International HRM: Contemporary Issues in Europe

International HRM: Contemporary Issues in Europe

International HRM: Contemporary Issues in Europe

International HRM: Contemporary Issues in Europe


International HRM takes a thematic approach, drawing on national experiences from a range of European countries to illuminate the current issues and debates in the Human Resource Management area.



The European contribution

Hilary Harris and Chris Brewster

International human resource management

One of the few certainties in this uncertain world is the growing influence of internationalization on organizations, both large and small. There are increasing numbers of internationally operating organizations and internationally operating employees. The subject of international human resource management (IHRM) is becoming ever more critical for more and more organizations.

However, despite growing interest in IHRM, there is still much room for better understanding of successful HRM practices in an international context, as many researchers have argued (see, for example, Pucik 1984; Bowling 1986; Laurent 1986; Evans et al. 1989; Hossain and Davis 1989; Nedd et al. 1989; Shaw et al. 1990; Mendenhall and Oddou 1991; Weber and Festing 1991; Dowling et al. 1994; Boxall 1995; Scherm 1995). The world of international business may, of course, not involve IHRM: it is not relevant in, for example, the spread of franchising operations and the growth of conglomerates which have no strategic objective of maximizing their international operations. But for most enterprises, increasing internationalization equates with an increasingly important role for IHRM. While it is recognized that the international HRM issues which have been researched are of practical importance to human resource managers, this work has been criticized by Kochan et al. (1992) as focusing too narrowly on functional activities and as lacking appropriate theoretical structures. Summarizing the essence of their critique, it is that the current literature in international HRM defines the field too narrowly; is influenced by a discussion of concepts and issues with little backing in systematic research; and they argue that a new field of IHRM studies should be built round a broader set of questions.

The nature of IHRM

There is no consensus about what the term IHRM covers. How are we to conceptualize it? What areas and activities does it include and how does it relate to international business strategy? The majority of studies in the area have . . .

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