This paper addresses the convergence/divergence debate in personnel management in Europe by drawing on an international, longitudinal, database of information on human relogicalTitle management. In particular, the paper explores the issue of a convergence towards concepts of HRM that have come to Europe from the USA. It finds that while there appears to be some degree of convergence taking place, much is unchanged, and the explanatory power of the national institutional contexts remains strong.


This paper addresses the question of whether personnel management in Europe is converging so that human relogicalTitle management (HRM) within organizations is losing its "national flavor" (cf. Adler, 1997; Weber, Kabst and Gramley, 1998). As such we are addressing a critical issue in the general management convergence debate since it is widely acknowledged that it is in the area of people management that business and national cultures have the sharpest interface, making this area a touchstone for the whole debate. We ask, are European organizations' approaches to managing their personnel converging; and if so, what are they converging towards? A US model of HRM, as policies of deregulation and decontrol spread from the U.S. to Europe, might be one possibility (Locke, Piore and Kochan, 1995). Another, reflecting the ongoing economic and political integration of European Union countries, is a convergence towards a distinctly European practice (Due, Madsen and Jensen, 1991). If, however, we

find no convergence, is this due to stasis or to divergence? In either case it would mean having to consider the possibility that European firms are so locked into their respective idiosyncratic national institutional settings that no common model is likely to emerge for the foreseeable future (Poole, 1986; Hollingsworth and Boyer, 1997).

This study addresses these issues by using comparative data for private sector firms in Europe collected at three points from 1992 and 1999. Thus, unlike most other studies, which have been constrained by having to grapple with these issues on the basis of sequential country by country descriptions without the benefit of access to strictly comparable measures (Locke, Piore and Kochan, 1995), we are able to simultaneously analyze developments across a range of countries in terms of precisely defined human relogicalTitle management practices.

First we summarize, briefly, the discussions about convergence and divergence as they figure in the social science literature and examine

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some of the related debates in our field. Taken together the two theses of convergence and divergence view firms' latitude in regard to selecting and developing personnel management strategies as being shaped, governed and given impetus by a mix of factors which may be broadly defined as either technological, economic or institutional. As part of this examination we consider two distinct versions of the convergence thesis, the free market US model and the institutional European model, in some detail. We argue that these conceptual developments must be viewed in relation to the institutional context. In the central section of the paper we examine some of the evidence about issues and trends in human relogicalTitle management in four different countries in Europe: Sweden, France, Germany and the UK. Finally, in the concluding section we argue that although the evidence indicates that convergence appears to be taking place, significant national differences remain a feature of Europe.

Convergence vs Divergence: The Debate

The convergence versus divergence debate has been an ongoing strand of the literature on management in general for decades and this has more recently been reflected in the associated HRM theorizing.

In brief, the convergence thesis argues that differences in management systems which have arisen as a result of the geographical isolation of businesses, and the consequent development of differing beliefs and value orientations of national cultures, are being superseded by the logic of technology and markets which requires the adoption of specific, and therefore universally applicable, management techniques (Kidger, 1991). Arguably, Weber's (1922) theory of bureaucracy and rationalization represents one of the earliest contributions to this

thesis of long-term convergence. Regardless of whether the economic system is organized on a capitalistic or a socialistic basis, Weber argues that the dictates of applying technical knowledge efficiently requires the adoption of the bureaucratic system with its universalistic characteristics. Early post-war thinking was also for the most part convergent. Galbraith contended that, given the decision to have modern industry, modern man's "area of decision is, in fact, exceedingly small" (1967:336). Much of what happens is inevitable and the same so that "the imperatives of organization, technology and planning operate similarly, and as we have seen, to a broadly similar result, on all societies" (1967:336). Burnham (1941), Drucker (1950) and Harbison and Myers (1959), contended that there was a trend toward a worldwide rise of the professional manager who would successfully impose professional, as opposed to patrimonial or political, management systems on their respective societies. Closer to our sphere of interest, Kerr, Dunlop, Harbison and Myers (1960) believed that not only was the convergence of systems of industrial relations inevitable, but that the convergence would be toward US practices. They argued that management systems represented attempts to manage technology as efficiently as possible. As the United States was the technological leader, it followed that US management practices represented current best practice, which other nations would eventually seek to emulate as they sought to adopt US technology. Thus "patterns in other countries were viewed as derivative of, or deviations from, the US model" (Locke, Kochan and Piore, 1995: xvi).

Characteristic of these various convergence perspectives is their functionalist mode of thought. The practice of management is explained exclusively by reference to its contribution to technological and economic efficiency. Thus it is a dependent variable that evolves

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in response to technological and economic change, rather than with reference to the sociopolitical context, so that "much of what happens to management and labor is the same regardless of auspices" (Kerr, 1983).

More recently, the convergence thesis has received support from transaction cost economics which also contends that at any one point of time there exists a best solution to organizing labor (Williamson, 1975, 1985). "Most transaction cost theorists argue that there is one best organizational form for firms that have similar or identical transaction costs" (Hollingsworth and Boyer, 1997:34). Likewise, parts of the industrial organization literature argue that firms tend to seek out and adopt the best solutions to organizing labor within their product markets, long term survival being dependent on their being able to implement them (Chandler, 1962, 1977; Chandler and Daems, 1980). Thus there is a tendency for firms to converge towards similar structures of organization.

Of course, the "convergers" recognize that in practice there are many variations in management approaches around the world, but argue that, in the long term, any variations in the adoption of management systems at the firm level are ascribable to the industrial sector in which the firm is located, its strategy, its available relogicalTitles and its degree of exposure to international competition - factors which will be of diminishing salience. Indeed once these factors have been taken account of, a clear trend toward the adoption of common management systems should be apparent.

Proponents of the divergence thesis argue, in direct contrast, that personnel management systems, far from being economically or technologically derived, epitomize national institutional contexts that do not respond readily to the imperatives of technology or the market. According to this institutionalist perspective, organizational choice is limited by institution-

al pressures, including the state, regulatory structures, interest groups, public opinion and norms (Di Maggio and Powell, 1983; Meyer and Rowan, 1983; Oliver, 1991). Moreover, many of these pressures are so accepted, so taken-for-granted "as to be invisible to the actors they influence" (Oliver, 1991:148). One observable effect of differing institutional contexts is that "the same equipment is frequently operated quite differently in the same sectors in different countries, even when firms are competing in the same market" (Hollingsworth and Boyer, 1997:20). As a consequence Kerr (1983:28), in a retrospective analysis of his work with Dunlop, Harbison and Myers, concedes that they had been wrong to suggest industrialism would "so overwhelmingly impose its own cultural patterns on preexisting cultures; industrialism does conquer and it does impose, but less rapidly and less totally than we implied." Divergence theorists would, however, not even subscribe to this thesis of partial and delayed convergence. They argue that national, and in some cases regional, institutional contexts are not only slow to change, partly because they derive from deep seated beliefs and value systems and partly because major re-distributions of power are involved, but, more importantly, that change is path dependent. In other words, even when change does occur this can only be understood in relation to the specific social context in which it occurs (Maurice, Sellier and Sivestre, 1986; Poole, 1986). Performance criteria or goals are thus at any point time socially rather than economically or technologically selected so that they first and foremost reflect idiosyncratic principles of local rationality. Convergence of management systems can therefore only take place if supranational institutions are able to superimpose their influence across national contexts. Increasingly, it is being argued that that is precisely what is taking place in the case of the EU (Brewster, 1994). That is, there is an

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argument for an institutionally driven convergence of HRM practices taking place within Europe.

In summary we may observe that in addition to the divergence thesis there are two distinct versions of the convergence thesis. On the one hand there is the traditional version of the convergence thesis that contends that convergence of HRM practices is driven by market and technological forces making changes in the US a harbinger of trends elsewhere. On the other hand there is a newer, institutional, version that argues that institutionally driven convergence is taking place within the context of the EU. We now examine these two models in more detail, prior to presenting the divergence thesis applied specifically to the European context.

The Market Forces or US Convergence Model

Weinstein and Kochan (1995) divide US employment relations from the late 1930s to the present day into two phases, the New Deal industrial relations system which extended from the 1930s through the 1970s and more recent developments, which we will refer to as US HRM.

In the 1970s, American mass production grappled with the persistent effects of increased international competition and a more uncertain business environment. New flexible productive techniques emerged in the wake of advances in information technology stimulating a shift in competitive strategy toward flexible specialization aimed at producing differentiated, high-value-added products (Piore and Sabel, 1984). As a result a new management model, less compatible with unionization than the old, began to emerge. This new (US HRM) model has a number of distinctive features aimed at removing the rigidities intrinsic in the mass production system in order to lay the ground for the deployment of flexible pro-

duction techniques. One set of these features is aimed at increasing individual flexibility and increased employee self-regulation of quality control. New broader job designs were created aimed at allowing employees in coordination with their supervisors, to formulate their own job descriptions. Furthermore, whereas wages in the traditional system had been attached to jobs rather than individuals, in the new model there was a move to tie wages to individual performance and competency in the form of individual incentives. Job security could only be extended to the core labor force, so that another feature of the new model of employee relations was the increase in contingent, or non- core employment, that is part-time, temporary, and contract work.

Another set of features of the new model was aimed at creating an environment for teamwork. Weinstein and Kochan (1995) point to a clear if limited transition toward the adoption of a variety of total quality management (TQM) practices including employee problem-solving groups, work teams and job rotation. Indeed Osterman (1994) found that 64% of manufacturing firms in a nationally representative survey reported that at least half of their core employees were covered by one or more of these workplace innovations, although relatively few were covered by all of these innovations. However, it is important to note that these collaborative techniques were not rooted in governance systems that involved any increasing role for the employees' trade unions. On the contrary, unions became even more marginalized in a changing institutional environment characterized by increasing management and shareholder power. In this, as Weinstein and Kochan (1995:27) observe, "Government played an important role by weakening its enforcement of labor and employment laws and by allowing (some would say encouraging) a harder line by management in its resistance to unions".

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In summary the emergence of US HRM may be viewed as an attempt by US firms to cope with the disappearance of large and stable markets by moving beyond mass standardized production to flexible production by synthesizing the elements required for cooperation and self-regulation, whilst attempting to counteract the inheritance of a lack of trust and cooperation between workers and managers, and the effects of short-term systems of cost benefit calculation.

The Institutional or European Convergence Model

Contrary to the market forces model, which regards developments in the US as a precursor of universal developments, it is contended that within Europe there are non-market, institutional factors which not only make the central features of US HRM inappropriate to European organizations but which are generating a specifically European model of convergence in HRM (Brewster 1995a).

In Europe organizations are constrained at a national level, by culture and legislation, at the organizational level, by patterns of ownership, and at the HRM level, by trade union involvement and consultative arrangements. Above all, in more than one sense, there are developments at the level of the European Union or the European Economic Area which impact upon all organizations in Europe - and which both have indirect effects upon the way people are managed and direct effects through the EU's unique experiment in adopting a distinct social sphere of activity. For most European countries by far the vast bulk of their "foreign" trade is conducted with other European countries.

At the most general level, while the empirical data on national cultural differences is limited (Hofstede 1980, 1991; Laurent 1983; Tayeb 1988; Trompenaars 1993) it does tend

to point to the unusual nature of the United States. The US, one of the leading researchers in this field writes, "is quite untypical of the world as a whole" (Trompenaars 1985). US culture is more individualistic and more achievement-orientated than most other countries (Hofstede 1980). Differences in culture have contributed to the differences one can observe between the legislative regime of the US and that of Western Europe. "The major difference between HRM in the US and in Western Europe is the degree to which [HRM] is influenced and determined by state regulations. Companies have a narrower scope of choice in regard to personnel management than in the US" (Pieper, 1990:8).

Furthermore, Europe is unique in the world in having 15 of its countries at present (and more soon) committed to a supra-national level of legislation on a considerable range of aspects of the employer-employee relationship. The countries driving this legislation, for example Germany, and France, are strongly committed to a "social market", i.e. a blend of market capitalism and a welfare state and pronounced labor laws. The European Union, particularly through the European Community Social Charter and its associated Social Action Programme is having an increasing legislative influence on HRM (Boyer, 1990; Brewster and Teague 1989)

State involvement in HRM in Europe is not restricted to the legislative role. In broad terms in Europe as compared to the USA the state has a higher involvement in underlying social security provision, a more directly interventionist role in the economy, provides far more personnel and industrial relations services, and is a more substantial employer in its own right by virtue of a more extensive government- owned sector.

Patterns of ownership in the private sector also vary from one side of the Atlantic to the other. Public ownership has decreased to some

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extent in many European countries in recent years; but it is still far more widespread than in the United States. And private sector ownership may not mean the same thing. In many of the southern European countries particularly, ownership of even major companies remains in the hands of single families. In Germany, as a different example, despite recent developments, most major companies are owned largely by a tight network of a small number of substantial banks. Their interlocking share-holdings and close involvement in the management of these corporations means less pressure to produce short-term profits and a positive disincentive to drive competitors out of the market-place (Randlesome 1993).

In Europe, these organizations are likely to deal with well-founded trade union structures. Studies of HRM in the United States have tended to take place in the non-union sector (Beaumont, 1991) and a constant assumption in research programs in the US has been the link between HRM practices and non-unionism (see, e.g. Kochan and Capelli, 1984; Kochan, Katz and McKersie, 1986). "In the US a number of.... academics have argued that HRM [the concept and the practice] is antiunion and anti-collective bargaining" (Beaumont, 1991:.300).

