Multinational Companies Management

2. Introduction

The activities of multinational companies (MNCs) are at the heart of Britain’s internationally open and global economy. This global economy has emerged as companies all over the world are joining forces through alliances, mergers, joint ventures, acquisitions, and the like, thus creating the need for a constant mobile workforce and the HRM strategies to support and develop it. This would therefore imply a fundamental shift in the role of human resources from transaction and administration to strategy and business transformation through innovative programmes which supports the global strategy of the company.

This section gives an overview of the literature review and the theoretical basis for the forthcoming chapters. The chapter consists of journals, books and research materials which throw more light into Innovative Human Resource Programs to Facilitate Global Expansion of Multinational Companies (MNC’s) from the UK.

The following were the primary information sources used for the literature review;

  • ACM Digital Library
  • Pro-Quest Direct
  • EBSCO Publishing
  • Gale Group Info Track
  • OCLC First-Search
  • Java Sun Microsystems Library
  • IEEE Library
  • Emerald Database

2.1 Background: Human Resource Evolution

According to Cooke (2003), first Generation HR Transformation represented a fundamental shift in HR’s role, from transactions and administration to strategy and business transformation. First Generation HR Transformation focused on changing the existing relationship between employees, managers, and HR, (Randall 2006). With technology as a key enabler and process re-engineering playing a pivotal role, this First Generation effort sought to help make employees more self-sufficient, whilst asking them to take more responsibility for their own careers (Datta et al 2005). It also sought to help remove HR from the middle of the employee/manager relationship by making managers more responsible for handling their employees’ HR needs. Over the past ten years, HR Transformation has led to a major restructuring of HR operations and processes transforming the way HR services are delivered Cooke (2003).

2.2 UK MNC’s: Achieving Global Expansion

MNCs in the United Kingdom have long been well established in manufacturing, but in recent years they have emerged as dominant players in the private service sector and have even become involved in the provision of public services (Edwards 2004). Levels of both inward and outward investment are high: foreign direct investment (FDI) into the UK by companies based overseas accounts for almost 9% of the total global stock while UK-based companies’ investments overseas account for over 14% of the global stock (Edwards 2004). In both instances, the UK is second only to the world’s largest economy, the United States. As a result MNCs are significant employers in Britain; for example, 18% of the workforce in the production sector are employed by overseas-owned companies with many more being employed in the domestic operations of British-owned multinationals (Edwards 2004).

For multinational companies in the UK to achieve a successful transition in their drive for global expansion and competitive advantage, multinational companies would require innovative HR programmes which would enable them to anticipate critical workforce trends, shaping and executing business strategy, identifying and addressing people-related risks and regulations, enhancing workforce performance and productivity, and offering new HR services to help a company improve and grow (Edwards et al 2007).

2.3 Definitions: Innovative HR Programmes

According to Agarwala (2003), defines innovative human resource programmes of a company can be described as:

“Any intentional introduction or change of HRM program, policy, practice or system designed to influence or adapt employee the skills, behaviors, and interactions of employees and have the potential to provide both the foundation for strategy formulation and the means of strategy implementation that is perceived to be new and creates current capabilities and competencies” (Agarwala, 2003).

A number of authors have explored the links between individual HR practices and corporate financial performance. For example, Lam and White (1998) reported that firms’ HR orientations (measured by the effective recruitment of employees, above average compensation, and extensive training and development) were related to return on assets, growth in sales, and growth in stock values. Using a sample of banks, Richard and Johnson (2001) examined the impact of strategic HRM effectiveness (ratings of how effectively a variety of HR practices were performed) on a number of performance variables. They found that strategic HRM effectiveness was directly related to employee turnover and the relationship between this measure and return on equity was stronger among banks with higher capital intensity (greater investments in branches). In this thesis, HRM would be described in the context of a number of innovative practices which have been proven to enable MNC’s manage the transition process in their drive for global expansion, thus enabling organizational effectiveness and better performance outcomes. Wright and McMahan (1992) defined innovative human resource programmes as practices and activities employed to enable an organization achieve its goals. These practices are seen as a departure from the traditional HR activities. Delery and Doty (1996) asserts that these practices are key drivers required by MNC’s to respond with the right strategy as they expand their operations in different environments (Boselie et al, 2005).

2.4 Empirical Research: Human Resource Factors & MNC Global Expansion

The drive for global expansion by UK MNC’s has necessitated the need for a human resource strategy that would ensure that the company is able to sustain its workforce. This has therefore led to the departure from the traditional HR administrative role to a more robust global HR function which takes cognisance of employee profile, the work and environment demographics, de-skilling, re-skilling and multi-skilling and issues related to outsourcing and synergy of its processes vis-a-vis work-force reduction Lam and White (1998).

The largest survey of employment practice of multinational companies (MNCs) in the UK was carried out by Edwards et al (2007). The key findings from the first large-scale, representative survey of employment practice in MNCs which have operations in the UK. The survey is comprehensive in its coverage of all but the smallest international companies. The findings derive from interviews with senior HR executives in each of 302 multinationals operating in Britain, both overseas- and UK-owned. The findings from the research suggest a connection between human resource practices and the performance of firms, a summary include the following HR programmes stated below.

2.4.1 Innovative HR Practice: Compensation & Payment

85% of the firms surveyed were found to have a robust innovative program in terms of compensation and payment. This is achieved through a performance appraisal programme such as upward/peer appraisal and forced distribution. 72% of the MNC’s utilized an innovative scheme for managers, through individual ‘output’ criteria which were supplemented by a range of other criteria including behaviour in relation to desired competencies and to corporate values.

2.4.2 Innovative HR Practice: Training & Development Programmes

In respect of adoption of high potential innovative training programmes among MNCs, the organisations were asked if both their UK and overseas operations had a management development programme specifically aimed at developing its ‘high potentials’ or senior management and employee potential. The data show that high potential programmes are adopted by 70% of organisations; 30% of organisations are not using them. Organisations were asked whether they used a global high potential programme that was adopted elsewhere worldwide, or a local, nationally specific programme. Most organisations indicated that their programmes are global in scope.

2.4.3 Innovative HR Practice: Appraisal Activities

In comparison of performance appraisal practices and management values, the formal performance appraisal schemes for all three groups are very widespread; over nine out of ten firms have them for key group and managers, and over 80% have them for large occupational groups. Only 3% of firms have no formal appraisals at all. Just over a fifth of firms use ‘forced distributions’ for the results of appraisal. A clear majority of firms use the results of appraisal as the basis of decisions on redundancy and redeployment.

2.4.4 Innovative HR Practice: Employee Involvement & Communication

UK-based multinationals most commonly cite ‘setting a broad policy HR programme as being significant or very significant (62% and 66% for training and development and for employee involvement policy respectively). HR advice and consultancy is also relatively prominent for training and development policy (53% significant or very significant), but less so for employee involvement policy (33%). For training and development, and employee involvement, policy, the respective proportions reporting the other means of influence as significant or very significant are: setting detailed HR policies (32% and 31%); monitoring HR policy implementation (39% and 34%); and HR benchmarking and information exchange (42% and 28%).

2.4.5 Innovative HR Practice: Global Knowledge Sharing & Diffusion

In respect of innovative HR programmes which promote employee knowledge, learning and diffusion, international employee learning mechanisms are used extensively across all MNC both within the UK and across overseas operations. The survey focused on five formal organisational learning mechanisms used by managers that are international in their scope:

  • International projects groups or task forces, which are often used to address specific issues;
  • International formal committees;
  • Secondments involving the placing of MNC employees in external organisations such as suppliers, customers, universities or private R&D companies;
  • Expatriate assignments

The evidence showed that the most common organisational learning mechanism adopted among the managerial community within MNCs is the informal network (used by 84% of companies). International project groups/task forces also play a prominent role (used by 73% of organisations) and to a lesser degree expatriate assignments (used by 60% of organisations) and international formal committees (53% of organisations). In contrast, secondments are only adopted by around a quarter of the organisations (26%). The majority (82%) of organisations use two or more organisational learning mechanisms, with 53% adopting between three and four of the five organisational learning mechanisms among their managerial community. Around 9% fail to use any of the mechanisms listed. MNCs requiring integration between the UK operations and other sites worldwide are significantly more likely to adopt multiple organisational learning mechanisms (Tregaskis, Glover and Ferner, 2005). However, these national variations show that the form that organisational learning and diffusion take is strongly shaped by the national context of the parent firm.

