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Updated A.Y. 2020-2021


(Prof.ssa Giulia Flamini)



Course positioning

Organizational choices in family firms is a course included in the Business Administration curriculum of the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration & Economics.

Pre-requisites for the course



Course description and learning objectives

Human resources management (HRM) as systems of practices are adopted to manage people in organizations and can influence employees’ competencies, behaviours, and performances.

In the last 25 years, HRM studies moved from a consideration that the HR function cover only an administrative role to the awareness that HRM have a central and strategic role to achieve the competitive advantage.

An increasing attention toward HRM systems increased when Huselid (1995) proved a significant relationship between the sophistication of HRM practices and the market value per employee, opening a new bulk of studies dedicated to further test relationships between HRM and performances.

Research places a particular emphasis on the impact of various and different combinations of HRM practices, e.g., workforce planning, training and development, recruitment and selection, performance appraisal, career planning management, compensation, internal communication, and job design, can effect on performance outcomes of organizations. Under this assumption, an organization should consistently configure its whole HRM system to ensure long-term survival.

Such considerations are valid for any organization, and thus family firms do no present an exception.

Family businesses show distinct core competencies that can result in unique competitive advantages. For many family firms, the dynamics and complexity of the environmental dimensions have increased. Therefore, the effective responsiveness to the required strategic and organizational changes is a key concern. Family firms could survive thanks to particular cognitive interpretations of the required fit between their strategies, organization variables, and contingent dimensions. Under this assumption, family firms should consistently configure their whole HRM system to ensure their long-term survival. HRM practices in family firms affect employee outcomes, which consequently influence organizational outcomes, thereby affecting firm outcomes.

The course covers the principles of Human Resource Management and their effects on family firms. The focus of the course is how a family firm can cope with strategic and organizational changes by leveraging the adoption of an aligned bundle of HRM practices.

Specific issues and concerns of the course include the relationship of family firms with the external environment, the influence of the organization's strategies, culture, and size on the organization's design and strategies for managing people.

The goal of the course is twofold: first, to make the student understand the organizational functioning of family firms; and, second, to introduce the basic concepts to design, implement, and change the human resource management of family business. The course helps students become aware of the uniqueness of family firms and how a correct use of HRM practices can help them to survive.

Upon a successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and explain various organizational variables of family firms and their relationships;
  2. Analyse, assess, and diagnose organization effectiveness, including the organization culture and value system of family firms;
  3. Develop a framework for changing design elements and relationships;
  4. Explain how Human Resources Management and organization design can lead to a strategic advantage;
  5. Identify the principal practices of Human Resources Management adopted in family firms;
  6. Discuss in depth issues of implementation of various Human Resource Management practices;
  7. Explain the relationships between Human Resources Management, leadership, organizational design, and effectiveness in family firms.


Required Textbook

  • Schuman, A. M., Sage-Hayward, W., & Ransburg, D. (2016). Human resources in the family business: maximizing the power of your people. Springer.

Additional Textbooks

  • Poza, E. J. (2013). Family business. Cengage Learning.
  • Zellweger, T. Managing the Family Business: Theory and Practice, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017: ISBN: 9781783470709.
  • Noe, R. A., Hollenbeck, J. R., Gerhart, B., & Wright, P. M. (2019). Human resource management: Gaining a competitive advantage. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Other learning sources

  • Flamini G., & Gnan, L. (2017). A forty years' literature review on HRM in family businesses: re-shaping the research agenda. 77th Annual Meeting of Academy of Management in Atlanta
  • Giulia Flamini & Luca Gnan (2019). The Role of Awareness in Designing Human Resources Management Practices in Family Firms: A Configurational Model. Chapter 15 in Handbook of Research on Entrepreneurial Leadership and Competitive Strategy in Family Business edited by José Manuel Saiz-Álvarez and Jesús Manuel Palma-Ruiz. ISBN13: 9781522580126|ISBN10: 1522580123, EISBN13: 9781522580133, DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8012-6.
  • Flamini, G., Gnan, L. (2019). Configurations of HRM practices in family firms: goals and organizational performances. 79th Academy of Management (AOM) in Boston.


On the course website, after each lecture, we will post the slides.


