Human Resource Management

Theory and practice, fifth edition

by John Bratton and Jeff Gold

Chapter summaries

Part one: The arena of contemporary human resource management
1) The nature of contemporary HRM
2) Corporate strategy and strategic HRM
3) Human resource management and performance
Part two: The micro context of human resource management
4) Work and work systems
5) Organizational culture and HRM
Part three: Employee resourcing
6) Workforce planning and talent management
7) Recruitment and selecting employees
Part four: Employee performance and development
8) Performance management and appraisal
9) Learning and human resource development
10) Leadership and management development
Part five: The employment relationship
11) Reward management
12) Industrial relations
13) Employee relations and involvement
14) Health and safety management
Part six: The global context of human resource management
15) International human resource management


Chapter 1: The nature of contemporary HRM

  • In this introductory chapter, we have emphasized the importance of managing people, individually and collectively, over other ‘factor inputs’. We have examined the history of HRM and emphasized that since its introduction it has been highly controversial. The HRM phenomenon has been portrayed as a historical outcome of rising neo-liberalism ideology, closely associated with the political era of Thatcherism.
  • We have conceptualized HRM as a strategic approach, one that seeks to leverage people’s capabilities and commitment with the goal of enhancing performance and dignity in and at work. These HRM goals are accomplished by a set of integrated employment policies, programmes and practices within an organizational and societal context. The HRM approach as conceptualized here we suggest constitutes critical HRM (CHRM), extending the analysis of HRM outcomes beyond performance to include equality, dignity, and social justice.
  • To show the multiple meanings of the term ‘human resource management’, we have examined five theoretical models. We have discussed whether HRM now represents a new orthodoxy. Certainly, the language is different.
  • We have explained that tensions are omnipresent. These include tensions between profitability and cost effectiveness and employee security; between employer control and employee commitment; and between managerial autonomy and employee dignity. Throughout this book, we illustrate and explain some of these tensions and inevitable paradoxes to encourage a deeper understanding of HR-related issues.
  • Finally, workplace scholars use a variety of theoretical frames of reference or paradigms - here the focus has been on structural functionalism, conflict and feminist paradigms - to organize how they understand and conduct research into HRM.

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Chapter 2: Corporate strategy and strategic HRM

  • This chapter has examined different levels of strategic management, defining strategic management as a ‘pattern of decisions and actions’ undertaken by the upper echelon of the company.
  • Strategic decisions are concerned with change and the achievement of superior performance, and they involve strategic choices. In multidivisional companies, strategy formulation takes place at three levels – corporate, business and functional – to form a hierarchy of strategic decision-making. Corporate and business-level strategies, as well as environmental pressures, dictate the choice of HR policies and practices.
  • Strategic management plans at corporate level and business level provide the context within which HR plans are developed and implemented. These HR plans provide a map for managers to follow in order to fulfil the core responsibilities of the HR function, which involves managing employee assignments, competencies, behaviours and motivation. These prime responsibilities of the HR function constitute the ‘four-task model’ of HRM.
  • When reading the descriptive and prescriptive strategic management texts, there is a great temptation to be smitten by what appears to be the linear and absolute rationality of the strategic management process. We draw attention to the more critical literature that recognizes that HR strategic options are, at any given time, partially constrained by the outcomes of corporate and business decisions, the current distribution of power within the organization and the ideological values of the key decision-makers.
  • A core assumption underlying much of the SHRM research and literature is that each of the main types of generic competitive strategy used by organizations (e.g. cost leadership or differentiation strategy) is associated with a different approach to managing people, that is, with a different HR strategy.
  • We critiqued here the matching model of SHRM on both conceptual and empirical grounds. It was noted that, in the globalized economy with market turbulence, the ‘fit’ metaphor might not be appropriate when flexibility and the need for organizations to learn more quickly than their competitors seem to be the key to sustainable competitiveness. We also emphasized how the goal of aligning a Porterian low-cost business strategy with an HRM strategy can contradict the core goal of employee commitment.
  • The resource-based SHRM model, which places an emphasis on a company’s HR endowments as a strategy for sustained competitive advantage, was outlined. In spite of the interest in workplace learning, there seems, however, little empirical evidence to suggest that many firms have adopted this ‘soft’ HR strategic model.

