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National culture and human resource management: assumptions and evidence

by B Gerhart, M Y Fang
International Journal of Human Resource Management ()

Abstract

It is generally understood that human resource practices and strategies differ according to contextual factors such as size, industry and so forth. However, the globalization of business means that country differences in the environment for organizations have received increasing attention. Although countries can differ in many important ways (e.g. institutional and regulatory environments, labour-force characteristics such as education), a dominant focus of the international management literature is on national differences in culture, especially cultural values (Hofstede, 1980). We examine the assumptions that underlie this emphasis on the importance of national culture differences in international management and re-analyse findings from previous research, such as Hofstede's, to test these assumptions. We find, contrary to the interpretations of the original authors, that these assumptions receive only weak support when country effects are evaluated using variance explained estimates, rather than relying solely on statistical significance tests. We conclude that, while national culture differences can be important and must be understood, their role needs to be put in the context of other important contextual factors, including organizational culture.

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