Dominican University Comparative Human Resource Management Discussion

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After you complete the readings, please answer the following questions on this discussion board.

  • Explain what is meant by the phrase “Best practice or best fit?”
  • What do you regard as the most pressing questions HRM should tackle? Why do you see them as most urgent?
  • Online discussion on why “Context” is important.

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Comparative Human Resource Management1 Chris Brewster and Wolfgang Mayrhofer Contents 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Introduction Globalization and HRM The importance of context Differences in HRM practice Summary and conclusions i. Discussion questions ii. Case study: Flextronics University – qualifying line managers for leadership and HRM tasks iii. Further reading iv. Internet resources v. Self-assessment questions vi. References Learning objectives • • • • • After reading this chapter you will be able to: Appreciate the importance of comparative HRM for IHRM Understand the difference between best practice and best fit models of HRM Identify the reasons why countries remain different in the ways that they conceptualize and conduct HRM Discuss some of the ways in which HRM differs between countries Understand how MNCs have to balance between being globally effective and fair while appreciating and benefiting from national differences Chapter outline This chapter explores the differences between countries in the ways that they manage their human resources. Within a context of increasing globalization, the chapter argues that context is crucial: what the term HRM means, how it is understood, what would be considered ‘good’ HRM and the way that people management is practised, all vary from country to country. As such, these differences form the backdrop against which MNCs must manage the integration/differentiation paradox, and against which all IHRM must be measured. Comparative HRM is a challenge to the universalist paradigm of HRM, generally expressed in the notion of ‘best practice’. Fundamental to understanding these differences between countries are two concepts: the ideas of cultural and institutional differences, and the notions of convergence and divergence. The chapter argues that we need to gain a better understanding of both pairs of concepts. They constitute important means of understanding what is actually happening in HRM. On the first issue, we argue that both cultural and institutional explanations are valuable; on the second we argue that convergence of trends is apparent, but final convergence remains unrealistic. We provide more detail, as examples, of differences between countries in the configuration of HRM, flexible working practices and communications and consultation. Finally, we outline some of the key theoretical, empirical and practical challenges posed by a comparative approach to HRM. 1 Introduction A major problem for those who study and practise HRM is that much of our understanding and most of our knowledge about the topic comes from the USA and are assumed to apply universally. The version of HRM propounded in most books on HRM and published in most of the HRM journals, the lessons taught in most business schools around the world, the recommendations put forward by the major consultancy companies and the whole best practice movement in HRM, are all based on the US model. This creates built-in cultural assumptions and contextual limitations for HRM specialists and for those working in organizations operating internationally. The fact that HRM differs from country to country should not be read as implying that some countries are just ‘backward’ or need to ‘catch up’ to more modern ways of doing things. The fact that some of the richest countries in the world manage their HRM in different ways, and that there are world-beating MNCs from an ever-increasing number of countries, reminds us that ‘different’ does not mean ‘worse’. If we want to run effective HRM policies in an internationally operating organization, we have to understand the different national cultures and institutional constraints – at least in terms of their importance for organizations, restrictions or limited room for manoeuvre in imposing corporate policies and practices, and their opportunities and limitations when managing an international workforce (see Chapter 5). Organizations operating across national and cultural borders will need to bridge the divide between being globally coherent and consistent in their HRM policies and practices for reasons of cost-effectiveness and equity with the imperative of being sensitive to local variations in national, cultural and institutional requirements. Arguably, this dilemma is best summarized in an early statement by Laurent: The challenge faced by the infant field of international human resource management is to solve a multidimensional puzzle located at the crossroad of national and organisational culture. (Laurent, 1986: 101) From its beginnings, IHRM (see Introduction) was aware of these requirements. Dealing with an international workforce, especially expatriates, looking at HRM specifics of MNCs and comparing HRM policies and practices constituted the fundamentals for IHRM in the early 1980s (Dowling, 1999). Various developments at the global level such as economic globalization and the rising significance of MNCs have not only quickened the development of IHRM as an established part of HRM, but also paved the way for more detailed discussions on the topic. In this sense, comparative HRM has become an established part of IHRM, and a major perspective on how to look at HRM in an international setting (see, for example, contributions taking an explicitly comparative angle in HRM such as Harzing and van Ruysseveldt, 2004; Brewster et al., 2007c; or the Routledge Global Human Resource Management series edited by Schuler, Jackson, Sparrow and Poole). European researchers in particular have made significant contributions to theoretical, empirical and methodological advances in the field of comparative HRM (e.g. Poole, 1990; Brunstein, 1995; Gooderham et al., 1999; Brewster et al., 2000, 2004). There have also been important contributions from other parts of the world such as Asia (e.g. Zanko, 2002; Zanko and Ngui, 2003; Budhwar, 2004), Africa (Kamoche et al., 2003) and the developing countries (Budhwar and Debrah, 2001). Box 2.1 Stop and reflect Look up the table of contents of the following books and analyse: 1. In which book does comparative HRM play a major role? 2. Is comparative HRM a central theme around which the book is organized or is it just one element among many others? 3. Where applicable: what are the underlying dimensions of the comparative perspective? Brewster, C. and Mayrhofer, W. (eds) (2012) Handbook Of Research On Comparative Human Resource Management. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. Briscoe, D., Schuler, R. and Tarique, I. (2012) International Human Resource Management: Policies and Practices for Multinational Enterprises (4th edn). New York: Routledge. Dickmann, M., Brewster, C. and Sparrow, P.R. (eds) (2008) International HRM: A European Perspective. London: Routledge. Dowling, P.J., Festing, M. and Engle Sr., A.D. (2013) International Human Resource Management. London: Cengage Learning EMEA. Parry, E., Stavrou, E. and Lazarova, M.B. (eds) (2013) Global Trends in Human Resource Management. Houndsmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Sparrow, P.R. (ed.) (2009) Handbook of International Human Resource Management: Integrating People, Process, and Context. Chichester: Wiley. Stahl, G., Björkman, I. and Morris, S. (eds) (2012) Handbook of Research in International Human Resource Management, 2nd edn. Cheltenham and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar. The way that people think about HRM and the way it is practised vary from country to country. Managers have their own approaches to managing their people, each unit manages differently, as does each function within the company – and each organization has its own unique form of HRM. There is commonality too in so far as organizations of a similar size or in a particular sector tend, other things being equal, to have similar forms of HRM. Both common and distinctive social institutions exist and are nested at a range of levels in societies (Hollingsworth and Boyer, 1997). Each country has its own generic recipes for HRM and there are general approaches to the subject that draw universal conclusions about HRM. The differences, often linked to a named country as the ‘nutshell’ for cultural, institutional or regional specifics, are one of the fundamental reasons why IHRM is more difficult than HRM in one country since, out of all of the aspects of management, HRM is most subject to local influences (Rosenzweig and Nohria, 1994). Any discussion of IHRM, therefore, needs to include an understanding of comparative HRM. Despite this, comparative research in HRM has been somewhat rare. The main reason for this is that comparative IHRM research work is difficult: there are ‘noble and not so noble’ (Mayrhofer and Brewster, 2005) problems, including questions of conceptualization such as finding an