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Masters of Agility: A Study of How Small- and Medium-Sized E-Businesses Use Their Human Resource Management to Succeed in a Complex Environment
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Business, Economics and Design, Linnaeus School of Business and Economics. Linnaeus University, School of Business and Economics, Department of Marketing.
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Business, Economics and Design, Linnaeus School of Business and Economics. Linnaeus University, School of Business and Economics, Department of Marketing.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

SMEs are a type of business that has been intensively studied with regards to many different aspects, given that they are known as the engines of economies. Also, the adoption of the e-channel by SMEs has been researched widely. Yet, scarce research exists on e-businesses that do not have a physical point of sale – a rather new phenomenon that has changed the business world permanently. Especially the number of SME e-businesses increases rapidly and this type of business has not sufficiently been researched. E-businesses, given their own nature, are very exposed to external factors and competition, thus they have the need to be agile to remain relevant. Furthermore, it is known that HR are one of the most important resources in every business, and weigh even more in small businesses.

This study aims at researching the existing gap in academic literature on e-businesses by shedding light on the general structures of the businesses HRM. Moreover, the concept of business agility in the context of SME e-businesses, which enables the businesses to cope with a complex and ever-changing environment, and how this characteristic can be fostered through HRM, is researched by this study. This study is based on a qualitative multiple case study of seven SME e-businesses from Germany and Sweden. The interviews were conducted face-to-face or via Skype with the HR responsible of the companies.

The general HRM structures and activities were analyzed in SME e-businesses, as well as their contribution to eight agility characteristics, identified by previous research in different contexts: contextual clarity, common purpose, commensurate returns, flexible organizational structures, continuous learning, autonomy and accountability, personal growth and collaboration. Furthermore, three agility characteristics that can be revealed by the workforce of a company were analyzed: proactivity, adaptability and generativity.

We conclude that the general HRM structures and activities reveal characteristics of typical SMEs as well as of large e-businesses. Furthermore, this study found, that business agility is generally fostered through surprisingly well-formalized HRM activities. Common purpose, commensurate returns, continuous learning, collaboration and generativity are the characteristics towards business agility that are fostered the most through HRM in SME e-businesses.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Business agility, human resource management, e-businesses, small- and medium-sized enterprises
National Category
Economics and Business
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-53036OAI: diva2:933500
Subject / course
Business Administration - Marketing
Educational program
International Business Strategy, Master Programme 60 credits
Available from: 2016-06-08 Created: 2016-06-06 Last updated: 2016-06-08Bibliographically approved

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Linnaeus School of Business and EconomicsDepartment of Marketing
Economics and Business

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