The slides do not represent a support for an effective and successful preparation to the exam of the course. They represent only a help to facilitate the transfer of the knowledge to students during the lectures.


Case Discussions

Regular attending students are expected to be fully engaged in the entire learning process. This means that regular attending students are expected to:

  • prepare the assigned readings of the cases prior to each class;
  • prepare as a group work a PowerPoint presentation on the case, based on the specific assignment;
  • come to class prepared to participate and to discuss in order to enhance the learning of the individual and the class.

On the web site of the course, for each case, students can find the relative case assignment. Please read carefully the questions before the session and use them for preparing the PowerPoint presentation.


Each student will be involved in the class discussion on the cases and tie the assigned reading for the session. The objective is to bring all class members into the discussion. The cases are designed to integrate the concepts from the case into the context of the course. The preparation and the discussion of the cases do not exclude the study of the theoretical concepts useful for the discussion of the cases themselves and for the passing of the exam of the course.


With the cases’ discussions in CLASSROOM, each student will develop:

  1. The ability to set the parameters for the problem (key concepts from the case).
  2. A depth of knowledge about the case subject (understanding of material, good response to the observations of others).
  3. The ability to tie-in case with other course concepts.
  4. The ability to get others involved in the discussion.

To discuss effectively the cases, students should:

  • Be prepared with facts and specific quotes from the case.
  • Be prepared to make a comment, ask a question, or make a reflection about the case.

During the discussion, students should:

  • Take a position on a question or a point.
  • Ask clarifying questions.
  • Help keep the discussion moving and on track.
  • Help draw others into the discussion.
  • Integrate theories and content from other cases.

During the discussion, students should not:

  • Be unprepared and show your lack of knowledge.
  • Monopolize the discussion.
  • Make irrelevant comments.
  • Be insensitive to other’s desire to speak or to their opinions.

All the regular attending students are kindly invited to build up work groups (MINIMUM 3 PERSONS – MAXIMUM 5 PERSONS). Each work group should prepare a PowerPoint presentation for each case. Into the first slide, the names of the students belonging to the group should be reported.


The structure of the presentation should follow the following outline:

  1. One or more introductory slides aimed at describing/reporting the story, the characters, all the necessary elements to define clearly the context and the boundaries of the case.
  2. One slide mentioning the questions of the assignment and underlining the learning goals of the case.
  3. One or more slides reporting the answers to each question of the assignment.
  4. One or more slides reporting the final remarks on the case.
  5. One closing slide about the lessons learned after the group discussion of the case.

How to prepare the PowerPoint presentation of the case?

Introduction – short presentation of case, short description of the problems and situations that should be coped with the discussion.

Diagnosis – Problem setting of the context and of the situation. Description of the mains facts and elements connected with the concepts and models of the course. What went wrong and which actions/situations, instead, were right? Which elements could be considered for the diagnosis?

Solution – Students should provide a possible solution to questions/problems related with the case and a viable and clear indication on how to approach the situation and how to solve it. The entire proposal should represent a consistent action plan in terms of behaviours and expected results.

Conclusions – Conclusions should not be longer than 300-500 words and should provide a description on how the situation and the problem characterized the case, on how Organizational Behavior schemata might help to solve the case, and what the proposed solution might generate in terms of organizational consequences.

Lessons learned – At the end of the presentation elements/suggestions/advices that we “take home” from the case discussion should be clearly identified and reported.


NOTE: During the case discussion, students should explicitly address the context and the different situations with concepts related with organizational choices in family firms and with models and theories of this course.


Case Discussions’ Class Participation

We believe that the best way to learn, especially about organizational choices in family firms, is to actively participate in your education. In this class, “participation” is defined in terms of quality contributions to class discussion and exercises. There are four prerequisites for successful participation:

