DEVELOPING GLOBAL HUMAN RESOURCE STRATEGIES
FHW-Berlin School of Economics
Discussion paper for European International Business Academy 27th Annual Meeting, 13-15 December 2001 in Paris
Abstract. A few years ago it was typical to give one’s subsidiaries a free rein and send managers overseas from headquarters only. But today a great deal depends on overcoming this one-way street and in looking for and employing the best-suited managers, regardless of their origins. What contribution can human resource management make towards a company’s global orientation – an area in which local scope and latitude are traditionally very high?
Our study shows that in recent years large US and German industrial enterprises have re-aligned the management of their executive staff. Cornerstones of this quiet revolution are a policy of worldwide parity of executives in evaluation, remuneration and development, greater participation of those with line responsibility from product areas and regions in strategic development, as well as a re-alignment of human resource instruments. Worldwide standards in human resource policy are key factors in the competition for qualified managers. Not only companies, but also executives need to adjust. How have these companies managed to press ahead this quantum leap in their international strategy for executives? What significance do local or cultural differences have, if any? What are the possible consequences of this job market opening? The following article makes “best practice” proposals for pursuing new avenues towards a cross-border human resource strategy.
∗Hans-Erich Mueller is a Professor of Management and Organization at the FHW-Berlin School of Economics in Berlin/Germany and a guest professor at Reims Management School in France. Parts of this article are published in German as “Wie Global Player den Kampf um Talente führen” in Harvard Business Manager 2001, No. 6, p. 16-25
Cynics ask: “What’s so important about globalization? It’s been under way for decades.” In fact, in the beginning it only affected a few areas and only a few functions like marketing and financing. “Global Players” were certainly exceptions to the rule. In the meantime however, this process has gained in breadth and latitude: today it no longer depends on if but rather on how – on “Best Practices in International Business” (Czinkota/Ronkainen 2001). In the near future and in almost every area of business, we will be forced to contend with the challenges of a global economy, in which the old rules no longer apply and the new ones are yet to be developed. And this also applies to the area often considered the tailender: cross-border human resource management.
“Do you have worldwide HR policies, that is, policies that apply to all employees regardless of location?” This is one of the central questions underlying our interviews with HRM executives of the twelve largest German manufacturers, which took place between the summer and fall of 2000. This includes the largest German companies excluding trade, banking and insurance, as well as energy suppliers according to the Business Week Global 1000, 12 July 1999. We wanted to measure the degree of development in an area in which, traditionally, decision-making had rarely been centralized and questions concerning the overseas assignments dominated. In other words, is human resource management also in the process of being globally integrated as other functions previously? Is there enough room for adequate local adjustment? How and with whom will this changed policy be developed and implemented?
The idea for our study originated from our collaboration with Thomas M. Begley and David P. Boyd of Northeastern University in Boston, who interviewed executives from 32 large U.S based high technology companies, such as AT&T, Cisco, IBM, Intel and...
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