The University of Southampton

MANG6179 International and Comparative Human Resource Management

Module Overview

Consideration of people management must increasingly be cross-national comparative and international in complexion. This exciting new agenda is challenging and problematic. This unit examines international developments and comparative difference in the management of human resources, and explores how managers of people may conceive and use the ‘strategic space’ (Vernon, 2006) they have to productively shape employment relationships in an international environment.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

to assist you to contribute to aspects of people management in an international context. The course aims to enable you to: • appreciate international and comparative developments in the character of the employment relationship • understand institutional and cultural differences • consider, discuss, formulate and communicate human resource strategy and practices for organisations operating across national boundaries including the member states of the EU, the USA, Canada, Japan and South East Asia • achieve an appropriate balance between international strategy and local flexibility • monitor and assess how changes in people management in one country might impact on operations in others • conceive and shape a role for international corporate HR functions • recognise the strengths and limitations of one’s own international/ inter-cultural knowledge and capabilities

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • different aspects of national institutions and cultures, their sources and their implications for international organisations;
  • workplace organisation and employment relations processes in the EU and its member states, the USA, Japan and South East Asia;
  • the role and effects on organisations of social actors such as nation states, unions, employers associations and international bodies such as the EU and the ILO;
  • employment and other laws, systems of joint regulation, and their impact on the HR function and operations;
  • differing forms of individual and collective representation, communications, co-ordination and negotiation in different countries;
  • distinct training (and other, e.g. social security) systems in different countries; structures and roles of HR functions in different countries;
  • the constraints and opportunities offered by differing national infrastructures of employment relations;
  • the implications of multi-national operation for the place and activities of the HR function; notions of ‘best practice’ which might be applied internationally.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • consider the impact of cross cultural issues for communicating and operating across national boundaries;
  • manage or professionally influence local payment and benefit systems, including transnational and expatriate management reward systems, with knowledge of notions of ‘best practice’ and their limits;
  • operate with appropriate sensitivity and responsiveness in cross-cultural situations; assert viewpoints in a culturally sensitive way, avoiding offence or misunderstanding, and exercising influence and persuasion in situations where communications are difficult;
  • manage HR functions with different nationally textured identities.
  • identify how employment law and joint regulation shape strategic HR choices in different countries;
  • more effectively assess how employee management in one country impacts on operations in others;
  • diagnose the needs and plans for operating HR functions more effectively at an international level;
  • develop and maintain up-to-date engagement on the implications of local/regional issues for international business management;
  • assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of HR support resources and mechanisms in subsidiary/associated companies and gain acceptance for making appropriate constructive adjustments;
  • locate and organise people resources to meet local/regional/international human resource management needs, including permanent, consultancy, support and temporary staff;
  • consider the implications of joint regulation and the most appropriate local response;
  • deal with matters of work organisation, development and work-life balance in an international context;
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • operate more effectively in terms of cross cultural awareness in communication and teamwork;
  • manage the people related ambiguities arising in international contexts more effectively;
  • recognise the limitations of your own international/inter-cultural knowledge and capabilities, and where/how to tackle those limitations;
  • undertake more effective presentations as a member of a team utilising a range of different media;
  • undertake more effective searches for both qualitative and quantitative information using a range of information sources.


• International HRM: the state of the employment relationship • Comparative HRM: convergence and divergence • Comparative HRM: communication • Comparative HRM: joint regulation • Comparative HRM: training and development • Comparative HRM: work organization and teamwork • Comparative HRM: reward, pay systems and benefits • Comparative HRM: from flexibility to work-life balance and sustainability • Comparative HRM: national HR management • International HRM: MNC choice and national infrastructures of HRM • International HRM: the role of the international HR function • International HRM: promoting best practice from corporate HQ

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Lectures, case studies, directed reading, small and large group discussion Learning activities include: • An individual assignment • Case study problem solving • Directed Reading

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Brewster, Chris, Paul Sparrow, Guy Vernon and Liz Houldsworth (2011). International Human Resource Management. 

Harzing, A. & Ruysseveldt, J.V. (2011). International Human Resource Management. 

Edwards, Tony and Chris Rees (eds.) (2010). International Human Resource Management. 



Set exercises - non-exam


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 60%
Individual Coursework  (2000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 60%
Individual Coursework  (2000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the mandatory/additional reading text as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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