adequate theoretical frame, and practical difficulties such as bringing together international research teams and sustaining working relationships between researchers of different nationality, culture or scientific tradition. In contrast, comparative research in the fields of industrial and employment relations has been more common (see Barry and Wilkinson, 2011). ‘Referring to both a field of study and material practices, the analytical core of employment relations is … the employment relationship and the exchange between employer and employee centred on the reward–effort bargain. This relationship is complex, contextual and dynamic’ (Nienhüser and Warhurst, 2012: 216). Closely related to HRM, employment relations research focuses on different levels of analysis. At the individual and firm levels one looks at (implicit) contracts between employer and employee or within institutions governing the effort–reward bargain. At the country level, issues such as means of power and exploitation or the analysis of the contextual conditions for supplying an adequate workforce are at the heart of the analyses. Theoretically, employee relations research borrows from disciplines such as economics, sociology, political sciences and social psychology, using frameworks such as transaction cost theory, labour process theory, institutional theory or the psychological contract (Nienhüser and Warhurst, 2012: 217). Drawing the previous paragraphs together encapsulates a key issue: to understand and analyse the complexity of IHRM requires a comparative approach and an understanding of comparative HRM. This chapter concentrates on comparative HRM. We mention (briefly because it is also covered in Chapters 3, 4, 6 and 14) the issues of globalization and MNCs as major reasons for the importance of IHRM in general and comparative HRM in particular; we examine the importance of context and look at some of the different ways that it has been analysed, how it is changing and whether HRM is converging; we look at country-related differences of core HRM elements; and finally we comment on the drive to standardize HRM practices and simultaneously to deal with the need to adapt these practices to the local environment. 2 Globalization and HRM IHRM continues to attract interest, which is not surprising. At the time of writing, the long-term effect of the global recession that began in 2008 is still uncertain. Figures from the World Investment Report by UNCTAD (various years), the United Nations’ (UN) body measuring the extent of international trade and development, show that the growth of international trade had been patchy in the first years of the twenty-first century, after a long period of almost exponential growth towards the end of the twentieth century. The economic crisis during the end of the first decade of the new century exacerbated that trend and some governments have been forced to react to the severe economic downturn with austerity policies and in some cases even with protectionist measures. The term ‘globalization’ is widely used but often harbours different meanings. Generally it refers to processes of unification that have taken place in markets and consumer tastes, increasingly mobile investment capital, and the rapid spread of technology. Within and between firms, actions are increasingly grounded in an overall perspective that views the whole world as nationless and borderless (Ohmae, 1990, 1995). Globalization theories hold that economies are becoming globally integrated, resulting in the proliferation of global management structures and the convergence of management techniques around shared notions of ‘best practice’ (Sera, 1992). MNCs are exposed to the forces of globalization and, so, are most likely to comply with dominant worldwide practices aimed at enhancing competitiveness in world markets. Hence, they attempt to promote integrated international standards and resist pressures to be locally responsive (Hamel and Prahalad, 1986; Ashkenas et al., 1995; Yip, 1995; Kim and Gray, 2005). These global strategies encourage greater homogenization to create greater efficiency (Kostova and Roth, 2002). Grounded in the rational choice tradition, this global perspective assumes that firms pursue economic advantage through choices ‘guided by unambiguous preferences and bounded rationality’ (Gooderham et al., 1999: 507). While the diffusion process may be slow or uneven, it will eventually make for inter-industry and international practices that are to a large degree uniform. Firms will either attempt to enforce their own view of the most efficient ways of handling HRM in other countries; or they will all gradually drift towards HRM policies that mirror the most rational and efficient approach, as propounded in the US model of management (Smith and Meiksins, 1995; Jain et al., 1998; McDonough, 2003). The main argument and prediction of this set of theories is increasing convergence. Global competition can encourage increasing levels of coordination of resources, equipment, finance and people (Sparrow et al., 2004). For example, it is important to coordinate pricing, service and product support worldwide since multinational customers can compare prices in different regions. Through global trade, traditional and domestic business boundaries become increasingly permeable, accelerating the rate of convergence of business practices and firms face more risk in becoming decoupled from familiar settings, thus challenging national mindsets and assumptions (Sparrow and Hiltrop, 1997). Sceptics and critics of the globalization thesis (see, for example, Dunning, 1997; Whitley, 1999; Rugman, 2005) have contested even the assumption that globalization is new (Parker, 1998). Others have suggested on the contrary that even multinational firms are extremely local in terms of key areas such as employment practices: 85 per cent of multinationals produce more than twothirds of their output in their home market, with two-thirds of their employees being nationals of their home country (The Economist, 2000). Indeed, most MNCs cannot easily be defined as stateless (Hu, 1992); a long-term analysis of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD, 2007) using the index of transnationality shows that between 1993 and 2003 the Top 100 transnational companies have only moderately increased their transnational characteristics. Partly, the index has decreased, reflecting a concentration on local or regional markets. The effects of globalization – as far as it exists – are hotly debated, both empirically and theoretically. Whitley (1999) offers a well-received analysis, pointing towards three major consequences influencing national business systems which are a major contextual factor for organizations (see also Edwards and Rees, 2006). First, globalization may influence organizations strongly involved in international operations which can have effects on the national environment, for example by transferring international standards into the national context; second, foreign direct investment (FDI) flowing into a country may influence the competitive structure and processes within the national business system, for example by increasing the level of competition when a global chain such as Starbucks enters a traditionally organized coffee consumer market such as Austria; and third, globalization can lead to a new supra-national systems level of economic organization and competition which will, in the long run, be as important as the nation state, as is the case for example with the European Union (EU). All this affects organizations and their HRM. For example, the four freedoms of the European Union – free movement of labour, capital, services and goods – have an impact on HRM issues such as recruitment policies and practices, wage level or expected standards of education and training. For our purposes, it is worthwhile reminding ourselves that human resources are, in most organizations, the largest single element of operating costs. That is why MNCs locate many of their operations in low-wage economies. Although there is little thought, either in the literature or in practice, given to the idea that firms should equalize wages globally, there is a widespread assumption, as we shall see, that the rest of HRM can be standardized to match the global reach of MNCs (Brewster et al., 2008). 