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Chapter 3: Human resource management and performance

  • We began this chapter by reviewing some of the literature arguing that the HRM function is going through a transition in which the evaluation of HRM is being recognized as both fundamental and necessary.
  • A review of the research undertaken in this chapter shows a substantive body of literature demonstrating that strategic HRM can and does make a positive and, in some cases, significant impact on organizational outcomes. The ‘best practice’ and the contingency ‘best fit’ perspectives are competing approaches to achieving superior performance. Both have their limitations.
  • We examine the methodological and theoretical concerns relating to HR-performance research. Critics argue that the effectiveness of HR strategic choices is difficult to measure due to major problems of measurement and meeting the criteria of causality. We have suggested that the social “mechanisms” that impact on the HR causal chain may be better analyzed using a multi-strategy research design.
  • This chapter has examined the neglected dimension of analyzing precisely how strategic HR-practices improve performance. Our model has a heuristic purpose, it’s designed to identify and magnify influential social processes that shape employee attitudes, behaviour, social relations and thence performance. Through this lens, social interactions, within definable social structures, play a central role in applying and scaffolding strategic HR policies, programmes and practices.

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Chapter 4: Work and work systems

  • We started this chapter by examining the primacy of work thesis and defining work as a physical and mental activity performed to produce or achieve something of value at a particular place and time, under explicit or implicit instructions, in return for a reward.
  • Research testifies that flexibility is the management mantra. The extant literature is couched in the language of ‘high-involvement’ and ‘learning’, but it appears that in most cases the ‘quality’ of work does not match the rhetoric and non-educative work is systemic.
  • Critical workplace scholars argue that “new” work regimes embody neo-Taylorist principles and a technical mode of managerial control. The research on non-standard employment, the ‘McDonaldization of work”, and ‘emotion labour” suggest both change and continuation in the work design.
  • We have cautioned against conceptualizing new work systems as a smooth transition from one ideal-type model to another. The tendency to compress the specific into categories of general trends not only compresses variations in work design, but also attaches a coherence to emerging work forms that is spurious. Change is sporadic and is subject to constant re-negotiation.
  • Team-based systems are a complex ‘interlocking’ arrangement of technical, behavioural, and cultural dimensions. In the context of capitalist employment relationships, tension and unintended consequences will arise with each new work system.
  • We concluded by suggesting that when organizing and managing work activities and systems managers need to take steps to eliminate the carbon footprint; and understand how new forms of work can change employees’ perception of the content of the psychological contract.

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Chapter 5: Organizational culture and HRM

  • In this chapter, we have explored the nature of organizational culture – a unique configuration of shared artifacts, common language and meanings and shared values that influence ways of doing things in the workplace. The culture of an organization influences what employees should think, believe or value.
  • We have discussed how national culture and organizational culture are deeply intertwined: each influencing the other with latter embedded in society. Yet we have noted that standard accounts of organizational culture have tended to neglect how gender, patriarchy and sexuality in society and in the workplace profoundly influence the dynamics of organizational culture.
  • We explained that culture analysis can be divided into different schools of thought. The functionalist perspective stresses that culture can play a role in building consensus and harmony, how it can improve performance. It views organizational culture as a variable: It is something that an organization ‘has’ and, as such, that can be produced and managed.
  • The prescriptive literature tends to present a too uniform view of organizational culture. Alternative approaches point out the existence of sub-cultures and counterculture. These concepts are important if we believe organizations consist of individuals and work groups with multiple sets of values and beliefs.
  • The critical perspective focuses on a sociological concern to describe and critically explain cultural processes, how culture emerges through social interaction, power relations, communities of practice and norms. It also focuses on connections between social inequalities and patriarchal systems outside the workplace and socialization processes and conduct inside the workplace. Viewed through a sociologist’s lens culture is something that a work organization ‘is’.
  • We have emphasized that a set of integrated HR practices is both a carrier through which dominant values are expressed and enacted and, by their outcomes, an expression of deep-rooted values. The well-established use of HR practices to promote health and safety, minimize waste and manage culture makes HRM well-positioned to lead and coordinate the goal of a green sustainable strategy.
  • We make no claims of originality but we do offer a potentially fruitful framework for exploring how a set of integrated Green HR practices - covering recruitment, performance management and appraisal, learning and development, rewards and employment relations - can help build more sustainable work practices. Finally, we have emphasized that managers must be aware of the messy realities that shape complex organizations.