  1. Be here on time and prepared. If you’re not here, you can’t contribute much to class discussion. If you need to miss class for a predictable reason (e.g., job interview, athletic competition), please notify us at least 24 hours in advance so that we can make arrangements for any in-class exercises and so that you can obtain the materials distributed during the class. Of course, we realize that in some cases unforeseeable emergencies arise. Although we will not directly penalize you for non-attendance, be aware that multiple absences will indirectly hurt you by preventing you from participating in class, thereby lowering your participation grade. To contribute to class discussion, you must come to class having carefully prepared all assignments (i.e., readings, cases, exercises).
  2. Be brave. Everyone in this class is smart, interesting, and has unique life experiences to share. You will get the most out of this course if you ask questions, voice opinions, and express your thoughts to one another. If you feel uncomfortable talking in class, please send me an email or set up an appointment to talk with me early in the semester. We will do everything we can to accommodate each of your individual circumstances, but we can only do so if they are brought to our attention.
  3. Be courteous. Successful participation includes treating your classmates in a respectful and professional manner. Listen carefully to the comments and questions that your classmates voice. You may learn something new from their perspectives, and you will be able to avoid simply repeating something that another classmate has said earlier in discussion. Also, it is perfectly acceptable for you to voice disagreement with an opinion provided by another student. Open debate often leads to the most thoughtful and informative class discussions. However, please voice your disagreement in a kind and considerate manner.
  4. Be engaged. This class is “unplugged.” Once class starts, all electronics (e.g., computers, cell phones, tablets, etc.) should be turned off and put away. If you need to use a device because of a language or disability issue, you need to secure permission at the beginning of the class. The misuse of an electronic device (e.g., surfing the web or texting) will adversely affect your grade.

In order to facilitate the visioning of its own PowerPoint presentation in classroom, each work group should take a personal computer with PowerPoint installed and an available VGA connection.


By the 8pm of the day before of the case discussion, all regular attending students should send the case presentation prepared to the course’s Instructors.


Policy for Late Assignments

As in the business world, work must be received on time in order to receive full credit. You are always welcome to hand in an assignment before its due date if you know that you will be busy as the due date approaches. If you think that you will not be able to complete an assignment by the stated due date, please speak with us in advance to make alternative arrangements. Our policy on late assignments will depend on the specific circumstances surrounding the problem, and thus may differ from student to student. Providing advance notice about a late assignment will minimize the penalty you receive on that assignment, but does not guarantee that there will be no penalty for turning the assignment in late.


Scheduling of lectures


Students are advised to check the correct course scheduling on the course website and register themselves in the course newsletter to access all related communications.




The exam is an oral exam and it includes some questions directly connected to the course textbooks. You may be asked to discuss the models and the theories presented during the course. You will be asked to interpret some real incidents and to focus your attention to some specific theoretical issues.


Emails, Office Hours & Feedbacks


The teacher of the course makes office hours by appointment to be agreed via email.


  • ssa Giulia Flamini, (Department of Management and Law)

E-mail: giulia.flamini@uniroma2.it


I am committed to responding to emails within a day. If you do not receive an answer within this period, please send the email again.



An active attendance and a constant participation in classroom are suggested. Formal classroom monitoring rules for attendance will be introduced.

NOTE: Attendance to the first class session is mandatory. Important information about the course and the instructor's expectations are given during the first session. If you know that you will have to be absent for one session, please contact your instructor to ensure that absence from a particular session is acceptable.



Class Schedule





Suggesting Reading



The nature, importance, and uniqueness

of the family business

The goal of the lecture is to explore the nature of the family business. We begin with a series of formal definition of family business and then we explore introductory concepts for describing and analysing what is a family firms and their importance in the global economy. In particular, we will explore:

·        Definitions of the family business

·        The distinction between family and nonfamily firms

·        Definition of family business by type of family involvement,

·        The theory of Circle models of family influence

Poza, E. J. (2013). Family business. Cengage Learning.

Chapter 1,

1 - 49


Strategic management in family business

We will present the potential sources of competitive advantages and disadvantages, which will be important for the strategic positioning of the family firm.  More specifically, we will explore how the particular goals of family businesses impact in the strategic decision. After we will examine different approaches to explain the source of competitive advantages and disadvantages for family firms:

·        Typical strengths and weakness of family firms

·        Socioemotional Wealth

·        Agency perspective

·        Resource-based perspective

·        Organizational identity perspective

·        Institutional perspective

·       Paradox perspective

Zellweger, T. Managing the Family Business: Theory and Practice.

Chapter 6



Fundamental elements of organizational structures in family businesses

The goal of the lecture is to explore the fundamental elements of a family business for making strategic organizational decision.