3 The importance of context HRM viewed through a comparative lens is always contextualized, such that how HRM works, what is covered by HRM, what is regarded as good HRM, etc., depends heavily on the respective context. Context in this sense includes the internal context (e.g. organizational size, structure and demography) as well as the external context, which covers national culture and values, as well as elements of the institutional environment such as legal regulations, the respective industry and the type of economy. Contextualizing HRM prompts us to ask at least three questions. First, can HRM in different contexts be conducted in a similar way or does it have to adapt to the respective circumstances? Behind this question lies the discussion on best practice versus best fit, which asks whether there is one best model of HRM as is often assumed in US-based HRM concepts, or whether alternatively it is necessary to take into account specific contextual issues in order to achieve the best outcome? Second, what are the crucial forces leading to relevant contextual differences in HRM? Two major factors often treated as mutually exclusive are culture and institutions. Third, how do similarities and differences between various contexts develop over time? Taking a temporal perspective, the issues of convergence, divergence or stasis arise, and so the question is: will the different contexts – most often countries – become more alike, more different or stay relatively stable? This section explores all three questions consecutively. Best practice versus best fit It can be argued that an organization’s HRM policies and practices should be tightly connected to the organization’s corporate strategy and should be coherent in all its operations. However, for companies operating in more than one country the question arises as to whether that is sensible or even possible. There are some advantages for MNCs in adopting ‘best practice’ – that is, choosing to apply the practices with which they are most familiar, or those that appear to promise high returns in performance, regardless of the location of their subsidiary (Gooderham and Nordhaug, 2003). In most companies and in most circumstances, it appears to the firm’s leaders that best practice is the one used in the headquarters country. It is common for an MNC based in the USA to insist that its policies are best practice and could and should be applied in Venezuela whereas it is very rare for such companies to find an example of excellent practice in Venezuela and insist that it is applied by managers in the USA. The advantages of a best practice approach include mutual learning, so that an effective practice discovered in one location can be spread across the world, without the costly and often ineffective need for each subsidiary to ‘re-invent the wheel’. In addition, global alignment of systems will facilitate an internal labour market and make expatriation and other forms of crossborder movement of personnel less complicated (Almond et al., 2003). Common systems of HRM may then be easier to control and monitor from headquarters. Alongside these benefits, there are ethical considerations of equity and fair treatment for all employees – why should the organization treat people differently just because they come from or are located in different countries? Besides these benefits there are disadvantages, too. Companies’ policies and practices may not be seen as legitimate, or even be legal, in some countries and the approaches of companies from around the world in relation to issues of gender, ethnic or age discrimination will be very different. Some countries have legislation requiring companies to discriminate in favour of certain ethnic groups; equality legislation in the USA encourages positive discrimination but that is illegal in the European Union. Therefore, some degree of adaptation to local circumstances is inevitable. As a result, researchers increasingly acknowledge that HRM is one of the management subjects in which organizations are most likely to maintain a national flavour and have a strong contextual interface. This switches the focus from best practice to best fit, especially related to different contexts. Many studies reveal substantive differences between various aspects of HRM in European countries (e.g. Brewster et al., 2004; Scholz and Böhm, 2008; Morley, 2009; Parry et al., 2013). A large survey of HRM directors of the biggest firms in Germany, the USA and Japan found that HRM practices differ widely (Pudelko, 2004). There is considerable evidence that, even in the most centralized MNCs, forms of control (Harzing and Sorge, 2003), work systems (Geppert et al., 2003) and team work (Woywode, 2002) vary by country and that, in practice, the form of implementation of ‘worldwide’ policies is negotiated or varied at the national level (Ferner, 1997; Wächter et al., 2003). The background for these two views is the distinction between the universalist and the contextual paradigms in HRM research (Brewster, 1999). The universalist paradigm is dominant in the USA but also widely applied elsewhere. It assumes that the purpose of the study of HRM is to improve the way that human resources are managed strategically within organizations. The ultimate aim of this approach is to improve organizational performance, as judged by its impact on the organization’s declared corporate strategy (Huselid, 1995), the customers (Ulrich, 1989) or shareholders (Becker et al., 1997). It is implicit in these writings that this objective applies to all cases: the aim is, by analogy with the physical sciences, to test ‘yes/no’ hypotheses with the objective of identifying universal rules. In contrast, the contextual paradigm searches for an overall understanding of what is contextually unique and why it is different. It is focused on understanding what is distinctive between and within HRM in various contexts, and identifying what the antecedents of those differences are. The policies and practices of ‘leading-edge’ companies, something of a valueladen term in itself, which are often the focus of universalist HRM research, are of less interest than identifying ways that labour markets work and examining what the more typical organizations are doing. For most researchers working within this paradigm, it is the explanations that matter and links to company performance are secondary. It is assumed that HRM applies to societies, governments or regions as well as to companies. At the level of the organization (and not just the ‘firm’ because public-sector and not-for-profit organizations should be included), even the organization’s objectives and strategy are not necessarily assumed to be ‘good’ either for the organization or for society (Mayrhofer and Brewster, 2012). Box 2.2 Best practices or best fit? An MNC applied a diversity policy across its worldwide operations. It issued polices to enforce non-discrimination, changed its recruitment and promotion procedures and set up online support groups and meetings opportunities for disadvantaged workers. It found that its Japanese subsidiary (based in an ethnically remarkably homogenous country) was not interested in ‘blacks and so on’ but was enthusiastic about gender equality. Japan is a country in which people prefer to work for indigenous rather than foreign firms but in which those indigenous firms expect their female employees to give up work when they get married, as did many Western countries up until as late as the 1960s. This Japanese subsidiary of a foreign company thought that it would be able to recruit top quality female graduates who were looking for a lifetime career. But when they asked for financial support for crèche facilities and child care this proved too much for HQ, who had not intended to spend a lot of cash on these policies (Sparrow and Brewster, 2009). It is not that either HRM paradigm is necessarily correct or more instructive than the other, but that the level and focus needs to be specified to make the analysis meaningful (Brewster, 1999). Comparative HRM falls decidedly within the contextual paradigm. Culture versus institutions Comparative HRM should attempt to provide explanation as well as give description (Boxall, 1993). So what are the reasons for the differences in the way that countries conceive of and practise HRM? There are, broadly, two competing sets of theoretical explanation: the cultural and the institutional. Cultural explanations One reason for the variation between countries in the way they think about and undertake HRM can be found in the concept of cultural differences (see Chapter 1 for a cultural view on differences in communication). Culture is, as one of the classic texts put it, ‘one of those terms that defy a single all-purpose definition and there are almost as many meanings of culture as people using the term’ (Ajiferuke and Boddewyn, 1970: 154). Related to management issues, three approaches to culture have become prominent over recent decades. • Hofstede’s view of culture as consisting of five cultural dimensions – power distance, individualism, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance, complemented by long-term versus short-term orientation, which was added later (Hofstede, 1980, 2001) – is widely known and dominated much of the discussion in the 1980s and 1990s. Its great success can be attributed to a very straightforward approach to culture, regarding it as ‘the software of our minds’. Readymade data that was conveniently applicable in econometric analyses proved particularly helpful for those who believe in the illusion of rigour in quasi-quantitative management research. • Schwartz’s concept of culture as value oriented and reducible to systemic cultural dimensions (Schwartz, 1992, 2010). Values are beliefs, refer to desirable goals, transcend specific actions and situations, serve as standards or criteria, and are ordered by importance. Schwartz’s most recent model has three cultural dimensions: mastery versus harmony (which addresses the issue of economic and social viability), hierarchy versus egalitarianism, and embeddedness versus autonomy (intellectual and affective autonomy). • The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) project (House et al., 2004) shares with Hofstede and Schwartz the perception that culture is something rather stable. It provides an integrated theory of the relationship between culture and societal, organizational and leadership effectiveness. Looking at modal practices (‘how things are done in a culture’) and modal values (‘the way things should be done’), the study uses nine culture dimensions, partly overlapping with other models such as Hofstede: uncertainty avoidance, power distance, institutional collectivism, intra-group collectivism, gender egalitarianism, assertiveness, future orientation, performance orientation and social orientation. Against this backdrop, the GLOBE study focused on actual and ideal leadership. National cultures will, typically, reflect national boundaries, but this is by no means always the case. Thus, countries like Belgium, Spain and Switzerland contain communities speaking different languages and following different religions and legislation, seeming, at least to the resident citizens, profoundly different in their approach to life. Cultural groups in the Middle East and Africa were divided by the colonial map-makers and in many instances may have more in common with groups in countries across the national border than they do with many citizens of their own country. In many countries, however, especially the longer established ones and those within coherent geographical boundaries, such as islands, culture in many spheres of social life equates to country – and that is certainly the conclusion of the research into workplace values (e.g. Spony, 2003) or the world-value studies (see, for example, Welzel and Inglehart, 2005). The ‘culturalist’ school is an extremely broad one. It covers many different approaches and addresses the interaction between national culture and the behaviour of organizations and individuals. Cultural differences will inevitably be reflected in differences in the ways people are managed and HRM is conducted. Institutional explanations The institutional perspective sees the institutions of a society as environments that maintain their distinctiveness. All transactions are assumed to be embedded in specific social settings (Hollingsworth and Boyer, 1997) and organizations are understood to adhere to formal rules and unwritten social norms in the interests of efficiency and legitimacy (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983; Marsden, 1999). The institutionalist line of argument runs broadly as follows. There are a number of different and equally successful ways of organizing economic activities (and management) in any capitalist economy (Whitley, 1999; Hall and Soskice, 2001; Amable, 2003). These different patterns of social and economic organization tend to be a product of the particular institutional environments occurring within the various nation states. Neo-institutional theory (Powell and DiMaggio, 1987) argues that organizations are subject to a range of forces – coercive, mimetic and normative – that require them to develop an HRM approach that is perceived to be legitimate to influential stakeholders within each context. Coercive mechanisms include the influence of trade unions, works councils, employment legislation and the government; mimetic mechanisms refer to the benchmarking and imitation of strategies and practices of successful competitors; and normative mechanisms include the impact of professional bodies and employers associations, the impact of business schools, consultancies and pressure groups and the expectations of public opinion (Paauwe and Boselie, 2003). Organizations need to achieve legitimacy within the environment in which they operate, since they have to work with other bodies such as employees, trade unions, governments, shareholders, financial institutions and other influential stakeholders who can refuse or restrict access to necessary resources (Deephouse, 1999). As these institutional bodies and their views of what is legitimate vary from country to country, MNCs have to adapt their HRM policies in each location (Farndale et al., 2008). From a pragmatic perspective, this means that the types of organizations that are dominant, the shape of customer–supplier relationships, and the work systems and employment practices differ significantly from society to society despite the pressures of globalization. The institutions are likely to shape the social construction of any organization within the society. Thus, the specific patterns of ownership within a society, general and vocational education systems, the way labour markets work, employment legislation and the industrial relations system will all impact on the way that HRM can be conducted in particular states (Brewster, 2004). Box 2.3 Variety of contexts Clearly, for an internationally operating organization, it does not make much sense to have the same HRM policies all over the world: in Uganda, where most of the working population is unemployed, and Denmark, where employers have a shortage of labour; in Japan, where women are generally expected to leave the workforce on marriage and Canada, where women expect a lifetime career; in Finland where the great majority is well-educated, in Columbia, where only a minority are, and in the United States where a highly educated elite and functionally non-literate millions live side by side. Such organizations would, properly, not dream of having identical recruitment strategies or pay levels in these countries. It is evident that HRM is at least partly a function of the country’s particular institutional arrangements – the ‘societal effect’ (Maurice et al., 1986). As with the culture effects, there seems to be a kind of societal recipe that it is possible to go against or even ignore, but only at some social cost. Most people, and the majority of organizations, in general, do not do so. Combining the two While proponents of these two streams of thought often give no more than a passing nod to the others’ viewpoint, it seems that neither an exclusively culturalist nor an exclusively institutionalist approach are satisfactory accounts. Many of the ‘culturalist’ writers treat institutions as being key artefacts of culture reflecting deep underlying variations in the values that they see between societies. Likewise many ‘institutionalist’ writers include culture as one of the institutional elements explaining differences. These two forms of theoretical explanation are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Organizations are not entirely rational and issues of history and personality play a great part. In addition, just as individual behaviour and social structure are reciprocally constituted, so too are cultures and institutions. Thus, institutions cannot survive without legitimacy, but individual perspectives are partially created and sustained by their institutional context. Arguably, the two schools of thought examine and explain the same factors from different points of view (Brewster, 2004; Sorge, 2004), encouraging one to draw the conclusion that ‘both institutional and cultural dimensions … have an important impact on HRM practices in different countries’ (Romani, 2004: 163). It may be that organizations have more choice in relation to cultures (they can select staff carefully to be atypical of the culture of that country for example or argue that certain norms are inappropriate for their business) but they have more limited options in relation to institutional differences (they cannot ignore the effects of the labour market or legislation). Whatever the balance, both factors need to be taken into account. Static versus dynamic Comparing HRM in different contexts inevitably leads to questions about developments over time and changes in the actual similarities and differences. Given the underlying dynamic developments of the current political, economic and social systems across the globe, static ‘snapshot’ analyses using cross-sectional designs do have some value, but leave many questions unanswered. While it is important to analyse the status quo, it is of equal importance to be able to estimate future developments in the light of past events and processes. For example, comparing the relative size of HRM departments at the country level and at a given point in time provides valuable information about the relative position of each country. However, further information about the development path through observing changes over time would help to answer questions such as: Is this an increase compared to a decade ago? Do we see a pendulum swing in all countries? Do countries move in the same direction? Has there been a general increase or decrease of the relative size of HRM departments over time? This matters because if the differences between countries are being reduced as countries change their practices then it makes sense to study ‘best practice’ and to help other countries to ‘catch up’. If, on the other hand, the differences persist then we need to be aware of them and to adapt our understanding of HRM accordingly. From a comparative HRM angle, this raises the question of convergence and, by implication, divergence and stasis. The concept of convergence is worth examining. The meaning most commonly assumed in the literature (even if it is rarely stated