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Chapter 6 Workforce planning and talent management

  • Manpower planning in the 1960s and 70s emphasised quantities, flows and mathematical modelling, to ensure that the necessary supply of people was forthcoming to allow targets to be met.
  • Personnel specialists were able to utilize manpower measures of labour turnover, absenteeism and stability to diagnose and solve problems, increasingly aided by PC-based software packages. Manpower planning could play a vital role in the management of the employment relationship.
  • HRP could be seen to be a continuation and extension of this process, which fully recognizes the potential of people and their needs in the development of strategies and plans. Integrated systems of HR activities are associated with superior performance in high-performing organizations.
  • Workforce Planning is a process of forecasting the supply and demand for skills against the requirements of future production and services delivery in a situation of uncertainty and change. It is a process supported by the use of information and communication technology (ICT) enabling the production of various forecasts and scenarios for future possibilities and unexpected shocks. Such systems can also be provided over the Internet as a feature of e-HR.
  • In many organizations, the language of flexibility and a range of different practices have been employed, often without consideration for the effect on employment relations. There has been a growth in the number of part-time and tele-homeworking employees, with government backing for flexible working, as well as in the outsourcing and off-shoring of services, but there is little evidence of the overall impact on business performance and people’s motivation.
  • Talent Management (TM) has become a significant area of policy activity accompanied by a growing list of books, conferences and techniques. Patterns of TM can vary according to inclusivity and attention given to people or positions.
  • Fewer organizations offer careers for life, and career planning has become more difficult. Each person will need a range of skills to develop a portfolio career, and there has been a growing emphasis on people accepting responsibility for developing their own careers and making themselves employable.
  • There is growing interest in managing diversity at work. Diversity is a means of creating heterogeneity in the workforce where a variety of experiences, backgrounds and networks can enhance an ability to solve complex problems. Managing diversity needs to be seen as part of cultural change.
  • The late 2000s have been characterised by job losses in all sectors. Negative outcomes of redundancy are as much to do with the manner of its implementation and contextual factors such as organisation culture and climate will affect the outcomes.
  • HRA has been advocated as presenting the value of people as assets, but there has been a lack of a valid and reliable model of measurement.

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Chapter 7: Recruitment and selecting employees

This chapter has examined the nature of recruitment and selection in organizations.

