The purpose of this paper is to analyse the attitude of European firms towards human resource management (HRM) configuration and HRM practices on a country-level basis. Assuming the persistent relevance of institutional framework, the paper investigates the applicability of the varieties of capitalism (VoC) theory to these domains in European countries and their evolution between 1999 and 2005.
The paper selects and groups together variables that are related to both HRM configuration and HRM practices using data coming from the survey performed in 2005 by the Cranfield Network on International HRM. Then, a hierarchical cluster analysis among 16 European countries is performed. Relevant varieties are obtained through the combined application of two stopping rules.
Evidence shows that the evolution of HR policies over time is in line with an extended VoC approach that divides Europe in four VoC. One of these varieties (the “State” model), however, is not validated after a robustness check.
For HR managers, the implementation of common personnel policies within the same variety of capitalism could represent a potential fertile ground for beneficial interactions and mutual learning among HR functions. In particular, the classification suggested in the paper does matter if an intervention on HRM practices is accompanied by a change in the participation of the HR department to the decision-making process and/or in the delegation of responsibilities between the HR department and the line management.
The authors’ results contribute to the debate on the relationship between HRM and institutional context in two ways. First, they show that an extended VoC framework can explain the differentiation among European countries with regard to HRM domains. Notably, the correlation between the structure of the HR function and the intensity of HRM practices generates a clusterization of European countries based on at least three models of capitalism. Second, it emerges from the analysis that a substantial shift occurred with respect to the previous wave of the survey together with an increase of similarities between countries.
A preliminary version of this paper has been presented at the International Conference on “Human Capital and Employment in the European and Mediterranean Area”, held in Bologna on 10 and 11 March 2011. The author is grateful for comments and suggestions received on this occasion. The author is also indebted to Gilberto Antonelli and Govanni Guidetti for helpful suggestions. Usual disclaimers apply.
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