explicitly) is movement towards greater similarity. At the comparative national level of HRM this would mean countries becoming more like each other in the way that they manage their human resources. Much of the evidence that is adduced for this (found in the literature cited above), however, comes from research conducted either at a single point in time or from the identification of similar trends across countries. Logically, these research assumptions and study designs cannot prove movement towards greater similarity. An attempt has been made, therefore, to disaggregate the notion of convergence in comparative HRM so that we can consider three forms of convergence (Mayrhofer et al., 2002). These forms are: • directional convergence, in which the trends go in the same direction but commence from different starting points and may mean that countries remain in parallel, maintaining the same relationship to each other, or even diverge • final convergence, where the practice of HRM in these countries becomes more similar even though that might, on occasion, mean that different countries are heading in different directions, and • majority convergence, where organizations within one country become more alike, again perhaps by some countries heading in opposite directions to others. The convergence debate in comparative HRM is dominated by two major issues: first, and linked with the best practice versus best fit debate, there is the question of whether a more or less common global model of HRM is emerging; second, within global regions or selected groups of countries, do we see convergence, divergence or stasis when we follow the development of HRM in these countries over time? Box 2.4 Stop and reflect In which areas of HRM would you expect final convergence, i.e. HRM practices moving towards a common ground? And where would you assume directional convergence, i.e. practices moving towards the same direction without necessarily coming closer together or further apart? Why? Regarding the emergence of a global model of HRM, an assumption frequently made is that there is an optimal set of strategies, decisions and practices at any specific time (Kostova and Roth, 2002) and that global markets promote greater homogenization as companies compete with similar products and under a similar rate of technological change (Duysters and Hagedoorn, 2001). Hence, it is argued, HRM practices, especially through MNCs and their global as well as local effects, are likely to converge towards an emerging global paradigm, or, perhaps, towards the US model that is often held up as an example of the success of lightly regulated markets (Smith and Meiksins, 1995). The best practice debate and thinking around high-performance work systems (US Department of Labor, 1993) follows this route and makes the established normative claim that these practices should be a universal benchmark. The empirical evidence for a one-world model is certainly mixed. While undoubtedly MNCs have a strong influence on local HRM practices and policies with their sophisticated policies and practices rolled out internationally and policed by a central HRM function, it also is quite clear that there are no simple homogenizing effects at work. Rather, HRM practices and policies are reshaped, resisted and redeployed by the socially embedded processes of the host locale, emphasizing country-level distinctiveness (Ferner, 1997; Ferner and Quintanilla, 1998; D’Aunno et al., 2000). In this sense, national differences are strong, robust and deeply embedded and are unlikely to change significantly. Recent research on the role of MNCs, using the large-scale Cranet database rather than case studies, argues that MNCs do indeed manage their people differently from indigenous companies and that this applies to indigenous MNCs as well as foreign ones: but, overall, country of location rather than country of origin is still the most convincing explanation of differences in HRM (Brewster et al., 2008; Farndale et al., 2008). The role of MNCs seems to be a mixture of bringing in new practices, adapting to local ones and developing hybrid forms. In terms of converging or diverging developments over time within a group of countries or a region, the best evidence comes from the European section of the longitudinal set of Cranet studies. Cranet shows conclusively that there are significant differences between the countries in all major functional areas of HRM (Brewster et al., 2004). What is widespread or standard practice in one country plays much less of a role in others. More significantly in relation to the convergence/divergence debates, HRM in these countries tends not to change very much and countries tend to sustain their relative positions. For example, the presence of HRM at Board level (or equivalent) changes very little and the countries retain their positions, with the single exception of a clear trend in Germany towards more organizations having an HRM director appointed to the Board. To take a completely different example; the number of companies with more than 10 per cent of their workforce on part-time contracts shows more fluctuation, but less sign of any overall pattern or trend (Tregaskis and Brewster, 2006; Richbell et al., 2011). These examples could be multiplied, but overall there are consistent developments towards directional convergence in Europe to be found in three areas of HRM configuration (the strategic potential of the HRM department; the assignment of HRM responsibilities to line managers; and HRM professionalization) and four areas of HRM practices (the increasing use of more sophisticated practices in recruitment and selection; increased individualization of employee relations; increased information to employees; and increased use of contingent compensation systems). These common trends are limited: the ratio of HRM specialists to the rest of the organization, or the size of the HRM department, varies considerably and mainly with country, but it also differs according to the size of the organization (Brewster et al., 2006) but overall it has no clearly discernible direction. Neither does training and development reveal much clarity regarding its pathway (Goergen et al., 2012), so although it is given high priority in many countries it nonetheless seems to be the first area selected for cutbacks whenever finances become tight. In terms of final convergence, however, the overall evidence, for all of the HRM practices analysed, is unequivocal: there is no trend towards final convergence (Mayrhofer et al., 2004, 2011). Countries continue to manage their people in markedly different ways. Despite the similarities in trends, there is very little evidence of globalization of HRM. ‘[N]ational contexts … exert a strong influence on local developments. Even in the light of overarching global or at least regional forces … [there is a] lack of final convergence’ (Mayrhofer et al., 2011: 62). It is clearly evident therefore that we need a more nuanced view and in-depth understanding of convergence in HRM policies and practices than has been apparent hitherto. While, on the basis of the available evidence, things appear to change slowly in HRM, there does seem to be at least some clear indication of directional convergence in a few areas. However, the country recipes remain powerful. HRM varies by country, sector and size of organization; by subjects within the generic topic of HRM; and by the nature of the organization, for example, life-stage, governance or market. Further, we should distinguish the policy intentions of those at the top of organizations from practice on the ground. Overall, then, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the continuing importance of an internationally comparative dimension of HRM due to national differences. 4 Differences in HRM practice Context-related differences in HRM abound, as we have noted above. Reasons of space mean that it is impossible here to examine all the international variations in HRM so this section provides three typical examples, one of which relates to the more strategic aspects of HRM, the representation of HRM in formal top decision-making bodies and the role of line managers in HRM, and another two relating to HRM practices, flexible working patterns and communications. HRM department and role of line managers The role of the HRM function varies considerably across countries. Most commentators argue that HRM has become more important to organizations in the last two decades. Since human resources and the knowledge and skills they incorporate are difficult to replicate, they offer organizations the opportunity of obtaining a sustained competitive advantage, at a time when traditional ways of obtaining competitive advantage become ever easier to copy (Collins and Clark, 2003). Some experts have argued that we should expect to see the influence of the human resource function on corporate decision making increasing over time (e.g. Pfeffer, 1998; Ulrich and Brockbank, 2005). Arguably, where the human resource function is represented at the key decision-making forums of the organization, and becomes closely involved in strategic decision making, awareness of the problems or opportunities that effective HRM might provide will be raised and decision making in