  • The attraction and subsequent retention of employees is crucial to an employment relationship, which is based on a mutual and reciprocal understanding of expectations. Employers have, however, significant power in recruitment and selection. The overall approach taken will reflect an organization’s strategy and its philosophy towards the management of people.
  • Recruitment and selection practices are bound by the law of the land, in particular with respect to sex, race, disability, age and sexual orientation discrimination. In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 provides a simplification of discrimination legislation. Unless exempted by provisions of occupational requirement, discrimination is against the law directly, indirectly or by harassment or victimization. The anti-discrimination legislation over the past 35 years provides the foundation for a growing interest in diversity at work
  • It is essential that organizations see that, whatever the state of the labour market and their power within it, contact with potential recruits is made through the projection of an ‘image’ that will impact on and reinforce the expectations of potential recruits.
  • Competency frameworks have been developed to link HR practices to the key requirements of an organization’s strategy. Competencies can be used to form a model or ‘image’ of the kinds of employees that an organization seeks to attract and recruit. The response to the image provides the basis for a compatible person–organization fit. Images or the ‘brand’ will feature in recruitment literature and, increasingly, on the Internet via e-recruitment.
  • There has been a growth in online recruitment as a form of e-recruitment with recent surveys showing that 63% of organizations regard their own website as the most effective method of attracting applications. Content features of websites such as testimonials by current employees, pictures, policies and awards can affect perceptions of organisation culture. Social networking sites now allow a sharing of information about vacancies and applicants.
  • Key documents in recruitment and selection are job descriptions and personnel specifications, although there is a growing awareness of the limitations of traditional approaches to their construction. Some organizations have switched to performance contracts, which can be adjusted over time. In addition, personnel specifications may be stated as competencies, which appear more objective.
  • Selection techniques seek to measure differences between applicants and provide a prediction of future performance at work. Techniques are chosen on the basis of their consistency in measurement over time – reliability – and the extent to which they measure what they are supposed to measure – validity. An applicant’s experience of selection methods, especially perceptions of fair treatment, strongly influences feelings towards the organization.
  • There are a range of selection techniques but the most common is the interview, which has been the subject of much research. Recent years have indicated that a structured approach and the use of behavioural interviewing based on competencies increase the effectiveness of interviews in selection. The use of competencies in selection is a reflection of the interest in assessing personality and abilities by the use of psychometric tests. Techniques of selection may be combined in assessment centres to provide a fuller picture of an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Online testing allows organizations to process applicants more quickly. This may also filter out good applicants as well as unsuitable applicants.
  • Applicants have expectations about how the organization will treat them, and recruitment and selection represent an opportunity to clarify these. The use of RJPs can increase commitment and job satisfaction by clarifying expectations and communicating an organization’s honesty.

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Chapter 8: Performance management and appraisal

  • The key idea of a performance management system (PMS) is that the principal dimensions of a person’s work can be defined precisely in performance terms, allowing measurement over agreed periods of time that also takes account of particular constraints within the situation of performance. Performance management forms the nub of the strategic link between HR inputs and practices and organizational performance.
  • Through its link to measurement, performance management provides evidence that management is rationally, efficiently and effectively controlling an organization. There are, however, measurement models that take a wider view, perhaps more strategic and long term, which encompass a range of values (not just financial) and can stimulate continuous improvement
  • Research evidence shows the importance of performance management, with a wide range of activities featured. Different criteria are used to judge performance and to help diagnose development needs, providing a link to the organization’s goals. A performance management cycle integrates various HR processes, including development centres, objective-setting and personal development planning, feedback and reviews. However, there is often there is a gap between the rhetoric and reality of claims for its contribution to organisation effectiveness.
  • Performance management has a ‘control’ purpose to aid decisions about pay, promotion and work responsibility, and a ‘development’ purpose to improve performance, identify training opportunities and plan action.
  • A PMS might incorporate development centres, which are the same as assessment centres in that assessment tests and exercises are used to provide a report on individual strengths and limitations. However, they differ in their emphasis on diagnosing development needs, leading to suggested development activities and a performance and development plan (PDP).
  • Managers have a vital role to play in providing feedback, both formally as part of a PMS and informally as part of everyday work. The acceptance of feedback as valid will depend on its frequency as part of an ongoing relationship and how well managers understand the perceptions of their staff.
  • The performance control approach to appraisal is still seen as evidence of rationality and efficiency at work. Such beliefs often become taken-for-granted assumptions and difficult to challenge. Employees who believe that their appraisal is based on subjectivity or bias and subjects them to unfair punishments are likely to experience appraisal as low quality.
  • A more developmental approach to performance management and appraisal has to include an alignment with talent management policies based on people developing skills and being challenged to develop themselves.
  • Performance can be rated in different ways. Inputs, in the form of personality attributes or traits, may lack reliability and may be seen as subjective and unfair. Results and work outcomes allow quantifiable measurement and are therefore seen as more objective. Rating behaviour within performance allows the use of such techniques as BARSs and BOSs.
  • Performance might be reviewed and appraised using a variety of multisource feedback processes, including self-appraisal and feedback from managers, peers, subordinates and others as part of a 360° appraisal process.

