Why should we reconsider the international element to the role of HR professionals when so much current research has reaffirmed that HRM is constructed within strong national boundaries? The role of international HR professionals is coming to the fore as firms continue to globalize at a pace. Information and communication technologies are transforming organizational structures and business processes, breaking down organizational and geographic boundaries. Businesses, whether large or small, are finding competition increasing at rapid rates as more and more competitors enter traditional markets through the use of technology that were once the preserve of national companies/enterprises. Businesses have realized that without attention to foreign markets and competitors their prosperity and very survival may be at stake.
As we look to the near future, the advent of the Internet and e-commerce is further increasing the international flow of goods and services and therefore the pace at which internationalization will impact on the HR role is likely to accelerate. Expansion of the Web is now beginning to affect organizational structures, business processes and global trade patterns. Some believe that the impact of e-commerce in the twenty-first century will be as significant as the introduction of mass production methods in the twentieth century. Certainly, it is already opening up new opportunities for the delivery of international HR services (Sparrow, 2001, Harris et al., 2003).
In this context, managing internationally mobile employees is in many cases the least of the worries on the mind of an international HR manager. An underlying shift in global thinking can be seen in the actions of several leading multinational and domestic organizations. They are being driven by the need to remain innovative in what may be contracting and rationalizing markets, or markets that are being shaken up by new entrants and new competitive behavior. Initiatives aimed at improving temporal, functional or financial flexibility are being introduced side by side with integrated programs intended to link work practices to the need to deliver radical cost improvements. In increasing flexibility, firms also want to change employee identification