HRM, Strategic HRM, Human resource management, France, USA, Amerique, Practice, Convergence, Divergence, Recruitment, Selection, Compensation,
Human Resources Management, summed up recently by Storey, is "a distinctive approach to employment management which seeks to achieve competitive advantage through the strategic deployment of a highly committed and capable workforce, using an array of cultural, structural and personnel techniques" (Storey, cited in Beardwell and Claydon, 2010). This concept in its own right originally emerged in the United States during the late 1970s as a break with the more traditional personnel management (e.g. Brewster, 2007; Gooderham and Nordhaug, 2010) as it was practiced earlier in the century (Pieper, 1990). It then spread progressively to other countries with cultural proximity, and then to other more distant nations (Clark and Mallory 1996, cited in Claus, 2003), to become what is nowadays an integral part of management theory and practices worldwide.
This growing interest in the field is strongly linked to the emergence and accelerating pace of globalization (e.g. Beardwell and Claydon, 2010; Barabel and Olivier, 2008). Especially, the important increase in cross-border activities, ensuing notably from the growing role played by multinational companies (MNCs) in the world economy, makes modern human resources managers unable to confine themselves to an understanding of people management in their own countries. Indeed, the appropriate and most effective HRM practices may vary importantly from one country or region to another, the extent of which is highly dependent on a wide range of factors that tend to fall into two main categories: the cultural and the institutional perspectives (e.g. Brewster, 2007; Paauwe and Boselie, 2003). Human resources management being a key area for organizational success, national differences in HRM, and the different drivers of those differences, is thus an increasingly strategic issue for the success of organizations (e.g. Price, 2007; Cesyniene, 2008); which explains the emergence of fields such as International HRM and Comparative HRM.
This paper intends to examine those differences in relation to two countries, the USA and France, due to the particular theoretical field they represent. Indeed, the two countries are representative of two different forms of capitalism, respectively more shareholder and more stakeholder focused (e.g. Gooderham and Nordhaug, 2010; Fenton-O'Creevy, Gooderham and Nordhaug, 2005), and appear relatively different on many aspects. In addition, despite being both successful countries on their own (Central Intelligence Agency, 2011), few recent comparisons have been made between the US and France. An updated and more specific review could thus be a valuable contribution.
To do so, we intend to start by examining the main cultural and institutional characteristics of the two countries, focusing on the ones that are the most impacting on their conception and practice of HRM. Then, we will present some of the most relevant issues relating to the way HRM is understood and performed, followed by a deeper study of the main national features of two HRM practices in particular, and Selection & Recruitment and Compensation. To finish, we will analyze the extent to which a phenomenon of divergence and/or convergence can be observed between the two countries, an issue further developed in the conclusion. It should however be noted that such an overview may hide the variety of work employment practices that exists within countries, resulting notably from differences between sectors and types of firms which are less country specific (e.g. local vs. multinationals, and small, large or start-ups (c.f. Claus, 2003)), simplifying what can be a more complex picture.
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