2.4.6 Innovative HR Practice: UK MNC’s Use of Shared Services

According to Edwards et al (2007), the findings from the study found that half of the UK MNCs operate shared services centres and have international HR policy formation bodies. They are far less likely, compared to US and other European MNCs, to have a worldwide approach to workforce management. UK firms consistently aim to pay a greater proportion of employees (managers, LOG and key group) in the top or 2nd quartile. Nine in ten UK firm have performance appraisal for their managers while seven in ten have formal appraisals for their LOG (Edwards et al 2007). Use of forced distribution is uncommon as is the use of 360-degree feedback. An overwhelming majority of UK MNCs tend to recognise trade unions for collective bargaining purposes. Formally designed teams and problem-solving groups are commonly found in UK MNCs as are a large number of communication mechanisms with meetings between line managers and employees, newsletters/emails and systematic use of the management chain the most commonly found communication mechanisms. Although the majority of UK MNCs have succession planning and formal management development programmes these tend to be comparatively less than other MNCs.

2.4.7 Use of Expatriates

According to Edwards et al 2007, UK MNCs make considerably greater use of parent country expatriates than third country expatriates. This may reflect the short geographical proximity and cultural similarity between the UK and Ireland. UK MNCs tend to have considerable discretion over the various HR policy areas, much more than US firms.

2.4.8 IT Based Networks & Services

A key development in HR service provision over the past two decades has been the increased use of information technology (IT) (Edwards et al 2007). This is all the more relevant in MNCs, where IT systems may be used to monitor policy implementation and performance, and also to facilitate communications and networking, across borders. It thus provides an insight on the extent to which corporate management has access to HR data on its international operations and can compare performance on HR metrics across sites and countries. Specifically examined was the usage of IT based HR information systems (HRIS) and ‘shared services’ provision on an international level.

In regard to the diffusion of HRIS, respondents were asked whether the worldwide company had an “HR Information System (such as PeopleSoft or SAP HR) that holds data relating to the firms international workforce”. The responses for both foreign and UK-owned MNCs showed that just over half (54 per cent) of all MNCs in the UK reported the use of HRIS that operates on an international basis. This is a similar to a study by Collings et al (2007), that found in the parallel UK study, where some 52 per cent used such a system (Edwards et al., 2007). However, among MNCs in the UK, a greater proportion of foreign-owned MNCs (56 percent) than UK-owned MNCs (44 per cent) reported the use of HRIS on an international basis (Edwards et al 2007).

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There were some discernable differences in regard to ownership. As indicated from the study, American firms were the highest users of HRIS (70 per cent), while the ‘rest of the world’ MNCs is the least likely. This again resonates with the UK findings where US MNCs were among the greatest users of HRIS and Japanese MNCs the lowest (Edwards et al, 2007). The impact of sector on the take-up of HRIS will be fully outlined and placed in the appendix in the forthcoming chapters. Among UK MNCs, the service sector accounted for the greatest number of firms with HRIS. However, among foreign-owned MNCs multi-sector firms were by far the largest users, followed by those in the service.

2.5 Previous Research: Human Resource Factors

Previous studies have been utilized in exploring the current human resource innovative programmes that UK MNC’s must take into account in their drive for global expansion. One of the main limitations of this review is that it is limited within the context of UK MNC’s as there was the lack of evidence to determine the effects of these practices on MNC’s operating in the context of both emerging and non-emerging economies. This is in consonance with Ericksen and Dyer (2005) and Wright et al’s., (2005), both of who also called for further empirical research from different contexts. Gerhart (2005) substantiate the question, to what extent are these innovative HR programmes valid for other context by saying: “This is a concern because it seems unlikely that one set of HR practices will work equally well no matter what context”. To shed more light on the issue and to further examine the relevance and effects of such programmes, it is important to conduct research in non-US / UK context, (Katou & Budhwar, 2007), especially in emerging economies.

2.6 HR Factors for Global Expansion: Effectiveness

Previous research has explored the links between individual HR practices and corporate overall performance. For example, Lam and White (1998) reported that firms’ HR innovative programmes which are largely measured by the effective recruitment of employees, compensation programme, and extensive training and development were related to return on assets, growth in sales, and growth in stock values. Using a sample of manufacturing companies, multinational servicing companies and global financial institutions, Richard and Johnson (2001) examined the impact of strategic HRM effectiveness (ratings of how effectively a variety of HR practices were performed) on a number of performance variables. The findings suggested that implementation of innovative HR programmes had an effect on employee turnover and the overall performance of the company.

2.6.1 Recruitment & Selection

According to Terpstra and Rozelle’s (1993), who compared the relationship between recruiting / selection practices among US / UK MNC’s and the firms performance, it was found that there was a strong connection in the company’s performance between implementation of the new HR practices and the previous traditional practices, this was focused mainly on recruiting, selection and the use of formal selection procedures and firm performance. Cascio (1991) also states that the improved performances recorded after implementation of such new HR practices are generally substantial.

2.6.2 Employment Training Programmes

Russel, Terborg and Powers (1985) in a survey of 30 US MNC’s establishes a link between the adoption of employment training programs and financial performance. The use of performance appraisals (Borman, 1991) and linking such appraisals with compensation has strongly been connected with the performance of a firm. (Gerhart & Milkovich, 1990). Koch and McGrath (1996) reported that firms using more sophisticated staffing practices (planning, recruiting, and selection) had higher labor productivity.

2.6.3 Communication & Employee Involvement

Huselid (1995) reported that HR practices can influence firm performance through provision of organization structures that support involvement among employees and provides flexibility for improvement of job performance. Green et al (2006) states from findings of a survey that organizations that vertically aligned and horizontally integrated core human resource functions and practices performed better and produced more committed and satisfied HR function employees who exhibited improved individual and organizational performance.

2.6.4 Other Models

Most of the work on innovative human resource programmes and the company’s performance has been undertaken in the context of MNC’s who consider the US and the UK as their home country. The question which arises, though, is whether the UK and US-oriented models are appropriate and representative in other contexts (see debate in special issue of the International Journal of Human Resource Management, 12(7), 2001). Other studies analyzed such as Harel and Tzafrir (1999) found that in parts of Asia and the middle-east, innovative HR practices were related to perceived organizational and market performance. Bae and Lawler (2000) did find a significant relationship between HR practices and firm performance in their sample of 140 manufacturing firms in Asia, covering china, Japan and South Korea. Lee and Miller (1999) also found a strong relationship between HR practices and performance among a number of MNC’s in Asia, but it is clearly stated that this relationship was most strongly pronounced among firms using dedicated positioning (marketing differentiation or innovative differentiation) strategies. Bae et al., (2003) in their study of HR strategy in Pacific Rim countries found that the evidence of a strong relationship was however based on strict high-performance work system with a number of variable conditions. Morishima (1998) found support for the contingency perspective in a sample of Japanese companies. Firms with well-integrated high-involvement work practices and firms with well-integrated practices consistent with more traditional Japanese employment strategies both did better than firms with poorly integrated practices. Bae et al (2003) in their investigation of Hong Kong multinational companies found an increase in the firms performance due to certain core innovative HR work practices (training and compensation techniques) with high involvement characteristics.

2.7 Implementation

Whilst there are currently limited researches in respect of implementation of innovative HR programs in the context of UK MNC’s, however, according to Briscoe and Schuler (2004), Implementation may vary in respect of ‘what and how’, thus limiting the value of comparative survey research. Chew and Horowitz (2004) states that the subject of implementation should only be considered in the context of the specific MNC or firm involved, as there are lots of contextual factors and limitations in implementation hence the need to be cautious and dissuade any hasty conclusions when taking on findings from research journals on implementation. Horowitz (2004) states that primary research on implementation would need to focus on contingency approaches and mediating variables affecting the MNC level application. A number of theoretical approaches would also add to the importance of ‘context’ frameworks such as integration/divergence or universalism versus local particularism, and ethnocentric, geocentric, regiocentric and polycentric managerial strategies (Chew et al 2004). The author believes that such an extensive approach would not only examine the relationship between human resource innovative practices and relevance, but would take into account the host environment.

2.7.1 Implementation & Expansion: Formation of HR Strategies

According to Briscoe et al (2004), very little work has been done on the formation of methods for implementing and controlling the transition from specific administration HR services unto innovative programmes that are directly linked to strategic challenges such as increasing revenue through new market entry or mergers and acquisitions. The formation of the UK MNC’s corporate strategy has to take into account the balance between those activities that need to be centralized or standardized and the degree of flexibility required by the affiliate to operate in the host country Brock (2005).

The formation of HR strategies is distinguishable by variance in terms of level of abstraction and scope. The level of abstraction refers to the level at which the HR strategy is focused. According to Combs et al. (2006), there are different levels of abstraction in the design of a global HR system. Levels vary from recommendations, policy, to operational-level procedures. With a policy-level of abstraction, affiliates are given the freedom to implement their own HR strategies within the broad parameters of the standardized policies. However, with an operational level of abstraction, affiliates are expected to implement a more detailed HR management practice. Scope refers to the extent of HR management practices dealt with in the HR strategy. For example, the HR strategy may have a narrow scope and focus on two or three key areas, or it may have a wide scope and deal with the more comprehensive list of practices such as those described in the contingency perspective by Tregaskis et al (2005).

2.7.2 Research Evidence

Utilizing the findings from the research of 302 MNC’s operating in the UK by (Edwards et al 2007) and the framework for subsidiaries by Cooke (2003), it was found that the determination of the appropriate formation model is largely dependent on four variables which include:

The business model

The impact of national culture on the business model

The role of the MNC’s organizational culture in directing and controlling affiliates

The degree of convergence

2.7.3 Implementation & Expansion: Business Model

According to Cooke (2003), the business model largely drives corporate HR strategy and there is a need for congruence and alignment of HR management practices and business strategy. The increased complexity of MNC’s is the result of MNC’s pursuing value-creating opportunities that become available when firms have a global presence (Guest, 2003), but the increased complexity requires the appropriate organizational architecture, of which HR is a critical component. A most useful way of explaining MNC’S business models is the eclectic paradigm (Randall, 2006). In terms of the paradigm, MNC’s are advised to invest across national borders because of an interplay between a firm’s ownership-specific advantages (Firm Specific Advantages), the location attractiveness of countries or regions, and advantages gained from internalizing cross-border operations within the MNC’S; the so called OLI approach (Cooke, 2003). The first factor, Ownership, refers to the MNC’s specific competencies and an understanding of how they develop, the second, Location, relates to an appreciation of the transferability of a firm’s competencies between markets, while the third factor, Internalization, deals with the alternative modes of market entry in a competitive context. The choice of location is influenced by a combination of FSAs (firm specific advantage) and country-specific factors, such as the availability of natural resources, access to markets, or assets that complement the FSA (Ferner et al, 2005). These respective approaches are referred to as Resource Seeking Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Market Seeking FDI and Strategic Asset Seeking FDI (Cooke, 2003).

2.7.4 Implementation & Expansion: Influences on Destination

According to Harris et al, (2001), resource and market seeking activities were the primary drivers of FDI since the 1970s but this trend has reversed as the value of services and intangible assets increase. This has led to MNC’s seeking more knowledge-based assets in the form of intellectual capital or low-cost skilled labour, which in turn favours destinations with knowledge intensive assets or learning advantages away from those with purely natural resources. In all four cases, the firms are primarily exporting knowledge intensive FSAs that will either give them access to new markets or support their existing FSAs (Harris et al 2001). By implication, it can be expected that the role of social capital, and consequently HR,

plays a more significant role in strategic asset seeking MNC’S business models than resource seeking or purely market seeking business models (Chew, 2004).This is consistent with the findings of Agarwala (2003), who found that MNC’S business models are evolving into differentiated businesses that are characterized by a global dispersion of operations, interdependence and tight coupling of subunits, and an emphasis on cross-subsidiary learning and structural flexibility. Agarwala (2003), in his study of two giant pharmaceutical firms, found varying evidence of this trend towards a common model and a greater complexity was developing within firms which was characterized by a growing internal differentiation in internal structures of MNC’s.

