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Reconsidering Underlying Human Resource Philosophies

Logically, it can be argued that practices emerge from underlying assumptions and philosophical considerations: What is done and how it is done are rooted in why it is being done. However, HR practices often surface as the piecemeal ad hoc solutions for discrete and unrelated problems, resulting in an uneven mosaic that covers— rather than reveals—the fundamental philosophies related to people, talent, and work.

Schuler [58] defines HR philosophies as the broad and organizationally accepted understandings of how ‘how the organization regards its human resources, what role the resources play in the overall success of the business, and how they are to be treated and managed’ (p. 21). Yet, organizations can fail to reflect on their deep-seated assumptions about the human resources available to them or to appreciate the role that their meta-principles of talent play in current and future operations. Developing and interrogating the philosophical assumptions of HR is not an abstraction; it is a crucial element in sustaining competitive advantage and future success. As such, HR assumptions need to be constantly and critically appraised [59-61].

For any organization, it is unproductive and frustrating to believe that talent exists as a hidden potential in unknown places. For the MNC, there is the possibility that talent can be ‘discovered’ and utilized throughout the global range of its operational presence. But to recognize and deploy organizational talent effectively global firms, their senior management, and their HR professionals must question a number of related assumptions, philosophical perspectives, and meta-principles:

  • • Do we tend to recognize talent inclusively or exclusively?
  • • Do we presume that talent is more likely located internally or externally? and
  • • Do we usually consider talent to be an attribute of individuals or to be connected

with specific jobs and positions?

On reflection, it might be that organizations find that they place higher value on inclusive, internal, and people-centered understandings about talent, even though their HR practices do not fully or consistently reflect these values. It is suggested that valuing inclusive, internal, and people-centered understandings about talent demonstrates that the organization has a higher propensity to consider the redistribution and mobilization of talent resources. This does not necessarily mean that exclusive, external, and position-centered assumptions will not lead to talent mobility. However, where exclusive, external, and position-centered assumptions about talent prevail, it is suggested that talent mobilization—particularly in MNCs —might be limited and restricted to specific (and costly) expatriations. It is also likely that organizational structure—particularly the perceived dominance of the MNC headquarters—will significantly moderate the organization’s propensity to mobilize and internally redistribute talent.

It seems valuable for the effective operation of the MNC and for the success for its strategic development that: (a) there is a critical evaluation of its current HR appreciations of the nature and possibilities associated with the organizational talent; and (b) the revealed philosophical assumptions and meta-principles are then consistently and transparently expressed in the HR policies and processes of the organization. This requires a continuous effort to align what is intended with what is done. Although the primacy of HR is frequently assumed—particularly by those in the HR function—it is all too easy for significant gaps to exist between the intended processes that the HR function espouses, the enacted processes that are brought into existence, and the perceived processes that organizational participants experience [62].

There may be a plurality of approaches to HR and to talent management within the organization; however, the value of the HR function cannot become evident unless it has thoughtful constructed architectural structures and linkages between organizational culture, perceived organizational climate, and the ways in which people and their talents are managed. HR must convincingly articulate its guiding philosophies, develop appropriate policies, sustain effective practices, and implement meaningful processes that provide advantages for the organization and its participating members [63, 64]. In MNCs specifically, there is a clear need for a thoughtful and well-designed HR architecture that connects and integrates the geographically (and sometimes culturally) separated parts of the organization.

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