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Combining diverse knowledge: knowledge workers' experience of specialist and generalist roles

Gráinne Kelly (Learning, Innovation and Knowledge Research Centre, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland)
Michele Mastroeni (Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)
Edel Conway (Learning, Innovation and Knowledge Research Centre, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland)
Kathy Monks (Learning, Innovation and Knowledge Research Centre, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland)
Katie Truss (Kent Business School at Medway, University of Kent, Medway, UK)
Patrick Flood (Learning, Innovation and Knowledge Research Centre, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland)
Enda Hannon (Kingston Business School, Kingston University, Kingston, UK)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 2 August 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this paper is to contribute to understanding the nature of specialist and generalist human capital by exploring the ways in which knowledge workers view their experience of working in specialist and generalist roles in pharmaceutical firms in Ireland and the UK.

Design/methodology/approach

The findings are based on interviews with 55 knowledge workers employed in a range of scientific, technical and managerial positions in four Irish and two UK firms located in the pharmaceutical sector. Interviews were also conducted with nine human resource/training and development managers within these six firms.

Findings

The findings suggest that the categorisation of human capital as either specialist or generalist is too rigid and does not take account of the fact that individuals may themselves choose to shape their careers by investing in a range of education, training and development opportunities that will enable them to move between specialist and generalist roles.

Originality/value

The paper unpacks the concepts of specialist and generalist human capital from an employee perspective and challenges the sharp distinction that is made between specialist and generalist human capital.

Keywords

Citation

Kelly, G., Mastroeni, M., Conway, E., Monks, K., Truss, K., Flood, P. and Hannon, E. (2011), "Combining diverse knowledge: knowledge workers' experience of specialist and generalist roles", Personnel Review, Vol. 40 No. 5, pp. 607-624. https://doi.org/10.1108/00483481111154469

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited