Characteristics of International Human Resource Management (IHRM)

Employee Separation

There are some commonalities in IHRM and domestic HRM practices, particularly in areas like; HR planning and staffing, recruitment and selection, appraisal and development, rewards, etc the main distinctions, however, lies in the fact that while domestic HRM is involved with employees within only one national boundary, IHRM deals with three national or country categories.

International HRM differs from domestic HRM in a number of ways. One difference is that IHRM has to manage the complexities of operating in, and employing people from, different countries and cultures. A major reason for the failure of an international venture is the lack of understanding of the differences between managing employees in the domestic environment and in a foreign one.

A management style successful in the domestic environment often fails if applied to a foreign environment without the appropriate modifications. The reasons that IHRM is more complex than domestic HRM are described below.

International HRM addresses a broader range of activities than domestic HRM. These include international taxation, coordinating foreign currencies and exchange rates, international relocation, international orientation for the employee posted abroad, etc.

Human resource managers working in an international environment face the problem of addressing HR issues of employees belonging to more than one nationality. Hence, these HR managers need to set up different HRM systems for different locations. Human resource managers in a domestic environment administer HR programmes to employees belonging to a single nationality.

International HRM requires greater involvement in the personal life of employees. The HR manager of an MNC must ensure that an executive posted to a foreign country understands all aspects of the compensation package provided in the foreign assignment, such as cost of living, taxes, etc.

The HR manager needs to assess the readiness of the employee’s family to relocate, support the family in adjusting to a foreign culture through cross-cultural training, and to help in admitting the children in schools.

The HR department may also need to take responsibility for children left behind in boarding schools in the home country by the employees on foreign postings. In the domestic environment, the involvement of the HR manager or department with an employee’s family is limited to providing family insurance programmes or providing transport facilities in case of a domestic transfer.

There is heightened exposure to risks in international assignments. These risks include the health and safety of the employee and family. A major aspect of risk relevant to IHRM today is possible terrorism. Several MNCs must now consider this factor when deciding on international assignments for their employees. Moreover, human and financial consequences of mistakes in IHRM are much more severe than in domestic business. For example, if an executive posted abroad returns prematurely, it results in high direct costs as well as indirect costs.

International HRM has to deal with more external factors than domestic HRM. For example, government regulations about staffing practices in foreign locations, local codes of conduct, influence of local religious groups, etc. If an American organization is sanctioned license by the Kenyan government to set up its subsidiary in Kenya, the American company is under legal obligations to provide employment to local residents.

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