increasingly knowledge-reliant organizations consequently will be improved. One perceptive commentator on HRM made the point some time ago that the rhetoric of integration of the HRM specialist function at Board level and its position of influence has outpaced reality (Legge, 1995). In terms of membership of the Board, the Cranet research data show considerable stability over time set alongside large variation between countries (Brewster et al., 1997; Mayrhofer and Brewster, 2005; see also Cranet, 2006). France, Spain, Sweden and Japan, for example, consistently report seven or eight out of ten organizations having an HRM director on the main decision-making body of the organization (the Board in shareholder companies). In the Central and Eastern European countries and Israel the figures are much lower. Many other European countries, including the UK and Germany, and Australia, show a little less than half of the organizations with HRM departments being directly represented at the top decision-making level. In the Netherlands and Germany employees have rights to have representatives at the supervisory Board level: presumably the employee representatives ensure that the HRM implications of corporate strategy decisions are taken into account. Germany is a particularly interesting case, as it is one of the few countries where HRM representation on the Board has increased significantly over the stages of the study, and at a time that human resources have become more critical for organizations and the function itself has become less administrative in focus. In terms of HRM influence on the corporate strategy, there is more uniformity: in most countries the personnel departments are involved from the outset in strategy formulation in approximately half of the organizations. A recent analysis deals with the effects of feminization at the top of HRM departments on the strategic importance of HRM. It shows a continuous gap in the status of top HRM jobs so that, despite the increasing feminization of the profession generally, men still retain the top positions. However, having women in top HRM positions does not automatically have a negative effect on the strategic importance of the HRM department (Brandl et al., 2013). What about the size of the HRM department (or, more precisely, its ratio to the rest of the organization)? Against the backdrop of organizations becoming smaller over a decade of downsizing, the introduction of new technology leading to Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) or electronically enabled HRM (e-HRM), the pressure on ‘overhead’ departments to prove themselves, and line management taking over some HRM tasks, one would expect HRM departments to have become smaller. However, its size relative to the total organization hardly changed at all during the 1990s and early 2000s (Brewster et al., 2006). The role of line managers has been seen as a touchstone for HRM (Storey, 2001). The notion is that people can only be managed cost-effectively and well when their immediate superiors have a substantial responsibility for that management. In Europe, the trend during the 1990s was to give line managers more responsibility for the management of their staff and to reduce the extent to which HRM departments control or restrict line management autonomy in this area (Brewster et al., 1997) but this trend has since reversed (Mayrhofer and Brewster, 2005; Mayrhofer et al., 2011). Seemingly regardless of the overall trend, countries tend to hold their positions relative to each other. On a range of personnel issues, it is the Italians who are most likely to lodge responsibility with the personnel department; the British come next. This stands in sharp contrast to the Danes, for example, who, on all issues, tend to give much greater responsibility to line managers. These country differences in responsibility for HRM persist over time. Flexible working practices Flexibility in labour patterns is now widely accepted as a critical issue in HRM, although it is bedevilled with problems of terminology: what is called ‘flexibility’ among European employers and academics is known as ‘atypical working’ by the European Commission, ‘vulnerable work’ among trade unionists and ‘contingent working’ in the USA. Research conducted by the Cranet network, comparing organizations at national level across Europe (Tregaskis and Brewster, 2006; Richbell et al., 2011) is consistent with the national labour market statistics (European Commission Eurostat, 2008) and workplace level data (Kersley et al., 2006) in showing extensive use of flexible working across Europe. Furthermore, some of these forms of flexibility – temporary employment and self-employment – are more widespread in Europe than in the USA. In part-time work the USA has fallen behind the European Union since the mid-1990s to about a median position on a ranking with the European countries. Japan has a different pattern of flexible working from these two continents, with considerable part-time and temporary working (Buddelmeyer et al., 2005). The Cranet data shows that despite differences within countries and between sectors, particularly, flexible working practices are growing in both extent and coverage almost everywhere. This is so in nearly all countries in Europe, in Japan and Australasia, in all sectors, in organizations both large and small, and whatever the form or origin of ownership. ‘Atypical’ work patterns or contracts, such as temporary, casual, fixed-term, home-based and annual hours contracts, are spreading, despite differing legal, cultural and labour traditions. However, organizations where these forms of flexibility cover the majority of their workers continue to be in a clear minority. Furthermore, the increase in the use of flexible contracts tends to be significantly higher among those organizations already making comparatively high use of such contracts. The result is to confirm patterns of difference: countries like the Netherlands and the UK with a substantial proportion of part-time contracts among their workforce (more than 25 per cent) tend to increase usage; countries with very few part-timers continue to have very few. And the same applies to the other forms of flexible working. Between countries, there are clear preferences for different kinds of flexibility. No country or organization makes extensive use of the full range of flexible working patterns and contracts. Thus, in Spain there is a high level of short-term employment with low levels of part-time work. Countries such as Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK have a third or more of organizations with over 5 per cent of the workforce on temporary contracts. Most of the other countries in Europe have far fewer. By contrast, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK all have more than a quarter of their working population employed in part-time jobs. These differences correlate with differences in the institutional environment of these countries. Similarly, analyses of the extent of flexible working in Japan need to take into account the Japanese practice of generally restricting employment to women after they are married. Overall, although the trends are similar, there are still varied situations, assumptions and practices occurring in the different countries. Flexibility is dependent upon a complex, interlocking web of national culture, history, institutions, trade union approaches and strength, governmental policies and practices (including legislation) and managerial tradition (Tregaskis and Brewster, 2006). Communications Effective communication is a requirement for all organizations and is vital to those seeking commitment from workers to the objectives of the enterprise. Yet there is less clarity about the most effective form and content of communication for these purposes and whether it varies by country. Much of the literature associates the concept of HRM with the individualization of communication and a move away from, or even antagonism towards, communication and consultation which is collective and particularly that which is trade-union based. This non-union implication sits uneasily with the history and circumstances of not just Europe but of a number of other countries around the world. Trade unionism remains widespread and important in places like Japan and Korea, for example, which have extensive, legally backed, systems of employee communication. In Europe, consultation with employees is required by law. These arrangements give considerable (legally backed) power to the employee representatives and, unlike consultation in the USA for example, they tend to supplement rather than supplant the union position (Brewster et al., 2007a, 2007b). In relatively highly unionized countries it is unsurprising that many of the representatives of the workforce are, in practice, trade union officials (for example, four-fifths of them are in Germany). The balance between individual and collective communication is a matter for empirical investigation. Research shows that there have been increases in all forms of communication: through representative bodies (trade unions or works councils), as well as through direct verbal and written communication (Brewster et al., 2004, 2013). The latter two channels