Strategic Human Resource Management in European Transition Economies:
Building a Conceptual Model on the Case of Slovenia
Nada Zupan and Robert Kaše
Abstract: The general SHRM models explain the link between HR and company performance, however, due to several specific internal and external factors they have to be modified in order to be applied to companies in European transition economies (ETEs). By analysing the current state of HRM and the HR context in Slovenia, we develop a conceptual SHRM model for ETEs. The model introduces a new specification of the HR context, emphasizing HR Facilitators, and an additional moderating construct the HR Power, to have more explanatory power for studying the HR-company performance link in ETEs. The paper also addresses the importance and issues relating to the empirical validation of the model in ETEs and suggests ways to further develop SHRM in these countries.
Keywords: human resource management, conceptual model, transition economies, HR strategy, performance, Slovenia, Central and Eastern Europe.
Searching for ways to increase competitiveness is a dominant theme in the modern business world. With the acknowledgement that human resources can be one of the key contributors in this quest, the field of strategic human resources management (SHRM) has gained legitimacy and attention. The early writings on SHRM go back to the early 1980s and were dominated by US authors, such as Dyer (1984), Beer et al. (1984) and Fombrum et al. (1984). Their efforts primarily aimed to explain the role of human resources in improving company performance and to design models of various contextual and HRM elements in establishing the HR-company performance link. In the 1990s the focus of US research shifted to which particular HRM processes and practices, and how they are actually integrated, add value and contribute to company performance (e.g. Wright and McMahan, 1992; Wright et al., 1994; Huselid, 1995; MacDuffie, 1995; Becker and Gerhart, 1996; Delery and Doty, 1996; Youndt et al., 1996; Huselid et al., 1997; Wright and Snell, 1998; Delery, 1998; Lepak and Snell, 1999; 2002; Wright et al. 2001). Early in the same decade, the European response from mostly UK authors raised the question of whether the US models could be applied in Europe, emphasising that European enterprises operate in a different contextual setting involving the stronger role of the state and trade unions as well as public sector enterprises, different cultures and traditions (e.g. Guest, 1990; 1991; Brewster, 1995). Western European research in strategic HRM gained momentum towards the second half of the 1990s, mostly describing HR as it is embedded in various national contexts and thereby emphasising the firm-external perspective rather than the firm-internal perspective mostly found in the US research (e.g. Camuffo and Costa, 1993; Hiltrop, 1996; Tyson, 1995; Guest, 1997; Paauwe, 1996; Boxall and Purcell, 2000; Boselie et al, 2001; Camelo et al., 2004; Cabral-Cardoso, 2004).
Nevertheless, there is still an important part of Europe about which we know very little in terms of human resource management. These are the so-called European transition economies (ETEs), meaning the Central and Eastern European countries that started their transition from centrally-planned (Soviet bloc) or labour-managed economies (ex Yugoslavia) to market economies at the start of the 1990s. We believe that knowledge about HRM in these transition countries is important for several reasons. ETE companies and their HRM operate in specific external and internal conditions due to the transition process, thus general SHRM models may not have sufficient explanatory power. Eight of ETE countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) joined the European Union (EU) in May 2004 and will bring their diversity into common EU market and institutions, while many others aspire to join in the...
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