Corporate values in local contexts: work systems and workers’ welfare in Western and Eastern Europe
Published on June 6, 2007 in Other publications
Corporate values in local contexts: work systems and workers’ welfare in Western and Eastern Europe. Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (2007), Working Paper 07/1
Increased international competition poses challenges to companies’ organizational practices, including human resource management. For multinational companies operating simultaneously in diverse local conditions this challenge implies a decision between either opting for universal best practices or adapting their employment strategy to differing local standards in host countries. What influences whether work practices are similar or differ when deployed in differing conditions? Why are some companies committed to their workers’ welfare while others are not? This paper attempts to answer these questions by studying work practices, namely work systems and fringe benefits, in a Dutch multinational company (MNC) and its manufacturing subsidiaries in Western and Eastern Europe. Evidence suggests that the observed patterns are best explained by the interplay of three factors. Rational economic interest, company values, and local institutions yield subsidiary work practices that are embedded in, but not adapted to, local standards. The MNC’s value system accounts for the fact that generous benefits are offered without a direct relation to the company’s profit maximization and without external societal and institutional pressures to provide such benefits.