Managing global human resources in UK multi-national corporations

  • Sheehan, Maura (PI)

    Project Details


    Professor Maura Sheehan, EU Marie Curie Scholar (2009-2012), conducted an EU-funded empirical study on the determinants and performance of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the emerging economies of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

    The Managing global human resources in UK multi-national corporations research project took place between 2009 and 2012 and was commissioned by the European Commission.

    Three CE countries have received significant foreign direct investment: Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. This study drew upon the disciplines of economics and management theory to examine how UK-owned companies made the decision to invest in these three countries.

    The study examined the enabling factors that help contribute to successful subsidiary investments, with a particular focus on the management of HR between the subsidiary and UK headquarters. The study focused solely on UK-owned firms with brown and greenfield subsidiaries.

    It examined the importance and constantly evolving role of global HR managers and directors. It explored the well-researched link between business strategy, the use of HRM practices and performance in the subsidiary. The research identified characteristics of successful foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region and policy recommendations were made based on these findings.

    The objectives of this research project were to:
    > determine the factors which influence the foreign investment decision making process within UK-owned multinational corporations (MNCs) and the strategic role of Human Resource Management departments in these decisions
    > establish how human resources contribute to the competitive advantage of foreign subsidiaries
    > establish a set of characteristics associated with successful foreign investment in the region, and use this information to formulate guidelines and policy recommendations for MNCs, host country governments and European Union policymakers.

    Key findings

    The project compared how labour is managed and by whom in foreign and domestic subsidiaries of the same organisations. The relationships between strategic HRM, devolvement of HR to line managers and subsidiary performance were examined. The significance of country and organisational culture in understanding differences in HRM and the delivery of HR were central to this investigation.

    Our researcher collected large amounts of quantitative and qualitative data and gained a better understanding of issues pertaining to agency (for example, conflict between Chief Finance Officers and HR directors, conflict between line managers and HR specialists and conflict between subsidiaries and headquarters). Econometric analysis found agency problems were negatively correlated with the performance of subsidiaries. The role of agency, and especially how culture and organisational history (all of which are more complex in the ‘contested space’ of foreign subsidiaries) has been under-researched by HR scholars. Ways to reduce agency were explored and have the potential to make important socio-economic impacts.

    The University of Brighton hosted Global HRM-themed sessions within the Work and Employment & Society (WES) Conference in 2010, attracting leading global HRM scholars and contributing to knowledge sharing and transfer within the EU.
    Professor Sheehan has published research findings widely, including editing a Special Issue of the International Journal of Human Resource Management with Professor Paul Sparrow in 2012.

    Professor Sheehan was invited to present findings from the study by universities, government departments and agencies in the three study countries and also developed links with the Institute of Employment Studies (IES) related to this work.

    Sheehan, M. and Pocztowski, A (2013) Human resource development in multinational organisations: Introductory forward to special issue. Human Resource Management. Poland.

    Sheehan, M. (2013) Strategic HRM, devolvement, and the perceived performance in multinational corporations (MNCs): A mediating role for line of sight? Organization and Management, Polish Academy of Sciences

    Sheehan, M. and Sparrow, P (2012) The International Journal of Human Resource Management Special issue: Global HRM and economic change) 23 (12).

    Sheehan, M and Sparrow, P (2012) Global human resource management and economic change: A multiple level of analysis research agenda. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23 (12) 2393-2403.

    Sheehan, M (2012) Developing managerial talent: Exploring the link between management talent and perceived performance in multinational corporations. European Journal of Training and Development, 36 (1) 66-85.

    Sheehan, M (2012) Investing in management development in turbulent times and perceived organisational performance: A study of UK MNCs and their subsidiaries. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23 (12) 2491-2513.

    Sheehan, M (2012) Devolvement of HRM and perceived performance within multinational corporations (MNCs). European Journal Of International Management, 6 (1) 101-127.

    Sheehan, M (2012) Exploring the link between management development and perceived performance in multinational corporations (MNCs): An analysis of Polish and UK subsidiaries'. Human Resource Management, 84 (12) 117-134.
    Effective start/end date1/09/0931/08/12


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