Transfer of HR practices in multinational companies

Research by Barbara Myloni - my first PhD student - on local isomorphism versus internal consistency in multinationals

Barbara Myloni was my first ever PhD student, joining me in the late nineties at the University of Bradford. She visited me in the UK in 2017 and attended one of our CYGNA meetings. It was interesting to see how similar our lives and preferences had evolved over the last two decades. The earlier distinction between us as supervisor and student had completely disappeared. Obviously, our seven-year age difference was much larger back then than it was now!

Barbara’s work on the transfer of HR practices was quite closely related to work I had done in my own PhD on HQ subsidiary relationships. One of the central questions in the literature on multinationals is the extent to which their subsidiaries act and behave as local firms (local isomorphism) versus the extent to which their (human resource) practices resemble those of the parent company or some other global standard (internal consistency). The purpose of Barbara’s research was to provide an insight into the interplay of cultural, institutional and organisational factors that affect the transfer of HRM practices across borders.

As is the case in many other areas of international management, previous research in this area had focused mostly on Japan and the USA as home/host countries. Within Europe, research had almost exclusively focused on Germany and the UK. Barbara therefore purposefully selected an underrepresented research setting (Greece) and focused on European MNCs rather than Japanese and American MNCs only. Barbara published three articles with me and her 2nd supervisor – Hafiz Mirza – and all three of them became quite well-cited. After she had moved back to Greece, she also collaborated in two of my other projects – relating to the role of language in survey research – by collecting data for Greece.

  • Myloni, B.; Harzing, A.W.; Mirza, H.R. (2007) The effect of organisational factors on the transfer of human resource management practices: European and US MNCs and their Greek subsidiaries, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 18(12): 2057–2074. Available online... - Publisher’s version
  • Myloni, B.; Harzing, A.W.; Mirza, H.R. (2004) Host country specific factors and the transfer of Human Resource Management practices in multinational companies, International Journal of Manpower, 25(6): 518-534. Available online... - Publisher’s version
  • Myloni, B.; Harzing, A.W.; Mirza, H.R. (2004) Human Resource Management in Greece: Have the colours of culture faded away?, International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 4(1): 59-76. Available online... - Publisher’s version

Convergence versus divergence

Another research project in this same area, in collaboration with Markus Pudelko, led to the rather surprising conclusion that for what might be considered to be the most localized of functions - human resource management - convergence to a world-wide best practices model (also called dominance effect) is clearly present for Japanese and German MNCs and as such challenges established beliefs in this area.

We suggested that MNCs might limit transfer of practices to what they consider to be their core competencies and converge to best practices in other areas. This paper won the Ulrich-Lake award for the best paper published in Human Resource Management in 2007. A related paper with Markus Pudelko looked at management practices in Europe and assessed the extent to which a common European model is present, whilst a subsequent book chapter dealt with Japanese HRM in particular.

  • Pudelko, M.; Harzing, A.W. (2007a) Country-of-Origin, Localization or Dominance Effect? An empirical investigation of HRM practices in foreign subsidiaries, Human Resource Management, 46(4): 535-559. [Winner of the 2007 Ulrich-Lake award for the best paper published in Human Resource Management.] Available online... - Publisher’s version
  • Pudelko, M.; Harzing, A.W. (2008) The Golden Triangle for MNCs: Standardization towards headquarters practices, standardization towards global best practices and localization, Organizational Dynamics, 37(4): 394–404. Available online... - Publisher’s version
  • Pudelko, M.; Harzing, A.W. (2007b) How European is management in Europe? An analysis of past, present and future management practices in Europe, European Journal of International Management, 1(3): 206-224. Available online... - Publisher’s version
  • Pudelko, M.; Harzing, A.W. (2010) Japanese HRM: Inspirations from abroad and current trends of change, in: Bebenroth, R. (ed) International Human Resource Management in Japan, London: Routledge. Available online...

Drop me a line

Free pre-publication versions of these papers are hyperlinked. If you’d like to have an official reprint for these papers, just drop me an email.

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