Handbook of Research on Comparative Human Resource Management
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Handbook of Research on Comparative Human Resource Management

Edited by Chris Brewster and Wolfgang Mayrhofer

This unique and path-breaking Handbook explores the issue of comparative Human Resource Management (HRM) and challenges the notion that there can be a ‘one best way’ to manage HRM.
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Chapter 5: Empirical Research Issues in Comparative HRM

Ingo Weller and Barry Gerhart


Ingo Weller and Barry Gerhart Human resource management (HRM) is about the policies, practices and systems that influence organisational effectiveness by affecting employees’ behaviour, attitudes, and performance. HRM shapes and influences the human capital of the organisation (Noe et al., 2006). Its ultimate goal is to provide business value through the management of people (Barney & Wright, 1998; Becker & Gerhart, 1996). Successful strategy execution depends on the HRM system effectively developing and motivating its human capital and making sure that structures and processes permit it to be put to productive use. In this chapter we discuss methodological challenges in doing empirical research on HRM and effectiveness in the field of comparative HRM. Some methodological issues we discuss here will be specific to comparative HRM research, while others apply to HRM research in both single-nation and comparative contexts. It is widely recognised that cross-country differences are important for the management of people in organisations. As highlighted by new institutionalists (Wood et al., this volume), countries differ in regulations, institutions, and culture (Brewster, 1999; Brewster et al., 2004; Dowling et al., 2008; Evans et al., 2002; Hofstede, 1980, 2001; Kostova, 1999). While new institutionalism covers a range of fairly heterogeneous approaches, the basic premise is that advances in technology and communications lead to less diversification globally (Wood et al., in this volume), a process called isomorphism (Kostova & Roth, 2002). Thus, the institutionalist approach stresses the tendency of organisations to respond to their environment in ways that signal conformity and enhance legitimacy (DiMaggio & Powell,...

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