Employer Behavior Human Resource Management Research and Teaching in Germany and Austria**

Article excerpt

Employer behavior ("Arbeitgeberverhalten") plays an essential role when it comes to understanding Human Resource Management (HRM). However, rather few studies actually seem to take the concrete behavior of organizations as employers into account. Instead, German textbooks and journals are replete with examples of "good practices" in HRM. We argue that, as a result, there is a growing discrepancy between HRM in research/teaching and practice, which unquestionably is a problematic development in an applied science like HRM. Based on our analysis of five leading German textbooks on HRM and five volumes of the German Journal of Research in Human Resource Management (2005-2009), we highlight current gaps in the academic discussion and we derive some theses concerning the current state of the discussion. Finally, we discuss our findings and highlight some avenues for further research in our field.

Key words: HRM, employer behavior, textbook analysis, bad practice (JEL: M12, M14)

1. Introduction

Human Resource Management (HRM) is an important academic discipline, which is institutionalized at most business schools around the world. Journals dealing with HRM rank at high positions in the VHB JourQual-Ranking and have considerably high Impact- factor s. Research on HRM ranges from identifying best practices in separate domains such as recruiting, trainings, incentives and appraisal to examining the impact of creating firm- specific and idiosyncratic bundles of interdependent HR practices in a certain HRM-system on creating competitive advantage (for a current overview, see Reichel & Mayrhofer, 2009). However, the identification of optimal bundles of HR practices and the question for consistency in employer behavior seems to be an important issue only for researchers from Great Britain or the US (cf. e.g. Baron & Kreps, 1999). Although it is obvious that employer behavior Ç'Arbeitgeberverhalten") needs to be taken into account when it comes to understanding Human Resource Management, few studies from German researchers explicitly address the question, which behavior entrepreneurs and enterprises actually show in their role as employers. Instead, German textbooks and journals are replete with examples of "good practices" in HRM (cf. the results of our analysis in the third section of this paper). "Bad practices", which ultimately lead to a deterioration of working conditions for a large number of employees and which employers regularly use in order to preserve flexibility or to maximize profit, are frequently neglected in research; even though such practices often are heavily discussed in the media. As a result, there seems to be a growing discrepancy between HRM in research/ teaching and practice. In a special forum in the Academy of Management Journal on "the separate worlds of academics and practitioners in human resource management", Rynes et al. (2007, p. 987) argued that, "the gap between science and practice is so pervasive that some have despaired of its ever being narrowed". Unquestionably, this is a problematic development in an applied science like Human Resource Management.

In this paper, we take a look at the role of employer behavior in research and teaching in Germany and Austria. Based on our analysis of five leading German textbooks on Human Resource Management and five volumes of the German Journal of Research in Human Resource Management Ç' Zeitschrift für Personalforschun¿y\ ZfP) (2005-2009), we highlight current gaps in the academic discussion. The results of our illustrative analysis show, that even though research on employer behavior is essential to understand HRM, it is a widely neglected issue. The paper is structured as follows: In the next section, we define the notion of employer behavior and we discuss recent developments in employer behavior, which occurred during the last years and decades. Subsequently, we examine how scholars approach employer behavior in research and teaching. …