Bridge over ocean
1 May 2013 CFA Institute Journal Review

Towards an Ethical Research Agenda for International HRM: The Possibilities of a Plural Cosmopolitan Framework (Digest Summary)

  1. Jakub M. Szudejko, CFA

Ethical research in international human resource management (HRM) focuses on the political role of global corporations and the impact of HRM practices on particular stakeholders. The authors propose that an ethical analysis of corporate policies and practices be conducted from three perspectives—political, cultural, and social—within a cosmopolitanism framework.

What’s Inside?

The authors summarize ethical studies on international human resource management (HRM) and form a conceptual framework based on the perspectives of cosmopolitanism to serve as an ethical research agenda for international HRM. They explain how they incorporate three perspectives of cosmopolitanism—political, cultural, and social—in their research agenda, as well as offer methodological suggestions and explain how these perspectives could influence future HRM research development.

How Is This Article Useful to Practitioners?

International corporate structures may lead to potential collisions between existing and desired corporate cultures and norms. Investors with international employers, with socially responsible investing interests, or with multinational investments may agree with the authors that there is generally limited research coverage of ethical aspects of HRM practices and their impact on international staff.

The authors begin with a review of available HRM literature. They then document their investigation and categorization of possible approaches to ethics and the formation of a theoretical and systematic cosmopolitanism framework to use as the basis of their HRM research agenda. The authors define three perspectives (i.e., political, cultural, and social) of cosmopolitanism that they then use to analyze the impact of global corporations on stakeholders.

The political perspective on cosmopolitanism is related to the concept of world citizenship, with the presence of universal ethical codes and common values. The authors encourage HRM scholars to go beyond corporate social responsibility communication and perform an ethical analysis of global corporations, focusing on how their HRM practices support global justice by upholding human rights, fair labor, and environmental protection, with particular attention given to developing countries.

The cultural perspective highlights the open-mindedness and acceptance of cultural diversity and plurality. In this dimension, research focuses on the cultural differences within global corporations (i.e., they are a cultural hybrid), as well as how global human resource (HR) practices are translated into local business environments (e.g., particularly in a postcolonial context).

The social dimension concentrates on the actual impact of HR practices on individual and on ethical dilemmas rather than on formal policies. In this perspective, HRM scholars focus on work experiences and everyday employee interactions, which are analyzed in the context of global communication and HR practices applied to a particular case.

The authors conclude that all three cosmopolitanism perspectives should be applied simultaneously to reflect the complexity of global corporations by both scholars and global HR policymakers.

Abstractor’s Viewpoint

The authors offer a comprehensive review of existing HRM literature and present different perspectives on various ethical matters. They also highlight the areas of HRM that are not sufficiently covered in existing papers, as well as provide theoretical guidance, inherent limitations, and methodological suggestions for an ethical research agenda. However, they do not explain how the cosmopolitanism framework could directly influence global HR policymakers or attempt to link certain HR practices to value generated for shareholders. The addition of an ethical analysis of actual HR practices used by multinational companies would make the research more relevant from the perspective of global managers, investors, and academics.

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