Working Papers

Managing Knowledge Workers in Global Value Chains


Global value chains span national and organizational boundaries in a growing number of industries. Knowledge creation and exchange within these diffuse networks is more complex than in the centralized R&D process of the past. This research, based on extensive fieldwork with engineers and managers in multinational headquarters and subsidiaries in a number of high-tech industries, analyzes alternative modes of managing knowledge workers in this global setting. Strategic human resource management (SHRM), of which formal HR policies are but a small part, is necessary to structure formal and informal network activities, both within and beyond the firm. We compare two archetypal high-performance SHRM systems and describe how they have evolved in practice. We analyze SHRM for global knowledge flows with offshore subsidiaries, value chain partners, allies, acquisitions, and corporate ventures. We also look at knowledge flows in informal personal networks and via the global circulation of knowledge workers. Finally we review lessons learned about SHRM practices to create and manage knowledge workers in global value chains.