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Title: Global HR: Challenges facing the functionAuthor: P Reilly & T Williams Publisher: Gower UKPrice: £70ISBN: 978-1-4094-0278-7
This is a dense read which looks at HRM from a from a home country/head office perspective. The view is from the lofty perch in ‘Group HRM’, where policy is produced and from where directives are sent out to operators in the – foreign – field. There is much excellent material for UK practitioners applying HRM principles in host country environments, and on passing policies to operating companies. It’s certainly not a book to attempt to read from cover to cover, but is a good source for material on how major UK companies seek to operate internationally.It is not, however, a guide to how truly global or transnational companies manage HR nor, even more important, how Asian companies manage their foreign operations. Sadly, the writing style is ponderous and the use of long sentences and words, such as ‘vacuousness’, will present difficulties for many readers.The authors give – fairly uncritical – accounts of many systems sold by management consultants, which will be very useful, although they give less prominence to reputable academics who have more robust analyses of what works and what does not work in various situations. Access to more academic sources would have been useful. The inward looking stance, which often relies on considering how the authors’ current or previous employers would deal with a situation, offers handy insights – but at the cost of losing wider perspectives. For example, on diversity, there is a fine discussion of the issues in the UK, but these are presented as ‘global’ matters. It reminded me of the time I interviewed a very senior HR manager in Asia who worked for the employer of one of the authors. The Asian discussed head office’s policies on diversity, and said there were constant directives to increase and report on the diversity of staff in the region’s operations. Yet when he went to visit head office, he rarely saw a non-white person. Its HRM department was overwhelmingly employing women with a sprinkling of men in mostly senior posts. My contact said this was an arrogant, ‘do what we say, not what we do’ attitude. For a reader seeking to be less arrogant, the book does offer worthwhile discussions on potential conundrums or difficulties which global companies face, but these are considered from the head office perspective and the realities of the host country impact are neglected. This is understandable when one considers the potential difficulties that arise if the local operation causes problems ¬– such as when exploitation of labour or environmental damage harms the reputation of the global company.The book does offer a trove of examples of systems and practices that could, ideally, be developed and adapted to apply in other organisations. However, in common with most HRM books, there is a neglect of wider business objectives. Important areas of the reality of business on the ground that are lacking include:
Although I’ve drawn attention to the ethnocentric aspects of this book, and several shortcomings, it is likely that the vast majority of HR professionals will find this a useful handbook on the application of HRM outside the UK. If the reader tries hard to apply what best fits their organisation’s long term requirements, and feeds back into the home HRM function lessons of better practices from elsewhere, the book will have improved the ways of working with a wide variety of people. Dr Wes Harry is an HR advisor to governments and companies mainly in East Asia and The Gulf, and a visiting fellow at Cass Business School.