·        Organizational Variables

·        Coordination mechanisms

·        Tools of governance

·        Awareness of environment and organizational family firm characteristics

Zellweger, T. Managing the Family Business: Theory and Practice.

Chapter 5

46 - 109


Innovation and Change in family business

·    Family business life cycle

·    Family first, business first

·    Professionalization & Managerialization

We will present how change and adaptation are essential prerequisites for prospering and surviving in today’s dynamic marketplace. As with any other type of firm, the ability to handle change is critical for family business. However, in light of their focus on tradition and their longer-term business outlook, family firms find dealing with change to be particularly challenging and pressing task.

·       Family Firm life cycle

·       Family Succession

·       Change management in family firms

·       Meanings of “Professionalization” and the practical implications in family business

·       Meanings of “Managerialization” and the practical implications in family business

Zellweger, T. Managing the Family Business: Theory and Practice.

Chapter 8



Women in family business

This lecture focuses on two main topics: the role of women in family firms and the professionalization of the company. It aims at understanding both women’s involvement in governance and managerial roles, and the relationship with the family firms’ professionalization.

·        Women in family business

·        Glass ceiling

·       Female leadership

Songini, L., & Gnan, L. (2009). Women, glass ceiling, and professionalization in family SMEs: A missed link. Journal of Enterprising Culture, 17(04), 497-525.



Introduction to Human Resource Management

In this lecture, we analyses how HRM practices can help organizations to survive and create value. After an introduction of role and activity of HRM Department, we will discuss:

·        How HRM can help the organization to be competitive and how the today's challenges influence HRM

·        The role of HRM in the formulation of organizational strategy and how integrate the functions of HRM with the formulation of competitive strategies

·        The importance of specific competences for the HRM managers

Noe, et al. (2017). Human resource management: Gaining a competitive advantage.

Chapter 1



HRM practices (1)

This lecture introduces basic concepts of HRM practices. During the lecture, we present and describe the basic characteristics of four particular HRM practices: planning and recruitment, selection and placement, training and performance management. In particular,  we:

·        Discuss how to align a company’s strategic direction with its human resource planning

·        Determine the labor demand for orkers in various job categories

·        Discuss the advantage and disvantages of varius ways of eliminating a labor surplus and avoiding a labor shortage

·        Describe the varius recruitment policies that organizations adopt to make job vacancies more attractive

·        List the varius sources from which job applicants can be drawn, their relative advantages and disvantagies, ad thre methods for enaluating them

·        Establish the basic scientific properties of personnel selection methods, including reliability, validity, and generalizability

·        Discuss how the particular characteristic of a job, an organization, or an applicant affect the utility of any test

·        List the common methos used in selecting human resources

·        Discuss how training, informal learning, and knowledge management can contribute to contiuous learning companies’ business strategy

·        Conduct a needs assessment

·        Evaluate employees’ readiness for training

·        Design a training session to maximize learning

·        Choose appropriate evakuation design and training outcomes based on the training objectives and evaluation purpose

·        Identify the major parts of an affective performance management process

·        Identify the five criteria for effective performance management systems

·        Discuss the advantages and disvantages of the different sources of performance information

Noe, et al. (2019). Human resource management: Gaining a competitive advantage.

Chapter 5-6-7-8.



HRM practices (2)

During the lecture, we present and describe the basic characteristics of four particular HRM practices: employee development, compensation, benefit, internal communications. In particular, we:

·        Explain how employee development contributes to strategies related to employee retention, development of intellectual capital, and business growth

·        Discuss the steps in the development planning process

·        Discuss current trends in using formal education for development

·        Relate how assessment of personal type, work begaviours, and job performance can be used for employee development

·        List the main decision areas and concepts in employee compensation

·        Describe the major administrative tools used to manage employee compensation

·        Discuss how pay influences individual employees, and describe three theories that explain the effect of compensation on individuals

·        Describe the fundamental pay programs for recognizing employees’ contributions to organization’s success

·        Discuss issue related to performance-based pay for executives

·        Explain the major provisions of employee benefits programs

·        Explain the importance of effectively communicating

Noe, et al. (2017). Human resource management: Gaining a competitive advantage.