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Chapter 9: Learning and human resource development

  • Most attempts to define HRD suggest that there are two purposes – firstly, to improve the performance of people and secondly, to help people learn, develop and/or grow.
  • There have been ongoing concerns about the UK’s strategy for competing in knowledge based economies based on high level skills and talent. The intent is that to sustain the economy through and beyond the recession, we need a transformation based on skills and employment practices to utilise skills.
  • For HRD to become a feature of organizational strategy, senior managers must incorporate the need for learning within their consideration of trends and signals in the environment, such as changes in markets and technology. A strategy for HRD can often respond to organizational strategy by the use of competencies to set performance expectations and targets.
  • HRD and training activities have an important part to play in diversity policy implementation through awareness programmes and skills based development.
  • National HRD (NHRD) concerns how a country views the contribution of skills towards its economic and social life, finding expression in the policies and practices of the state, its agents and organisations.
  • Decision-makers in organizations determine the demand for skills, taking a broadly human capital view that may lead to a restricted approach to HRD. In contrast, some organizations adopt a developmental humanist approach, which can lead to a greater focus on the potential of people for learning.
  • The understanding of skills and how skills are defined is central in NHRD. Low skill levels among many workers remains a problem in the UK.
  • Governments have a key role to play in establishing a Vocational Education and Training (VET) infrastructure which is accepted as credible in terms of the quantity and quality of trainees who are available for employment.
  • A systematic approach to training is still the preference in many organizations; this emphasizes the need for cost-effective provision. Recent years have seen attempts to develop a more integrated approach that recognizes interdependencies with organizations, the importance of line managers and HRD professionals as Business Partners.
  • The learning climate or learning environment in an organization greatly influences the effectiveness of HRD policies, especially the relationships between managers and employees.
  • To support HRD, managers have been encouraged to become coaches with growing interest in the development of the idea of a coaching culture or coaching organisation. Coaching can provide a link between HRD activities, transfer to work and evaluation.
  • Workplace learning casts a whole organization as a unit of learning and unifies the diverse set of influences and disciplines within HRD such as training and organization development, knowledge and information systems.
  • Organization learning has become a key field of interest. Some explanations assume that organizations learn like people, but there are also attempts to provide different explanations by focusing on the culture of groups and how learning occurs in the context of their practice.
  • The creation of knowledge and its management are now considered as a source of competitive advantage. The economy has become knowledge-based the basic idea being that knowledge becomes the key ingredient of products and services.
  • E learning materials and approaches may need to be blended with more traditional approaches for effectiveness. Mobile learning or M-learning are difficult to control by an organisation.

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Chapter 10: Leadership and management development

