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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 29: Language Effects in Multinational Corporations: A Review from an International Human Resource Management Perspective

Rebecca Piekkari


29 Language effects in multinational corporations: a review from an international human resource management perspective Rebecca Piekkari Many multinational corporations (MNCs) today adopt a common corporate language to facilitate the process of internal communication between headquarters and foreign subsidiaries as well as directly between foreign units. From a top management perspective, such ‘language standardization’ (Marschan-Piekkari et al., 1999a: 379) has many advantages: for example, it may support formal reporting between units in various foreign locations, improve access to company documents and create a stronger sense of belonging to a global corporate ‘family’. Indeed the issue is not only one of efficiency but one of corporate control (SanAntonio, 1987: 199). A common corporate language is thus seen to operate as an integrative mechanism among the geographically scattered, multilingual workforce. In this context, English is frequently chosen as the ‘lingua franca’ owing to the importance of Anglophone markets, the economic power of the USA and the Internet. ‘Lingua franca’ is defined as an idiom that non-native speakers use with other non-native speakers, rendering it a foreign language for all parties concerned (Vandermeeren, 1999: 276), or among native and nonnative speakers. For example, pan-Nordic corporations increasingly choose English as their corporate language (Louhiala-Salminen et al., 2005). A standardized English-language approach adopted by many multinational corporations, including General Electric, Nokia and Electrolux, however, does not resolve language diversity associated with daily operations. The level of proficiency in the common corporate language is likely to vary and lower-level employees are likely...

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