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Researching IHRD: context, processes and people

Context, Processes and People

Anthony McDonnell

The chapter deliberates on the primary issues and challenges that scholars face when undertaking international human resource development research. In so doing, the chapter articulates the importance of improving the comprehensiveness and sophistication of the research design and data analysis so as to move our understanding of international human resource development forward in a more robust manner. The focus of the chapter is on quantitative methods, which somewhat surprisingly appears to be less common in this area. This may reflect the relatively recent nature of the field that has seen a more exploratory and qualitative approach dominant. In anticipation of researchers engaging in increased theory testing the chapter focuses on three key areas of conducting valid and reliable quantitative studies, namely, the development of equivalent measures for comparative research; the development of appropriate sampling frames; and the administration of surveys.

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Thomas Garavan, Alma McCarthy and Ronan Carbery

This chapter charts the landscape of international human resource development (IHRD) and engages with four key strands of IHRD scholarship that point to its possible boundaries. The chapter maps out a number of contextual drivers that are shaping IHRD as both an academic field of research and a set of organisational practices. The chapter proposes an overarching framework to conceptualise the terrain of IHRD. The chapter summarises the focus of the Handbook and summarises the individual chapters and how they are organised. Finally, the chapter proposes a number of priority research areas that will help to give the construct legitimacy as a field of research. The chapter engages in these debates while also acknowledging the emergent, dynamic and constantly evolving nature of the IHRD field.

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IHRD, social capital and networking

Context, Processes and People

Claire Gubbins

The human resource development (HRD) field recognises that the emerging challenges facing HRD require developing the social capital, or the ‘asset value of human relationships’. However, the extent of research on social capital and social networks within the field of HRD and international HRD is limited. To ignite interest and encourage further debate and research within the field of international HRD, this chapter reviews debates around the various conceptualisations of social capital including the structure and content components, levels of analysis issues and debates as to its antecedents and outputs. The chapter outlines the dominant theories in the social capital field including weak tie, structural hole, social resource and social capital theory. It collates available empirical research in the HRD, international HRD and related fields, which focuses on the role of relationships at individual, team and organisational level. Specifically, this chapter looks at research conducted on transnational management and career development, knowledge sharing and learning through a social capital or social network lens. The chapter aims to encourage more interdisciplinary consideration on how the social capital lens can inform and provide a unique and stronger systems perspective in research into international HRD.

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IHRD, offshoring and outsourcing

Context, Processes and People

Valerie Anderson and Vijay Pereira

This chapter examines the development of offshore outsourcing from an international HRD (IHRD) perspective. The chapter assesses the principal factors that influence the choice of offshore or outsourcing strategy in a globalised economy. Offshore outsourcing is an increasingly important feature of organisational strategic decision-thinking although it has been overlooked in the IHRD literature. Drawing on transaction cost economics theory, the resource-based view of the firm and resource dependency theory as well as different approaches to IHRD, a typology of offshore outsourcing contracts or partnerships: ‘tactical’, ‘strategic’ and ‘transformational’ are discussed. Making use of different perspectives to IHRD we identify implications for IHRD research, theory and practice in different offshoring or outsourcing contexts.The chapter concludes with an integrated model of offshore outsourcing and IHRD which provides the basis from which implications and priorities for IHRD research and practice can be identified with the potential to add to knowledge and practice in both HRD and international business and management more generally.

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Yanqing Lai

This chapter provides a comprehensive review of the influential role of national culture on IHRD strategy, policy and practice in different national and cultural contexts. Situated within an analysis of contingency or fit theory, the relevance of national and cross-cultural difference in HRD theory and practice is explained first. Next, the primary studies examining the value dimensions of culture typologies are compared and contrasted. This is followed by a discussion of the influence of cross-cultural differences in defining and conceptualising HRD. Also, how the sociocultural dimensions shape the development and execution of actual HRD strategy, policies and practices in different national and cultural settings is discussed. Finally, implications for both future IHRD research and practices from a cross-cultural perspective are provided.

