Developing and Integrating HRM Practices in MNC Subsidiaries in China

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http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-232-054-4
Title: Developing and Integrating HRM Practices in MNC Subsidiaries in China
Author: Sumelius, Jennie
Contributor: Hanken School of Economics, Department of Management and Organisation, Management and Organisation
Publisher: Svenska handelshögskolan
Date: 2009-09-11
Belongs to series: Economics and Society - 205
ISBN: 978-952-232-054-4
ISSN: 0424-7256
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10227/427
http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-232-054-4
Thesis level: Doctoral thesis
Abstract: Whilst previous research on Human Resource Management (HRM) in subsidiaries of multinational companies (MNCs) has focused extensively on the HRM practices that exist in foreign subsidiaries and the extent to which they resemble MNC home country and/or local host country practices, considerably less attention has been directed at the question of how these practices come to exist. Accordingly, this thesis aims to shed light on the processes that shape HRM practices and capabilities in MNC subsidiaries. The main contribution of the thesis is the focus on how; how HRM practices are integrated in MNC subsidiaries, and how subsidiary HRM capabilities are developed through involvement in social networks. Furthermore, this thesis includes a time aspect which, despite not being purely longitudinal, provides an indication of the ongoing changes in HRM in MNC subsidiaries in China. Data for this study were collected in 2005-2006 through structured face to face interviews with 153 general managers and HR managers in 87 subsidiaries of European MNCs located in China. Five of the six thesis papers build on this questionnaire data and one paper builds on qualitative data collected at the same time. Two papers build on dual data sets, meaning that they in addition to the abovementioned data include quantitative questionnaire data from 1996 and 1999 respectively. The thesis focuses on the following four sub-questions i) To what extent do subsidiary HRM practices resemble parent MNC and host country practices? How has this changed over time and why? ii) How are HRM practices integrated into MNC subsidiaries and why are certain integration mechanisms used? iii) How does involvement in internal and external social networks influence subsidiary HRM capabilities? iv) What factors influence the strategic role of the subsidiary HR department? Regarding the first sub-question the findings indicate that the HRM practices of MNC subsidiaries in China are converging with both local company practices and parent MNC practices. This is interesting in the sense that it suggests that the isomorphic pressures the subsidiary faces from the MNC and from its local host environment are not always in conflict with each other. Concerning the question of how HRM practices are integrated into MNC subsidiaries and why certain integration mechanisms are used, the thesis provides a fine-grained examination of four mechanisms that MNCs use to integrate HRM practices in subsidiaries. The findings suggest that MNCs use a variety of different integration mechanisms as complements rather than as substitutes for each other. Furthermore, it is apparent that different contextual factors in the subsidiary and the subsidiary-headquarters relationship influence why certain mechanisms are or are not used. The most interesting contribution of the thesis in regard to the third question is that it highlights the importance of network involvement for learning about HRM practices in the Chinese context. Networks with other MNCs in China clearly emerged as particularly important contributors to enhanced HRM capabilities. Finally, concerning the fourth sub-question the findings indicate that the role of the HR department in MNC subsidiaries in China had become more strategic between 1999 and 2006.
Subject: HRM capabilities
integrations mechanisms
networks
role of the HR department
MNC subsidiary
China
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