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HRM in the Hungarian SME sector

Suzanne Richbell (University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
László Szerb (University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary)
Zsuzsanna Vitai (University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 27 April 2010




This paper aims to provide an original picture of a selection of human resource management (HRM) activities in the micro, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Hungary and to explore the extent to which these activities can be related to variations in firm size and variations in firm performance.


The study measures the presence or absence of a selection of HRM activities through a questionnaire survey of a large sample of 678 Hungarian SMEs.


Hungarian SMEs, in their working relationships, are closer to the “happy family” model of the SME than the “bleak house” model. Employee morale was perceived as high and only one in ten SMEs felt their employees were opposed to change. Owners were reluctant to seek advice from those outside the firm. They also showed reluctance to discuss future plans with their employees although they did tend to consult employees who would be affected directly by any change. Communication within SMEs was predominantly informal. Surprisingly, given the skills shortages highlighted by SMEs in other economies, very few of the Hungarian SMEs identified skills shortages as a problem and formal training programmes were reported only rarely. Variations between micro, small and medium sized firms are highlighted to emphasize the heterogeneous nature of the Hungarian SME sector.

Research limitations/implications

The HRM activities considered provide a picture of only a small number of HRM activities in Hungarian SMEs but the findings imply the relationships examined here are deserving of further exploration both in Hungary and other transition economies.


The paper provides a detailed picture of selected aspects of HRM in smaller businesses within a transition economy.



Richbell, S., Szerb, L. and Vitai, Z. (2010), "HRM in the Hungarian SME sector", Employee Relations, Vol. 32 No. 3, pp. 262-280.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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