Recently I had the pleasure to attend the 2nd Global Conference on International Human Resource Management at Penn State University in State College. In this post I would like to talk about some of the opportunities and challenges for the IHRM field that were highlighted during the closing session of the conference*.
What is the relevance of our research?
While it seems very obvious that the research that we do should be relevant, the question is – for whom is it relevant? The panel pointed out the increased value that is being placed on the link between academic research and the ‘real world’. Case in point is the Research Excellence Framework in the UK, which now includes impact of research beyond academia – comprising 20% of the assessment which determines research funding. I fully agree that the relevance of our research for practice is very important (see Bridging Theory and Practice). The panel also discussed the importance of keeping an eye on what is happening in HR practice; and then it is for us, academics, to determine whether there is really something of value in it, or whether it is just a passing fad.
Going beyond ‘WEIRD’?
The field of International Human Resource Management has been very much focused on expatriates, and on one specific type: the Western company-sponsored expatriate who is sent to a developing country. The panel suggested that we should diversify our research to include different regions, and directions in which expatriates are sent – for example, more and more Asian expatriates come to Europe. In that sense, you could say that our discipline suffers from the same problem psychologists have: their findings are often ‘weird’ (coming from Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic countries) and, therefore, not necessarily applicable to the rest of the world.
Other potential research areas
Other fruitful research areas could be different types of organisations than the typical multinational enterprise, for example non-governmental organisations and small and medium sized enterprises. We could also look at international organisations which depend on volunteers – an example is Young SIETAR, which is an international organisation with members in many different countries, who organise events such as an annual congress and regular webinars. These dynamics remain largely unexplored.
Thanks to the Center for International Human Resource Studies for a wonderful conference, and to the panel for this food for thought!
* The panel of expert academics were: Lisbeth Claus (Willamette University, USA), Torben Andersen (University of Southern Denmark), Michael Morley (University of Limerick, Ireland), and Miguel Olivas-Luján (Clarion University, USA). The panel was chaired by Chris Brewster (Henley Business School, UK). Photo of the panel: courtesy of CIHRS.
Update: A summary of the discussion during this panel session has now been provided on the CIHR website – read more here.