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 11: Organising HRM: The HRM Department and Line Management Roles in a Comparative Perspective

Julia Brandl, Ina Ehnert and Anna Bos-Nehles


1 Julia Brandl, Ina Ehnert and Anna Bos-Nehles A core characteristic of human resource management (HRM) work is that it cannot be fully allocated to one particular actor or unit within the organisation (Tsui & Milkovich, 1987). Instead, HRM work involves HRM specialists, line and top management. Organising HRM work addresses the task of assigning HRM tasks and authority to different units within an organisation and enabling these units to coordinate their work with each other. The varying roles of HRM specialists, the debate of devolving operational HRM tasks from HR specialists to line managers (e.g. Bos-Nehles, 2010; Perry & Kulik, 2008) and the longstanding question of whether HRM is a specialist or a generalist task (Baron & Kreps, 1999: 503) indicate that organising HRM work is not straightforward. But what are the possible alternative ways to organise HRM work? And why do organisations employ a particular form of organising HRM? In this chapter, we outline three options for organising HRM work and review how HRM scholars have explained differences and similarities in the prevalence of these alternatives in a cross-national perspective. Our subsequent focus on the national context builds on the premise that organisations are open systems that need to relate their structural elements to their environments in order to survive. While contextual factors relevant for organising HRM work can be found at various levels (e.g. industry, sector, organisational), the national context is a particularly promising perspective: first, government activities such as labour legislation and structuring of labour markets have contributed to...

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