Transfer of human resource policies and practices from German multinational companies to their subsidiaries in South East Asia

Stehle, Wolfgang (2004) Transfer of human resource policies and practices from German multinational companies to their subsidiaries in South East Asia. Other thesis, University of Southern Queensland.

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Abstract

The transfer of human resource policies and practices from headquarters to subsidiary locations becomes increasingly important in multinational enterprises as they develop from being exporting organisations to having stand-alone country subsidiaries, as a step towards the globalisation of their operations. The ability to transfer knowledge effectively across borders is a key characteristic of successful multinational enterprises. International human resource managers need to keep informed about the pressures of globalisation on their businesses and study local human resource issues relevant to their firms' operations. This study attempts to bridge the fields of international human resource management and strategic management, by investigating how German multinational enterprises transfer human resource policies and practices to their subsidiaries in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. While western multinational enterprises operating in Asian countries face different human resource issues from those in their home countries, existing research has a strong focus on Anglo-Saxon experiences, which results in a lack of studies of European and specifically, German multinationals. This study focuses on a sample of German multinational enterprises and the internationalisation of their human resource function. Against this background, the research question is 'How do German multinational companies transfer human resource policies and practices to and from their subsidiaries in South East Asia?' The themes to be investigated emerge from the fields of international human resource management; national, cultural and legal differences in human resource management in selected enterprises between Germany, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, and the impact of the headquarters policies and practices of these multinational enterprises on human resource issues in their subsidiaries. The study investigates a number of research issues. The first is the international human resource management approach of German multinational enterprises' headquarters towards their subsidiaries. A second research issue deals with the key cultural, legal and societal differences that influence the transfer of human resource policies and practices. A third research issue analyses whether there is a general climate of innovation and trust between headquarters and subsidiaries that facilitates organisational change. A fourth research issue investigates how specific policies and practices could change when applied in different countries. Finally, the roles of headquarters people and subsidiary staff in the transfer process are studied. This exploratory study uses qualitative methodology and is based on the analysis of case studies. The three main cases are German Fortune Global 500 industrial companies from different industries, namely electrical, mechanical and chemical, and with subsidiaries in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. Prior theory in the literature review and exploratory expert and pilot interviews led to the development of a detailed interview protocol. A total of 24 in-depth interviews with human resource directors and line managers form the backbone of data collection. New contributions to the body of knowledge concern the incongruence between the internationalisation of the business versus the human resource function, the link between knowledge management and the human resource field, and the significance of attitudinal relationships in the transfer process. Finally, cultural differences among the transfer coalition are found to have a more significant impact on the transfer than cultural differences of the respective workforces. The contributions to management practice include five recommendations for practitioners. These revolve around increasing the international experience of the local human resource director to address the mismatch between the ever expanding role of the local human resource director and the required, but presently lacking, international profile to fulfil that role. For the organisation of the human resource function in headquarters, assigning a mentor to a country or region and providing more practical guidance, rather than policies, are examples of recommendations. In brief, this study attempts to explain why German companies may experience problems when they transfer human resource policies and practices to their subsidiaries in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. In addition to being of interest academically, the results of this study might assist managers of multinational enterprises in designing better and more transferable international human resource management policies and practices. Contributions are made concerning the feedback routes from subsidiaries to headquarters, and finally, about the organisation of human resource management.


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Item Type: Thesis (Non-Research) (Other)
Refereed: No
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) (Pre-2008) thesis. The DBA as accredited from 1998 to 2007 was a professional doctorate with both coursework and research dissertation components.
Depositing User: epEditor USQ
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Business - No Department
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 00:15
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:30
Uncontrolled Keywords: human resource management, multinational companies, policies, practices, transfer, Germany, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia
Fields of Research (FOR2008): 15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150305 Human Resources Management
15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150308 International Business
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/115

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