have expanded considerably. When upward communication is examined, the two most common means, by a considerable margin, are through immediate line management and through the trade union or works council channel. The evidence tends to support the analyses of those researchers (Hollingsworth and Boyer, 1997) who focus on the presence or absence within countries of communitarian infrastructures that manifest themselves in the form of strong social bonds, trust, reciprocity and cooperation among economic actors. There are clear differences between countries, with more communication being apparent in, broadly, the richer countries and less in, for example, the southern European countries. In addition, increases in communication, both up and down, appear to be greater in the countries where most communication goes on (Mayrhofer et al., 2000). Furthermore, access to financial and strategic information is clearly hierarchical: if you are in a higher position in the organization you are more likely to be briefed regularly about the strategy or the financial performance of the organization. While the hierarchy still persists, the information gap appears to have narrowed during the 1990s as an increasing number of organizations make sure that their administrative employees are informed about the organization’s plans and performance. Unionized organizations are more likely than non-union ones to provide such information. There are noticeable differences in average ‘slopes’ in the distribution of this information: lower level employees in the Nordic countries, for example, receive considerably more information than those working elsewhere. 5 Summary and conclusions: future issues in comparative HRM Comparative HRM exposes significant differences in the way the concept of HRM is understood, managed and implemented in different countries. For researchers and for organizations operating internationally this raises crucial academic and practical issues. Theoretical issues In many areas of comparative HRM we lack adequate theory to explain the complexity of the differences between the meaning, policies and practices of HRM in different countries (Boxall, 1995). For the future, three groups of theories seem especially fruitful for meaningful contributions to knowledge on IHRM. First there is a group of theories focusing on differences. The theoretical arguments run along the broad line of identifying crucial differences occurring at the macro-level that lead to distinct differences at the level of organizations or individual behaviour. Examples include concepts such as varieties of capitalism (Hall and Soskice, 2001), national business systems (Whitley, 1999) or culture theories (House et al., 2004; Schwartz, 2004). There are an increasing number of analyses of HRM using these approaches (see e.g. Goergen et al., 2009; Croucher et al., 2012). Second, there is theoretical thinking that predicts that the strong logic of global capitalism is ultimately leading to similar approaches at the organizational level. Rational choice theory (e.g. Becker, 1976; March and Simon, 1993) is a major example of this type of argument. Third, and in a somewhat middle-position, is the world polity approach (e.g. Meyer et al., 1997). It argues that there is an ongoing worldwide replacement of traditional particularistic schemes through universal standards associated with modernity. Global myths such as rationality or equality exist that exert considerable influence on all kinds of actors, be it individual or collective, economic or political. However, these global myths do not lead to uniformity. On the contrary, due to specific local conditions there is a great variety of difference in how these global myths are actually realized. All three groups of theories may contribute towards fruitful answers to core questions of comparative HRM such as reasons for contextual differences, mechanisms for translating contextual conditions into organizational and individual action or the long-term development of country differences and their effects on HRM. Empirical issues Empirically, a rich, if somewhat daunting, empirical research agenda exists since there are many countries in the world about which we still have little information; and in many cases the information we have is stereotyped, inadequate or non-comparable. At this point in our knowledge we still need the deep, but narrow, understanding of meaning and process that can be provided by detailed comparative case studies; the wide, but shallow, evidential base that large-scale surveys can bring; and access to secondary data provided by governments and international organizations for further analysis and exploration. And if our evidence about and understanding of national differences remains a research gap, there is a research chasm in our knowledge of developments in HRM over time that can only be filled by longitudinal research studies. Comparative HRM research is both more complex and more difficult than research that is based in one country or focuses solely on the practices of MNCs, more complex and difficult but equally exciting and informative (Mayrhofer and Brewster, 2012). As the world becomes more global, so must our research. Practical issues For HRM practice, the task is daunting: if an organization covers more than just a few countries even the experts at the centre cannot know the details of HRM expectations and common practice in each local context. They are highly dependent on the information they obtain from their expatriate managers and the (usually local) HRM practitioners in each country – and they may have different agendas and understandings. The fact that most companies manage to cope with this complexity at all is perhaps more noteworthy than are the times they make mistakes. Comparative HRM can contribute to better HRM practice by providing and improving the information base that HRM practitioners rely on when deciding on operational HRM practices as well as strategic issues. Working together with practitioners in organizations operating across national and cultural borders as well as with international professional HRM organizations increases the potential impact of comparative HRM as it leads research and theory building towards practically relevant issues, especially when new phenomena appear that are first detected by people involved in HRM practice rather than from academia. Concluding remarks As we pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, HRM differences between countries should not be read as implying that some countries must ‘catch up’: ‘different’ does not mean ‘worse’. This means that IHRM has an additional layer of complexity. The academic study may be slow to produce conclusions and recommendations but this additional complexity of IHRM has always been a problem for MNCs. Research that is thorough and informed provides a rich opportunity to learn. The more we know about HRM in other countries, the way it is conceived, what good practice there implies, and how it is conducted, then the more we can learn. That is one of the major challenges for students of HRM today and an increasingly pertinent issue for students of IHRM. Discussion questions 1. Discuss the pros and cons of a ‘best practice’ type of HRM rolled out in a globally operating company. Focus specifically on the consequences for employees and organizational performance. 2. What do you regard as the most pressing practical questions comparative HRM should tackle? Why do you see them as the most urgent? 3. Give one example each for a cultural and an institutional determinant of HRM practice and discuss how HRM practitioners are restricted by these factors in their practical action. 4. Discuss potential tensions between taking into account cultural and institutional drivers supporting differentiation in HRM and standardization tendencies leading to integration in the areas of recruitment and compensation. How would you handle these tensions? 