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The HR literature has been abundant in providing typologies of the roles of HR professionals in their organisation. These typologies are largely related to the changing nature of HRM over time, and the context in which empirical work was carried out. In this paper we focus on the context of the increasing internationalisation of firms and how this has an effect upon modern-day typologies of HR roles. We explore these roles by focusing on the way in which HRM practices come about. Especially in a MNC setting of increasing internationalisation of firms the issues of coordination, shared learning and standardisation versus leeway for adapting to the local context (customisation) are prominent. These issues present themselves both at the corporate and regional level and at the national and local (plant) level. On all these levels HR practitioners are active and find themselves amidst the interplay of both (de-)centralisation and standardisation versus customisation processes. This paper thus explores the way in which HR practices come into being and how they are implemented and coordinated. These insights help us understand further the roles of international corporate HR functions that are being identified. Our data is based on 65 interviews, which were held (as part of larger study of HR-function excellence) with HR managers, line managers and senior executives of six multinational companies in eight countries from September to December 2004. This data reveals new classifications of processes by which HR activities are developed, implemented and coordinated, both in terms of who is involved and how these processes are carried out.


Suggested Citation
Farndale, E. & Paauwe, J. (2005). The role of corporate HR functions in multinational corporations: The interplay between corporate, regional/national and plant level (CAHRS Working Paper #05-10). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.