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Maura Sheehan and Valerie Shanahan

This chapter analyses human capital investment in the context of international human resource development (IHRD) through a multi-level perspective. Specifically the inter-connections between the macro (national and regional) and micro (organisational) levels and IHRD are examined. The chapter provides an overview of national measures of levels and quality of human capital investment. Based on discussion in this chapter, recommendations for the integration of macro and micro-levels of analysis for IHRD and performance research are considered. Finally, conclusions are drawn based on recommendations for future research.

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Jonathan Winterton

This chapter commences by clarifying the concepts of competence and competency and sets out the drivers of the competence movement. Although a complicated and contested concept, competence has come to play a central role in IHRD policy discourse and labour market practice, yet this has only intensified controversies and divisions between the worlds of education and work. Competence-based approaches to IHRD offer scope to establish international and cross-sector comparability and transparency in qualifications in support of labour mobility provided unifying frameworks can transcend country differences in competence models. The chapter discusses the need to bridge the gap between practice and policy in an IHRD context. The institutions, sectoral, national and supra-national, which shape processes of HRD largely determine dominant competence models in particular contexts and there is a need for continued research in this area. Similarly, among the implications for IHRD practice of this analysis of competence are two other priorities for research: how to establish workplace learning that is most conducive to developing competence and targeting competence development that gives most sustainable returns on performance.

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IHRD in small firms and internationalising SMEs

Context, Processes and People

Ciara T. Nolan

The aim of this chapter is to reflect on what is known about international human resource development (IHRD) in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Drawing on a broad range of international literature, the chapter examines the key characteristics of SMEs and the factors shaping the nature and form of IHRD in this context. HRD has been identified as a key enabler of successful internationalisation in SMEs. At the same time, many of the barriers facing SMEs as they seek to internationalise are HRD-related. These include limited international experience and managerial competencies in comparison to their larger counterparts. However, the critical role played by employee human capital in the internationalisation process remains under-researched and under-theorised. The chapter examines these key issues, as well as considering the role that national culture plays on the implementation of HRD in the SME context. Overall, the chapter stresses the importance of understanding the need to research IHRD in SMEs on its own terms rather than in comparison to conceptualisations of IHRD derived from studies in large or multinational corporations (MNCs). The chapter concludes by outlining a number of future directions for IHRD research and identifies key implications for IHRD practice.

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IHRD in MNCs

Context, Processes and People

Yanqing Lai, Thomas Garavan and Ronan Carbery

This chapter provide a comprehensive review of IHRD in the context of multinational corporations (MNCs). Situated within the resource-based view and behavioural psychology perspective, the vital importance of IHRD, particularly training and development function, to any multinational organisations is illustrated. Next, the dichotomous debate of convergence–divergence or global–local approach in relation to the adoption of IHRD strategy, policies and practices in various host countries are presented. This is followed by the discussion of the application and implementation of IHRD/training practices in MNCs in relation to both international management groups and employees in host countries. Also, an array of macro- and micro-level contextual factors embrace home nation’s indigenous influence, host country effect and firm-specific attributes are identified to explain the localisation of IHRD policies and practices in MNCs. Finally, the implication for future IHRD research and practices are provided.

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Hussain Alhejji and Thomas Garavan

This chapter examines the dynamics of IHRD in international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), nonprofit and public organisations. First, the chapter discusses the importance of examining international non-governmental organisations, nonprofit and public organisations from an international HRD perspective and reviews the literature in order to identify key debates and critiques of current IHRD systems in each sector. Second, the challenges and opportunities relevant to international HRD in these sectors are set out. Third, the chapter discusses the implications for IHRD research and practice. The chapter argues that IHRD scholars must take a proactive step in supporting and guiding INGOs, nonprofit and public organisations’ efforts to meet the changing aspects of their internal and external environments.