5. What five core competencies do you see as essential for an HRM practitioner working in a globally operating company that is sensitive to various contexts? Why? How could you train and develop these competencies? C A S E S T U D Y Flextronics University – qualifying line managers for leadership and HRM tasks Founded in 1969 and headquartered in Singapore, Flextronics ( is a leading Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) provider operating in 30 countries on three continents with a total workforce of about 162,000 employees and revenues in 2008 of US$ 27.6 billion. The majority of its manufacturing capacity is located in low-cost regions such as Brazil, China, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland and Ukraine. It offers the broadest worldwide EMS capabilities, from design resources to end-to-end vertically integrated global supply chain services. Flextronics operates in seven distinct markets: infrastructure (e.g. networking equipment; mobile communication devices); computing (e.g. handheld computers); consumer digital devices (e.g. cameras); industrial, semiconductor and white goods (e.g. plastics injection moulding); automotive, aerospace and marine (e.g. bar code readers); and medical devices, which includes, among others, telemedicine devices. Flextronics designs, builds and ships complete packaged products for its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers such as Microsoft for consumer electronics products such as the X-box, Hewlett Packard for its inkjet printers and storage devices, or Sony-Ericsson for cellular phones, and provides after-market and field services to support customer end-to-end supply chain requirements. In early 2000, Flextronics Central and Eastern European (CEE) operations were headquartered in Vienna, Austria, and covered primarily Austria and Hungary, with plans to expand into the Ukraine. The Austrian sites consisted of an experienced workforce and had well-functioning work routines. The newly established Hungarian plants, by contrast, were characterized by typical startup problems such as insufficiently experienced personnel, high fluctuation and, because of a highly volatile sales market, significant needs to adapt production capacity to consumer demand. As part of the response to this situation, Peter Baumgartner, then CEE Executive HR Director, lobbied internally for a Flextronics Academy in the CEE region and finally implemented it. As an effort to increase qualifications of Flextronics CEE employees, it covered both technical qualifications as well as soft skills. Together with an external consultancy, Flextronics also developed a highpotential programme for a future cadre of line managers that specifically was designed to offer the selected individuals a broad range of activities and equip them with leadership and HRM qualifications. In the mixed groups from different countries, cultural specifics soon turned out to be important elements for the long-term success of this programme. For example, Hungarian participants were much less likely to fully complete the programme or stay with Flextronics for some time after the end of the programme. Due to a greater readiness to ‘jump ship’ even in the light of only minimal pay increases, Flextronics often was faced with a higher rate of fluctuation compared to Austrian employees and sunk costs when individuals left the company and joined a competitor or changed industry. Likewise, learning and communication styles were quite different between Hungarian and Austrian participants. For example, in terms of directness and interpersonal distance, typical differences between Austria and Hungary occur with Austrians being more direct and more concerned with formal and distant behaviour. At the overall Flextronics level, training of line managers was strongly influenced by the introduction of the corporate-wide Flextronics University. Originally, this programme started as a web-based learning platform and knowledge-management tool for the US and Mexican operations. As e-learning got more and more popular, the idea to use this platform throughout the corporation took hold. The goal was to use the ‘collective intelligence’ of a global corporation in the most effective way. However, in practice the realization of this idea turned out to be much more time-consuming than was anticipated. It took off only after it was integrated with a second initiative within Flextronics: the Flex Factory. After a decade of rapid growth in the 1990s with a substantial number of acquisitions, factories within Flextronics varied widely in terms of production processes, quality standards and service orientation. After increasing customer complaints about Flextronics being not reliable enough, an initiative to create ‘ONE Flextronics’ started. It was aiming at standardizing production relevant processes to make the ‘ONE Flextronics’ idea effective in practice and visible to customers, suppliers and employees. Globally, various teams collected worldwide best practice ideas in the areas of SixSigma, quality and material management, production, programme management, engineering, finances and training. Soon it became obvious that a common platform was needed for sharing these ideas and for training individuals along these lines. This led to a new drive for the Flex University idea and to an integration of both Flex University and Flex Factory. Flex University offered the possibility to have immediate and global access to standardized training content, technical as well as related to leadership and HRM, which could be tailored to the needs of employees in general and line managers in particular. It offered a tailored system for training administration which included supervisors as well as users and a learning management system that allowed the definition of specific training packages. In the context of a globally operating company with employees coming from 30 countries, a number of issues emerged due to cultural idiosyncrasies. For example, handing out certificates on the basis of a successfully accomplished training module led to quite different reactions. Whereas in Eastern European countries as well as in the US certificates are generally welcomed and regarded as a sign of one’s achievement, many Western Europeans are more cautious. They see certificates not primarily as a positive feedback, but as an appraisal with the danger of being ‘boxed in’. Employees from these countries prefer a sober, stripped down feedback without too many frills seen as artificial. Although Flex University worked with such certificates, the varying degree of acceptance of certification programmes across employees from different countries illustrated the emerging difficulties. In a similar vein, controlling learning progress in such a system can be interpreted as being interested in a person’s development and as a valuable source for feedback. At the same time, especially in Western Europe this was also regarded as a means of control, observation and surveillance that employees tend to see in a negative light. Discussion Participation Rubric Criteria Ratings Pts Participation in Discussion 25 pts 20 pts O pts Unacceptable: Does not enter the discussion Strong: Provides comments and new information in a regular and equitable manner. Interacts with a variety of participants by posting queries, comments, and thoughtful responses. Proficient: Provides comments and some new information in a fairly regular manner. Interacts with a few selected participants by posting queries, comments, and thoughtful responses. 15 pts Satisfactory: Sporadically provides comments and some new information. Interacts with only one or two participants by posting queries, comments, and thoughtful responses. 10 pts Weak: Provides minimal comments and information to other participants. Participates infrequently in online discussions or email; and postings are irrelevant or superficial 25 pts 25 pts Content and Focus 20 pts 15 pts 10 pts O pts Unacceptable: Does not enter the discussion Strong: Postings are accurate, original, and relevant. Even better than telling us something new, they raise new questions that lead to further discussion from a variety of people. Reveals a solid understanding of the topic as evidenced by thoughtful responses and questions. Proficient: Makes significant contributions to the discussion. Reveals adequate understanding of the topic as evidenced by posting telling us something new. Satisfactory: Postings consist largely of personal opinions or experiences. Reveals a restricted understanding of the topic limited to information that could be derived from prior posts. Weak: Adds little to the substantive discussion by may contribute but may contribute to the social aspects of the course 25 pts 25 pts 15 pts 10 pts Critical Thinking Evidenced by posting 20 pts Proficient: Agrees or disagrees with existing discussion and provides limited justification/explanation (e.g., text readings, resources). Strong: Offer a critical analysis of an existing posted idea or introduces a different interpretation to an existing idea. Satisfactory: Agrees or disagrees with existing discussion, but provides no justification/explanation (e.g., text readings, resources). O pts Unacceptable: Does not enter the discussion Weak: Provides no evidence of agreement or disagreement with existing discussion. 25 pts 25 pts 15 pts Skilled Communication O pts Unacceptable: Does not enter the discussion Strong: Highly skilled presentation of ideas. Engages reading. Work exceeds expectations for this level of student. Absolutely no errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar noted. 20 pts Proficient: Explicitly presents ideas. Work appropriate for this level of student. No spelling or grammar errors noted. A few minor punctuation errors identified. Satisfactory: Able to present ideas. Comes close to expectations for work at this level. Some punctuation and spelling errors by no errors in grammar identified. 10 pts Weak: Limited ability to convey ideas noted. Below expectations of work at this level. Errors noted in spelling, punctuation, and grammar 25 pts Total Points: 100
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Globalization and HRM

Institutional Affiliation



Globalization and HRM

HRM is the methodology for the effective management of persons in an institution or
company. Suitable HRM strategies influence the maximization of employees' performance and
sustainable economic advantage. Due to the increasing globalization, Best fir or Best practice are
some of the ...

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