Chapter 9-11-12



HRM practices and Firm performances

·     Financial performances

·     Organizational performances

·     Mutual gain approach

During this lecture, first, we describe the different distribution and presence of HMP in family firms. We evaluate the impact of human resource management practices on the organizations and even on the family business. Afterward, scholars developed a considerable bulk of studies to promote the test of positive relationships between HRM and performance. In particular, we will analyze why HRMP are important for all type of organizations not only from firm perspective but also even from employees ones.

Noe, et al. (2017). Human resource management: Gaining a competitive advantage

Chapter 10


Family business case





HRM in family firms

During this lecture, we explore the field and evolution of research on Human Resources Management (HRM) in family firms since this topic has become crucial for their survival and success. Specifically, we investigate:

·        what international research know about the HRM topics in family firms

·        Which are the trends

Schuman, A. M., Sage-Hayward, W., & Ransburg, D. (2016). Human resources in the family business: maximizing the power of your people


Flamini G., & Gnan, L. (2017). A forty years' literature review on HRM in family businesses: re-shaping the research agenda.  77th Annual Meeting of Academy of Management in Atlanta


Investigating the effects of professionalization in HRM in family business




HRMP configurations in family firms


The Administrative configuration

In this lecture, we explore how the HR function may perform a strategic role in family firms. We analyse how the strategic role of the HR function implies a shift from a deterministic and mechanical approach to the study of organizations to a more psychological and organic one.

We analyse how a family firm should coherently shape its own HRM system to warrant a long-term survival and we explore the possible advantage of adopting different practices in family firms. To exploit the roles of complementarity, congruence, and synergy, we describe the firm’s HRMP choice from a configurational perspective.

After we will describe the firs possible configuration: the Administrative configuration.  

Giulia Flamini & Luca Gnan (2019). The Role of Awareness in Designing Human Resources Management Practices in Family Firms: A Configurational Model.


The Shared configuration


The Professional configuration

During this lecture, we will present the second possible configuration: The Shared configuration. Family firms that presents a dynamic and complex environmental dimensions search for organizational identity and affective commitment, where the personal relationships collaborative behaviours became the core objective of HRM.

After, we will present the third configuration: The Professional configuration. Family firms are in a relatively stable and complex environment have need to manage people through rules, complex procedures, articulated plans, aiming at the highest standardization of processes and efficiency. The professional configuration provides professionalization in functions/divisions and tries to incorporate and develop managerial skills.

Giulia Flamini & Luca Gnan (2019). The Role of Awareness in Designing Human Resources Management Practices in Family Firms: A Configurational Model. Chapter 15 in Handbook of Research on Entrepreneurial Leadership and Competitive Strategy in Family Business


The Integrated configuration

In this lecture, we will present the fourth configuration: The Integrated configuration. In a complex and highly dynamic environmental dimensions, family firms have to emphases on both efficiency and effectiveness in direct response to business needs. Family firms search for organizational identity and affective commitment, creating an integrated environment where they manage both the personal relationships of individuals’ working together, showing collaborative behaviors, and the functions or the divisions of the organizational structure.

Giulia Flamini & Luca Gnan (2019). The Role of Awareness in Designing Human Resources Management Practices in Family Firms: A Configurational Model. Chapter 15 in Handbook of Research on Entrepreneurial Leadership and Competitive Strategy in Family Business


Family Business case


Yedder, M. B. (2018). Human resource management in family business succession: victim or saviour?. Journal of enterprising culture, 26(04), 401-421.


Performance and goals of HRMP configurations in family firms

During this lecture, we will explore, first, the configurational perspective. WE WILL lend a systemic viewpoint from which to project HRMP composition and we will claim that the positive performance evolves from a bundle of interrelated HR practices, which together form an internally consistent whole. After, we will explore the organizational value of different configurations of HRMP in family. Moving from coordination theory, the lecture proposes and investigates the four HRMP configurations and analyses their functional goals in the achievement of organizational performances.

In particular, we will answer to the follow questions:

·        How do family firms configure their HRMP?

·        Which organizational goals do they combine?

·        Which organizational performances do they achieve?

Flamini, G., Gnan, L. (2019). Configurations of HRM practices in family firms: goals and organizational performances. 79th Academy of Management (AOM) in Boston


Family business case


Yedder, M. B. (2018). Human resource management in family business succession: victim or saviour?. Journal of enterprising culture, 26(04), 401-421.