam Smith. The chapter traces the theoretical underpinnings of human capital theory and its evolution in the human resources literature. The chapter then goes on to criticize the misconception in understanding and measurement of human capital as overly simplistic whereby understanding of human capital theory amounts to more than simply counting training initiatives. Generational differences in understanding human capital theory are then discussed in respect of changing attitudes to work and skills development. The chapter concludes by developing a new approach to assessing human capital within organizations based on the Ability, Motivation, Opportunity framework.

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Ashlea Kellner, Kenneth Cafferkey and Keith Townsend

Ability, Motivation and Opportunity (AMO) theory has been adopted extensively to potentially explain the complex relationship between how people are managed and subsequent performance outcomes. Specifically, the theory suggests some combination of an individual’s ability (A), motivation (M) and opportunities (O) can give us a measure of an individual’s performance (P) (expressed as AMO = P). AMO theory is concerned with individual characteristics as independent variables, however, in its application in the HRM field, researchers have supplemented these independent variables for HR practices and policies, resulting in at least two different incarnations of the AMO model. Further compounding this issue, AMO theory has seldom seen empirical testing, and there is significant lack of consistency in definition and selection of variables. In this chapter, the authors develop an argument that AMO theory is poorly defined and tested, and its appeal is that it can be adapted to suit almost any HRM study.

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Keith Townsend, Aoife M. McDermott, Kenneth Cafferkey and Tony Dundon

It is perhaps easier to explain what theory is not rather than what it is. Theory is not facts or data. Nor is theory a hypothesis, or a case study. It is not a literature review. A theory is a set of general principles or ideas that are meant to explain how something works, and is independent of what it intends to explain. The purpose of a theory (or set of theories) is to help explain what causes something to occur, or to inform us of the likely consequences of a phenomenon. In so doing, theories can be more or less abstract, and be pitched at different levels - explaining society, processes, relations, behaviour and perceptions. For practitioners, theories can enhance understanding and inform decision-making. For researchers, theories shape the framing of their data, and are often presented as an essential part of any well-designed research project. Reflecting this, Hambrick (2007: 1346) argues that theory is essential for a field to flourish and advance. Indeed, many management journals require scholars to make a ‘theoretical contribution’ to get published, prompting something of an obsession with a theory-driven approach in management-related areas. Thus, while recognizing the value and importance of theory, we offer a cautionary note. Specifically, we suggest that it may be fruitful for a field to support initial consideration of phenomena-driven trends or patterns before becoming fixated on having a theoretical explanation. For example, that smoking can cause harm and ill health in humans does not need a theory to prove its validity (Hambrick, 2007). Reflecting this, in disciplines such as sociology, economics and finance there has been less of an ‘essential need’ to publish with some new theoretical development in mind. Instead, ideas, logics, concepts, premises are given due attention and the notion of exploring data is seen as valid and valuable in deciding if certain issues or phenomena are in themselves evident or emergent. Where this is the case, theory can then help to understand and explain such issues. Theory is therefore a crucial lens on the world, one that provides value in addressing both evident and emergent issues. Notwithstanding that empirics and theory both contribute value and vibrancy to a field, our focus here is on the role of theory, and some of the specific theories used in employment relations (ER) and human resource management (HRM) research.

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Edited by Keith Townsend, Kenneth Cafferkey, Aoife M. McDermott and Tony Dundon

This Elgar Introduction provides an overview of some of the key theories that inform human resource management and employment relations as a field of study.