  • There are differing meanings of leadership and management, both in theory and practice. It is suggested that in practice both leadership and management occurs but in uncertain and difficult times leaders tend to be given prominence.
  • Leadership and management development can defined as a planned and deliberate process but also as a process of learning which emerges and has to be recognised.
  • There have been concerns in the UK about the quality and quantity of leaders and managers with recent efforts to show the link between good practice and performance.
  • There are different purposes for leadership and management development strategies including sustaining the business by developing leaders and managers with the right skills, or advancing business by developing new models based on what leaders and managers learn.
  • There is evidence that leadership and management development works best when support is given to informal learning and there are perceptions by leaders and managers that learning and development is given priority.
  • There are both generic and organisation-specific models of leadership and management, expressed as skills, attributes or competences. Models of leadership and management, especially competences, have been subjected to critical comment.
  • Models and frameworks of leadership and management can be used to help leaders and managers determine their needs for learning and development but this is not a straightforward process since it requires an assessment of behaviour and/or performance. Many leaders and managers face Multi-Source Feedback.
  • Leadership and management learning needs to be considered an adult process which is largely self-directed. Experiential learning is a frequent approach to leadership and management development but ‘natural learning’ in a situation of practice is also important.
  • There are many leadership and management development activities which focus on individuals and more collective units. Activities can also be specified and pre-set or recognised and emergent, requiring reflection and review. Generic or generalised skills or knowledge can result in problems of transfer of learning.
  • Evaluation of leadership and management development is often an ‘act of faith’. Evaluation needs to consider wider system impacts as well as the collection of data to show evidence of value-added. Evaluation can also help leaders and managers prepare to cope with difficulties in applying learning.
  • In Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises it is important to understand that any learning is closely tied to the interests and aspirations of managers. It is through the development of managers that a business can advance however, this is likely to occur informally rather through recognised approaches to LMD.

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Chapter 11: Reward management

  • This chapter has emphasized that reward management is central to the effective management of the employment relationship. The pay model we have developed shows that reward is multidimensional, and emphasizes two fundamental policy issues: internal and external equity.
  • A reward system is a key mechanism that can influence each step of the strategy process. Alt
  • hough contested, we explained that current new pay literature stresses that an ‘effective’ pay system is one that is aligned with the organization’s business strategy.
  • We discussed in the chapter why no single best pay system exists. A pay system that may seem highly appropriate in one period, with a particular organization and work design supporting a management strategy, can be highly inappropriate in the next, when the business strategy and organizational design has changed.
  • We explained that changes in reward systems reflect shifts in management thinking. The adoption of more variable pay systems (VPS) is ideologically driven to encourage labour flexibility, although there is an apparent lack of consensus on the type of pay system that might encourage behavioural change.
  • We have also examined how government intervenes both directly and indirectly in the pay determination process. We examined equal pay, national minimum pay legislation, and how government economic policies impact on pay determination.
  • We have explored some of the strategic tension in reward systems. Under the logic of political economy, pay systems cannot obviate the contradictory tensions that bedevil employment relations. We also focused on some ‘ethical deficiencies’ with respect to contingency pay increasing employee risk.

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Chapter 12: Industrial relations

  • This chapter recognizes that managing work and people in the workplace includes a collective dimension. Research indicates that a union avoidance strategy is the one most frequently adopted by UK and US companies. We have emphasized that the selection of an industrial relations strategy involves managers considering a number of complex economic, political, legal and historical factors. Given the different conditions, each industrial relations strategy is likely to be unique and display contradictory practices.
  • We have also examined union membership, structure, and collective bargaining and union strategies. In a nutshell, the dramatic reduction in union membership and collective bargaining coverage has led to a shift in power towards management. The argument here is that this shift in power makes it more likely that employers will be tempted to take the short-term ‘low-road’ to profitability that can potentially violate the psychological contract.
  • Analysing four fundamental factors influencing union–management relations – the state of the labour market, management’s strategic capacity, labour’s strategic capacity and the legal and political context of union–management relations – we can say that the jury is still out on whether the present economic crisis will accelerate industrial relations trends.
  • This chapter examined two dominant union strategies: organizing strategy and partnership strategy. We noted that the long-term success of the partnership strategy will depend upon ongoing union–management relations and on whether or not the qualitative gains are heavily outweighed by quantitative losses. We also emphasized the apparent contradiction in the two union strategy alternatives.