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This is also discussed by McDonnell (2007) who refer to firms with a high level of internal differentiation as differentiated network MNC’s and these firms are characterized by a high level of transfer of knowledge, both location and non-location based, in multiple directions. McDonnell (2007) show that different approaches to managing subsidiaries arise from the varying needs of subsidiaries for access to different bundles of knowledge, these may be location bound (e.g. local market responsiveness) or non-location bound (LB and NLB knowledge bundles). In addition, the movement of the bundles may be unidirectional – from parent to affiliate, or multi-directional – affiliate to parent or from networks of subsidiaries.

2.7.5 Implementation & Expansion: The Effects of Culture

The impact of national culture on the operations of an MNC’S is experienced most strongly in its HR management practices. National culture impacts on the implementation of corporate HR strategy as personal motivations, the way that information is synthesized, and economic utilities are culture bound (Hofstede, 1991). Yeniyurt et al (2003) show that national culture provides an important role in limiting the depth and acceptance of universal management practices across an MNC’S. The significance of national culture on moderating HRM practices was explored by Ferner et al. (2005), who examined the differences between management practices in MNC’s and their operations in host countries and found in their study of German MNC’s operating in Britain and Spain. They discovered that although there are pressures on MNC’s to adopt US-style business practices such as standardized international policies on appraisal, performance management and so on, that the influence of the German business system persists.

This view was a challenge to a study by Collings et al. (2007), who examined what types of changes would be introduced to British companies when taken over by foreign companies. In particular, the study tried to identify whether there were nationally distinct approaches to management following the acquisitions. The study found that the process of acquisition was rapidly followed by significant changes in management practice but that some practices were common to all companies while others conformed to accepted characterizations of national management practice. The national conformation was clear in the case of Japanese and US acquirers, but less so for French and German firms.

2.7.6 Implementation & Expansion: HR strategy, Managerial Beliefs and culture

Countering the role of national culture and local conditions is organizational culture; a strong organizational culture unites employees in their actions which, in turn, influences performance (Schein, 1992). Organizational culture is often seen as an instrument to maintain unity and control between parent and affiliate, and can play a role in moderating the freedom of the affiliate to change and adapt its HR strategy from the corporate HR strategy. (Collings et al, 2007) found that substantial differences in management role expectations exist both across and inside MNC’s, which suggests that differences result from more than national cultures and may indicate the role of organizational culture.

Schein (1992) explore the relationship between organizational culture, strategy and performance. It was found that there is a positive relationship between culture and performance and that strategy is influenced by culture, which in turn, influences and develops the corporate culture. It then follows that it is in the interest of organizations to establish and build an organizational culture that provides both a competitive advantage and a distinctive identity. Easterby-Smith et al. (2002) distinguish between internal work culture and external culture. Internal work culture is similar to organizational culture and is construed as a pattern of shared managerial beliefs and assumptions that directly influence HR practices. These beliefs and assumptions in turn relate to both the task and employees. Managerial assumptions about the task relate to the nature of the task and how it should be performed, while those assumptions relating to employees relate to the nature and behaviour of employees.

2.7.7 Transfer of Culture: The Role of Expatriates

According to Scullion et al (2006), managerial assumptions of task and employees are influenced, in turn, by institutional level culture and societal-level culture. The transfer of organizational culture is often done through the use of expatriates. Expatriates from the MNC’s parent country are used in managing the interests of the organization and transferring its competencies, systems and even aspects of its organizational culture to its subsidiaries in foreign locations. This is referred to as an ethnocentric approach, as opposed to a polycentric approach where affiliates are staffed by host country nationals, or a geocentric approach which staffs affiliates and subsidiaries with staff from a third country (Scullion et al, 2006).

For MNC’s, organizational culture fulfils an additional role in that it determines the method of exercising control or influence over the affiliates and the cross-MNC’S implementation of corporate HR strategy. In an organization with an organic culture (Bhattacharya et al, 2005), formal control systems are likely to cause dissonance while the same is true for an organization with a mechanistic culture not utilizing formal processes.

