The Development of Human Resource Management Across Nations: Unity and Diversity, edited by Bruce E. Kaufman (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2014, 528 pages, RRP $175)
Editor Bruce Kaufman has assembled leading academics and senior practitioners across the globe to address the development of HR in all its forms. The book has 18 chapters, 17 of which address an individual country.
Historical evolution is diligently explored, with Kaufman effectively arguing that this has valuable lessons for HR management. The impact of multinational companies, their styles and cultures are reviewed in detail, and provide a sound basis for analysing the issues confronting HR interventions and systems.
Having worked for a company present in 200 countries, I’ve had fast-track experience in understanding communication and cultural vagaries, and I can say that an eclectic study such as this would have helped me greatly.
Examples such as Italy, Turkey, Israel and Brazil are explicit in indicating the breadth of challenges and opportunities for the global HR community. Concomitant learning from this study would also lead to a better understanding of organisational HR effectiveness in a multicultural country such as Australia.
The 17 countries have been chosen according to three criteria: they each have a substantively interesting story of HR development; they each represent an important geographical perspective; and they each have a degree of uniqueness in terms of political system, culture and language, and economic development (thereby omitting countries that are overly similar).
The book is academic in design, but not to the extent that the reader gets lost in microanalysis and acknowledgement, which can be a feature of such works.
The chapter authors include a CEO, an industrial relations director, a leader at the House of German History in Bonn, and many professors and scholars. They are all native to the countries they write about and national authorities in the subject field.
HR and management fraternities would undoubtedly find value in this book. The HR texts and journals they tend to reference are heavily slanted towards western democratic models, with examples of performance management and the like that make significant assumptions about people at work, cultural norms and communication patterns. However, countries such as Russia, China and Japan are markedly divergent in terms of political models and culture. Issues around ‘face’ alone affect HR management across a wide spectrum.
In summary, this book is disciplined and effective comparative research that meets its stated objectives. The historical evolutions it describes are, in themselves, fascinating.
It’s quite rightly said that HR professionals should read a definitive text at least annually to prime their thinking for the future, and this book fits that bill.