Call for papers: Sustainable digital HRM: myth or reality?


Sustainable digital HRM: myth or reality?


Alessandra Lazazzara, University of Milan

Tanya Bondarouk, University of Twente

Sustainable digital human resources management (HRM) may be defined as the combination of purposeful sustainability of digital HRM, and secondary sustainability by electronic HRM contributions to and balancing of economic, ecological and social objectives of the corporation (adopted from Strohmeier, 2020).

Among the “grand challenges” citizens, organizations, and governments are facing nowadays, sustainability is becoming more than an imperative in order to preserve the future generations’ needs and lives. The debate on how digital transformation is helping tackle sustainable development is vivid and addressing how companies may create more sustainable patterns of production and consumption (Za et al., 2023). However, despite the human resources function is now expected to play an active role to help organizations to take care of the triple bottom lines and to achieve not only financial but also social and environmental performance (Poon & Law, 2022), there is a lack of research on if and how the digitalization of HRM can contribute toward pursuing economic, ecological and social objectives (Hilty & Aebischer, 2015; Za et al., 2023).

The field of electronic HRM or digital HR (Bondarouk and Fisher, 2020) has developed significantly over the last 20 years. The digitalization of HRM focuses on attaining performance gains and creating strategic advantage through the deployment of human resources by leveraging the capabilities of the array of technologies that compose the digital HR function (Lazazzara & Galanaki, 2020). Similarly, sustainability is not new in the HRM field, and there is a growing body of research that discusses what sustainability means for the HRM domain (see De Stefano et al., 2018). The intersection between the two subdomains has also been discussed by Strohmeier (2020), which defines sustainable electronic HRM as “the purposeful primary (“sustainability of electronic HRM”) and secondary (“sustainability by electronic HRM”) contributions to and balancing of economic, ecological and social objectives of the corporation” (p. 141). Despite Strohmeier’s contribution to the conceptualization of sustainable digital HR, the field is still in its infancy and a thorough understanding of how the digitalization of HRM is a means toward sustainability and the interdependencies among the two is still missing.

Moreover, the paradoxical nature of organizational tensions in sustainable HRM has already been discussed (Poon & Law, 2022), but the role of the exponential adoption of digital technologies in HRM, such as artificial intelligence, sensors, advanced HR analytics, algorithms and, robots in creating such tensions and contradictions has not been disentangled yet. For example, due to how Covid-19 has reshaped our lives and societies, working arrangements have become more individualized, decentralized and independent. On the one hand, hybrid work arrangements whether employees have the autonomy to choose to work wherever and however they are most productive ideally increase happiness, commitment and productivity of workers along with potential cuts in environmental pressure (e.g., less emissions due to less commuting) and costs for the company. On the other hand, flexibility entails social concerns related to the conditions of specific categories of workers (e.g., women, minorities) and the potential increase of work intensity related to flexible work may hinder wellbeing and mental health (Heejoung 2017). Similarly, from a bibliometric analysis on the adoption of AI in HRM (Za et al., forthcoming) emerged the large interest on the adoption of AI tools for recruitment and selection (R&S) processes. AI technological supports are supposed to enhance R&S in terms of both more efficiency (reducing time and costs) and effectiveness (recruiting the most competent and best employee in the labour market). However, the study revels that the most prominent aspects emerging in research on AI in R&S is related to applicants’ perceptions toward automated job interviews and the risks related to intercultural problems encountered in cross-cultural contexts. Thus, the expected beneficial effects of digital HRM on human sustainability seem to be more myth than reality.

This thematic issue welcomes research contributions on the impacts and the paradoxes that emerge from the introduction of digital technologies for HRM as related to sustainability aspects. There are numerous questions to be investigated and answered. These include, but are not limited to:

  • How do digital HRM technologies support organizational sustainability?
  • What are conceptualisations of sustainable digital HRM?
  • How do digital technologies in HRM affect the “three-pillar model”, namely the economic, ecological and social objectives (Hilty & Aebischer, 2015)?
  • What role has digital HRM played in the rise of inequality before and after the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • How can companies design and adopt digital technologies and platforms that contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (United Nations, 2015)?
  • Advanced technologies and new forms of work organization (e.g., teleworking, remote working, agile solutions, co-working, online collaboration, virtual communities): how do these technologies affect well-being and mental health of specific categories of workers?
  • How the adoption of robots and sensors affect individual autonomy and control in the workplace?
  • How the global emergence of sustainability concerns is relying on AI, HR analytics and Big Data in order to inform HR managers and policy makers and create new solutions supporting sustainability?


This thematic issue is open to multi-disciplinary theoretical and empirical methodologies as well as to a range of empirical settings. Both qualitative and quantitative empirical approaches as well as conceptual and theoretically focused contributions are welcomed.


Main References

Bondarouk, T., Fisher, S. (Eds.) (2020) Encyclopedia of Electronic HRM, De Gruyter Oldenbourg, ISBN: 978-3-11-062899-9.

De Stefano, F., Bagdadli, S., and Camuffo, A. (2018), “The HR role in corporate social responsibility and sustainability: A boundary-shifting literature review”, Human Resource Management, 57 (2): 549–566. DOI: 10.1002/hrm.21870

Heejoung, C. (2017), ‘Work Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance’. Work Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance Project.

Hilty, L.M., Aebischer, B. (2015), “Ict for sustainability: An emerging research field”. In Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, Vol. 310: 3–36. Springer Verlag.

Lazazzara A., Galanaki, E. (2020), “Resource-Based View Perspective in e-HRM Research”. In Bondarouk, T., Fisher, S. (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Electronic HRM, De Gruyter Oldenbourg, DOI: 10.1515/9783110633702-018

Poon, T.S.C., Law, K.K. (2022), “Sustainable HRM: An extension of the paradox perspective”, Human Resource Management Review, 32 (2). DOI: 10.1016/j.hrmr.2020.100818

Strohmeier, S. (2020), “Sustainable Electronic HRM”, In Bondarouk, T., Fisher, S. (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Electronic HRM, De Gruyter Oldenbourg.

UN (United Nations): General Assembly Resolution 70/1 (2015) - Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. (2015).

Za, S., Lazazzara, A., Shaba, E., and Scornavacca, E. (forthcoming), “Is artificial intelligence disrupting human resource management? A bibliometric analysis”. In Bondarouk, T., Meijerink, J. (Eds.) Research Handbook on Human Resource Management and Disruptive Technologies, Edward Elgar.

Za, S., Winter, R., and Lazazzara, A. (Eds.) (2023) Sustainable Digital Transformation. Paving the Way Towards Smart Organizations and Societies. Lecture Notes in Information Systems and Organisation, Vol. 59, Springer International Publisher.

Guide for submission and deadlines

Authors are invited to submit by March 31st, 2023:

  • title and abstract of maximum 1000 words (.doc, .docx, .odt, .txt, .rtf). Abstracts must be submitted in English.
  • Contact details (full name, e-mail, post address and affiliation)

Acceptance of abstract by 30th of April 2023. If the abstract is accepted, the Authors should submit the FULL article by October 31st2023. The maximum length of a paper is 60.000 digits (spaces included), including references, tables and figures. The articles will be double-blind peer-reviewed.