2.7.8 Implementation & Expansion: Issues of convergence

Convergence, also known as isomorphism, is the process whereby MNC’s will gravitate towards a series of universal management practices that provide competitive benefits for themselves (Cullen, 2002). The drivers of convergence at organizational level are efficiency, growth, and the development and utilization of technology. Convergence can be regarded as continuous organizational learning and the development and application of practices that lead to organizational efficiency, but are still flexible enough to be applied generally (Huselid, 2005). It follows that convergence is also occurring in the adoption of international HR practices; with increased complexity facing MNC’s, there has been less emphasis on formal structure and a greater focus on HR management policies and practices, which form an integral part of the process-input control systems of modern MNC’s. This has led to an upsurge in the search for global best practices or HR strategies that can be applied across all cultures (Briscoe et al, 2004).

The contingent view of HR strategy in MNC’s emphasizes that there is one best method, even within contingent variables such as stage of internal corporate evolution

(Marginson et al, 2004). Typical of the contingent view is that of Tregakis et al (2005) who investigated the standardization of Western practices in Chinese-Western joint ventures. The study showed that overall HRM practices had become similar to those in Western MNC’s, especially when compared with data gathered in 1992. This was seen as due to the spread of Western ideals in the Chinese business network, the greater emphasis that Western MNC’s were placing on HR management, and the limited liberalization of Chinese employment legislation. It was noted that few Western companies had made the total transfer of HRM policies to China; this was not due to national cultural differences but local conditions.

Edwards (2004) came to a similar general view, although in a different context when he compared HRM practices in European firms in six divergent countries. Edwards (2004) found that although there were differences in management practices across these firms, that this was more likely due to the role of legal and political structures in the various countries than cognitive orientation. Most firms wanted to adopt the latest management practices prescribed in American literature and supported by business consulting firms across Europe, but could not because of varying regulative and political conditions. Some evidence is emerging that there exists a hybrid between divergence and convergence (Lei et al, 2005). This is defined as cross-vergence, which refers to cross-cultural diffusion of high performance work practices (HPWPs).

The motivation for adopting HPWPs includes the need for efficiency, productivity, and high quality goods and services but these are tempered by contextual factors present in the host country. Cross-vergence provides an integrative alternative to the convergence/divergence debate and accommodates diversity, at both country level and within-country level. Cross-vergence also implies reverse diffusion.

2.7.9 Discussion

Additional factors that would influence the expansion and formation of MNC’S HR strategies are institutional and cognitive factors. Institutional factors include regulatory factors in the home country that would impact on the translation of corporate HR strategy by an affiliate in a host country, (Wright et al, 2005). Wright et al (2005) points out that a country’s institutional framework and its cognitive sets impede or enhance the application of HR practices such as performance appraisals. Ferner et al, (2005) in a study of 249 US affiliates of foreign-based MNC’s found that in general, affiliate HRM practices closely resemble practices of local (US) firms. Where differences do exist, these are influenced by method of founding, dependence on local inputs, the presence of expatriates and the extent of communication with the parent. These findings were further elaborated by Combs et al (2006) who found that the affiliate’s dependence on host institutions would be reduced when a subsidiary (or affiliate) is highly dependent on the parent to provide crucial resources and when the parent was likely to exert influence through formal coordination mechanisms.

3. Practices

3.1 Approach to Domestic Environment

According to Collings et al (2007), in the context of HR and global expansion, one influential category of factors that has been highlighted from previous research when is the issue of the domestic environment, often referred to as the “host country” effect, with attention being paid to the influence of such variables as local culture, and legal, social, economic, and political systems (Perkins et al, 2006). Researchers additionally suggest that the greater the cultural distance between the home and the host country, the harder it will be for the multinational to transfer home country philosophies and practices (Ferner et al, 2005). That is, while the multinationals are pursuing global expansion and integration, they are forced to be responsive to the demands in each area in the countries and regions within which they operate (Guest, 2003).

