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 8: Human Resource Development: National Embeddedness

Olga Tregaskis and Noreen Heraty


Olga Tregaskis and Noreen Heraty In a commentary on Education across Europe, the OECD, acknowledged human capital as a major factor driving economic growth, both in the world’s most advanced economies and in those experiencing rapid development. This reflects a widely accepted recognition that an organisation’s ability to create and share knowledge is a critical determinant of competitive functioning and organisational capabilities around the world today. Ulrich (1997: 10) describes organisational capabilities as the DNA of competitiveness and notes that an organisation is effective not because of its structure, but rather as a result of the set of capabilities that are embedded in the firm. The chapter explores some of the dimensions of human resource development (HRD) as the vehicle for initiating and sustaining organisational capabilities. We begin with a brief examination of the organisational logic underpinning investment in human resource knowledge and skills and use this as the foundation for exploring variation in national or geographic approaches to skills development. Beyond the organisational level, we review wider national systems as the fulcrum upon which variation in HRD systems and practices might be understood. Drawing upon the European institutional tradition where institutions are defined as the ‘building blocks for social order, both to govern and to legitimize behaviour’ (Bosch et al., 2007: 253; Streeck & Thelen, 2005), we review both the national business systems literature and the more specialised literature on national innovations systems to demonstrate their influence on the nature of firm level skills and learning. The chapter concludes with...

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