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Chapter 13: Employee relations and involvement

  • This chapter has examined four dimensions of employee relations: communications, employee involvement or voice, employee rights/grievances, and discipline. Communicating is the fundamental process of managing people in the workplace. It includes written, verbal and non-verbal communication, which flows downwards, upwards and horizontally in organizations.
  • Employee involvement or ‘voice’ provides an opportunity for workers to take an active role in the decision-making process within their organization. EIP may be direct or indirect, voluntary or legislated; it may range from a manager simply exchanging information with employees to complete participation in a major investment decision.
  • EI can be seen to be a logical development in employee relations to enlist employees’ skills and cooperation. Data provide evidence that British managers are adopting EIP techniques. Critics, as discussed, argue that EIP schemes might be used by managers to marginalize the role of unions.
  • Employee relations are buttressed by a framework of individual legal rights protecting employees against inequitable or inappropriate behaviour by managers or other co-workers. Formal non-union grievance procedures are a form of employee voice, designed to allow employees to articulate dissatisfaction about an issue directly to management. For managers, a grievance process can be seen as a useful mechanism to identify and resolve inappropriate behaviour, such as bullying or harassment.
  • Employee discipline is the fourth dimension of employee relations examined in this chapter. Discipline practices vary between national legal systems, but to command support among the workforce, to avoid litigation, and avoid violations of the psychological contract, managers should design and apply practices with due regard to the requirements of natural justice.

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Chapter 14: Health and safety management

  • Employee OHS and wellness should be an important aspect of managing the employment relationship. The issues of low-carbon workplaces and Japan’s nuclear disaster provide the context for more attention than ever before for practitioners, and research focus for academics, on health and safety in the workplace. This chapter established the importance of workplace health and wellness from an economic, legal, psychological and moral perspective.
  • As in other aspects of the employment relationship, government legislation and health and safety regulations influence the management of OHS. The HASAWA 1974, for example, requires employers to ensure the health, safety and wellness at work of all employees. Furthermore, in Britain, the HSC has overall responsibility for OHS. EU directives and the Social Charter are an important source of health and safety regulations and counter ‘pure market’ ideology.
  • In this chapter, we have examined some contemporary health issues, such as SBS, workplace stress, alcoholism, smoking, workplace violence, bullying, and HIV/AIDS, and key elements of a workplace wellness programme.
  • Trade unions have attempted to secure improvements in OHS through collective bargaining and have pressed for some stringent health and safety legislation. Recent focus on sustainability and ‘greening’ of the workplace, provide a plausible case for a strategic alliance between trade unions and the environmental movement.
  • Critical analysis of OHS and wellness management draws attention to the fact that employment relations involve an economic and power relationship. Shareholder interests and return on investment may come before workers’ health and safety. Wellness management arguably is a distraction because it manages the consequences rather than causes of ill-health.

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Chapter 15: International human resource management

  • In this chapter, we explored how global corporations typically face tension from two types of business pressure: on the one hand, pressures for global cost reductions and rationalization and, on the other hand, demands for differentiation and local responsiveness.
  • We also discussed how IHRM is closely tied to international business strategies and briefly explained four fashionable business strategies – global, multi-domestic, international and transnational – as solutions to the dual pressure for cost efficiencies and responsiveness.
  • The chapter explained that the driving force behind the growth of interest in SIHRM and IHRM is the resurgence of neo-liberalism and the growth in global markets. Critics argue that globalization has created the new international division of labour, causing the transfer from old industrialized regions of high-wage manufacturing jobs to low-wage developing economies.
  • An integrative model explored how IHRM should be explicitly linked to the global business strategy of the MNC and that its changing forms must be understood in relation to the strategic evolution of the MNC.
  • We discussed how the cross-national transfer of Anglo-Saxon HR practices will require some degree of cultural sensitivity, as well as consultation with host country nationals about local suitability.
  • We discussed how variations in national regulatory systems, the labour markets, cultural and polyethnic contexts are likely to constrain or shape any tendency towards ‘convergence’ or a ‘universal’ model of ‘better’ HR practice. The sheer variation of capitalist economies and cultures makes claims for convergence both simplistic and problematic.
  • Finally, in this chapter, it has been easier to formulate questions than answers and we have taken the easier rather than the more difficult route. Yet there is value in asking questions. Questions can stimulate reflection and increase our understanding of IHRM. Our object here has been to do both.

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