With this in mind, it is therefore imperative for UK MNC’s to put in place HRM practices that are consistent with national development plans of their intending host countries, (Tregakis et al, 2005). In several European countries, particularly Germany and Austria, workforce representation in the company, legal rights of consultation and co-management in specific areas are of prime importance. Conversely, in Britain there is no obligation to recognise unions or establish structures of employee representation with the result that MNCs from more regulated economies have the option to set up subsidiaries without any workforce representation.

3.2 Approach to Employees

According to Cooke (2003), the current practices among UK MNC’s leans more to a polycentric approach than a regiocentric staffing approach. Whichever approach is eventually chosen, the next issue that would come to mind would be effective recruitment and selection issues. There are three types of employees to be considered which are; employees from the parent company / home country who will be known as expatriates, employees from the host country and other employees who are neither from the home or host countries. According to Ferner (1997), the type of government policies and the nature of legal and labour market conditions in the host countries, plays a key role in influencing the strategies and policies of the MNC’s by either encouraging or impeding certain industrial relations practices. For example, in a developing country, a host government may dictate hiring procedures, as in the case of Malaysia in the 1970s when the government made it mandatory for all foreign firms to provide additional employment for the indigenous Malays (Chew et al., 2004) and with the current policies in Saudi Arabia and the Philippines where indigenous employment quotas of 75 and 95 per cent have been imposed respectively.

The three types of employees mentioned must be incorporated into the HR strategy of the UK MNC, despite their advantages and disadvantages. Integrating these employees into the company’s system and getting them to function across functional lines efficiently can be a challenge and daunting task and according to Ferner (1997), the first stage in the process is to establish the culture within the MNC and how this can be propagated within the global operations.

3.3 Innovative Programmes

Edgar et al’s (2005) meta-analysis of 104 articles found that training and development, contingent pay and reward schemes, performance management (including appraisal) and careful recruitment and selection were the top-four HRM practice-level categories used by different researchers. These are seen to reflect the main objectives of most conceptualisations of a ‘strategic’ HRM programme (Batt, 2000: 587) namely, to identify and recruit strong performers, provide them with the abilities and confidence to work effectively, monitor their progress towards the required performance targets, and reward them well for meeting or exceeding them

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4. Conclusion

4.1 Discussion

Following an extensive literature survey and taking into account the proposed definition of innovative HRM practices, this study considered the relevance and effectiveness of a few of those practices which include: expatriate and redeployment policies, recruitment policies, compensation and reward, training and retraining policies, performance management and appraisal. Edgar et al’s (2005) meta-analysis of 104 articles found that training and retraining, compensation and reward, performance management (including appraisal) and careful recruitment and selection were the top-four HR practice-level categories used by different researchers. These are seen to reflect the main objectives of most theories of innovative ‘strategic’ HRM programmes (Batt, 2002). The activities would involve: identification and recruitment of employees who are performing and capable of performing, provide them with the abilities and confidence to work effectively, monitor their progress towards the required performance targets, and reward them well for meeting or exceeding them.

4.2 Key Evaluation Factors

I have utilized the relevant literature to investigate and discuss the main issues relevant to innovative human resources practices organizations need to consider as they embark on global expansion. The researchers have given a number of factors and dimensions to the topic which I would utilize in my survey. The key relevant factors gathered from the literature reviewed which I would use for the proposed survey include;

  • Innovative HR Practices: Recruitment Policies
  • Innovative HR Practices: Compensation and reward
  • Innovative HR Practices: Training and retraining policies
  • Innovative HR Practices: Performance appraisal
  • Innovative HR Practices: Expatriate and redeployment policies

4.3 Justification for Choice of Factors

I have chosen these factors as my framework for further analysis because they have been cited by more than ten authors as the main drivers of human resource management on a global scale. In addition, with these assertions going as far back as seven years and yet still very relevant today that therefore gives an indication of its acceptability.

4.4 Review

Although these brief findings may constitute a bit of basis to state the importance and relevance of innovative human resource programmes for UK MNC’s, however there is the need for this to be backed up with additional robust and quantitative evidence to support the findings. This is in consonance with Edwards et al, (2007), and Wright et al., (2005) who have called for a wider investigation in different contexts. In light of this, in this thesis, I would hope to substantiate this evidence by carrying out a survey on a UK multinational company as discussed in the next chapter.

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