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Handbook of Research in International Human Resource Management

Edited by Günter K. Stahl and Ingmar Björkman

In providing an insightful overview of a wide range of global human resource issues facing MNCs, this pathbreaking Handbook highlights emergent topics and new research findings that could shape the field of future IHRM research. Theoretical discussion of the variables and processes that affect IHRM policies and practices is provided by renowned contributors with widely differing academic backgrounds, paradigmatic orientations, and theoretical and methodological approaches.
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Chapter 5: Comparing HRM Policies and Practices Across Geographical Borders

Chris Brewster


Chris Brewster Comparative Human Resource Management can be distinguished from international human resource management (Boxall, 1995; Harris, Brewster & Sparrow, 2003). International human resource management (IHRM) is concerned with the way that organizations that operate across national borders manage their employees, and increasingly the term is applied to all their employees and not just those who are working internationally (Sparrow, Brewster & Harris, 2004). This is a significantly more complex task than managing human resources in one country (Dowling, 1988), given the dual requirements of systematizing their management processes (global integration) and remaining aware of the differences between countries (local responsiveness), which mean that it is not possible, or rational, to manage people in exactly the same way in different circumstances (Ashkenas et al., 1995; Hamal & Prahalad, 1985; Yip, 1995). Comparative human resource management is about understanding and explaining what differences exist between countries in the way that human resources are managed. Whereas most of the rest of this book is concerned with IHRM, this chapter focuses on comparative human resource management. Comparison is the method used in social sciences to replace the experiment in the natural sciences. Most studies of HRM take place within one country and their findings relate to that country even if they are often assumed to be universally applicable. International comparisons are not only a good way of checking our assumptions about the systems and practices that operate in HRM, they are also a valuable way of checking our basic assumptions about the...

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