It is clear that, in general, European countries are more heavily unionized than the United States, and indeed most other countries. Trade union membership and influence varies considerably by country, of course, but is always significant. In many European countries, union recognition for collective bargaining is required by law so that in France, although union membership comprises no more than 10 percent of the workforce, nearly all workers are covered by collective bargaining (EU Employment report 1997). Union recognition occurs in 9 out of 10 organizations with more than 200 employees in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Italy and Germany and in more

than 7 out of every 10 such organizations in Spain, Ireland and the UK (Gunnigle, Brewster and Morley, 1993). In most European countries many of the union functions in such areas as pay bargaining, for example, are exercised at industrial or national level, - outside the direct involvement of managers within individual organizations - as well as at establishment level (Hegewisch 1991; Gunnigle, Brewster and Morley, 1993). Moreover, the European Union is committed to enhancing the role of the "social partners".

Beyond the immediate issue of trade union membership is the European practice of employee involvement. In some countries the establishment of workers' councils is required by law. Legislation in countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark and, most famously, Germany requires organizations to have two- tier management boards, with employees having the right to be represented on the more senior Supervisory Board. These arrangements give considerable (legally-backed) power to the employee representatives and, unlike consultation in the US for example, they tend to supplement rather than supplant the union position. In relatively highly unionized countries it is unsurprising that many of the representatives of the workforce are, in practice, trade union officials. In Germany, as one instance, four-fifths of them are union representatives.

The considerable moves that have been made by many employers in Europe to expand the degree of information given to the workforce irrespective of legal requirements is clear (Brewster and Hegewisch 1994). This reflects a central theme of HRM - the requirement to generate significant workforce commitment. However it is noticeable that this provision of information to the workforce still includes a substantial number of organizations who are expanding their use of the formalized employee representation or trade union channels. And when upward communication is examined, the

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two most common means in Europe, by a considerable margin, are through immediate line management - and through the trade union or works council channel (Brewster and Hegewisch 1994).

In these circumstances, it is unsurprising that some have argued that the time is now ripe for distinguishing specifically European approaches (Brewster 1995a; 1995b). Although Thurley and Wirdenius (1991:128) regard the concept of European Management as an emergent concept, they note that to the extent it can be said to exist it:
  • is broadly linked to the idea of European integration, which is continuously expanding further into different countries;
  • reflects key values such as pluralism, tolerance, etc., but is not consciously developed from these values;
  • is associated with a balanced stakeholder philosophy and the concept of Social Partners.

Divergence in Europe

Opposed to this institutionalist thesis of convergence in European HRM are approaches which downplay or disregard legislative developments in the EU and which instead emphasize the existence of broad, relatively inert distinctions between the various national contexts of personnel management within Europe which make convergence to a European model of HRM problematic. Due, Madsen and Jensen (1991) distinguish between countries, such as the UK, Ireland and the Nordic countries in which the state has a limited role in industrial relations and Roman-Germanic countries, such as France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Greece and the Netherlands, in which the state functions as an actor with a central role in industrial relations. A particular feature of Roman-Germanic countries is their "comprehensive labor market legislation gov-

erning various areas, such as length of the working day (and) rest periods" (Due, Madsen and Jensen, 1991:90). In other words, unlike either the Anglo-Irish or the Nordic systems, the latitude for firm-level decision making in Roman-Germanic countries in regard to employment issues is relatively low.

Like Maurice, Sellier and Sivestre (1986) in their analysis of work systems in France and Germany, Hollingsworth and Boyer (1997) focus on a different dimension, that of the presence or absence of communitarian infrastructures that manifest themselves in the form of strong social bonds, trust, reciprocity and cooperation among economic actors and which they regard as being "essential for successful flexible systems of production" (1997:27). They distinguish between social contexts characterized by self-interest and those in which "obligation and compliance with social rules are the guiding principles shaping human actions" (Hollingsworth and Boyer, 1997:8). It is their contention that the UK (and likewise the US), because of its pervasive market mentality that limits trust and cooperation between workers and managers within firms as well as between firms and their suppliers, does not have the social environment necessary for a successful flexible social system of production. In contrast, German and Scandinavian firms are embedded in an environment in which the market mentality is less pronounced with trusting relationships and communitarian obligations more prevalent thereby making flexible production systems a viable alternative. Finally, Hollingworth and Boyer distinguish France as an environment that while not having a market mentality is nevertheless deficient in communitarian infrastructures. Instead, the public authorities play a dirigeste role in the economy enabling France to partially mimic flexible systems of production. "But for flexible forms of production to become widespread, firms must be

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embedded in a social environment very different from that which exists in most of France" (Hollingsworth and Boyer, 1997:27) in which employer-employee conflict is endemic and there is an absence of "a spirit of generous cooperation" (Maurice, Sellier and Silvestre, 1986:86).

Taken together the two dimensions of relative organizational autonomy in employment practices and the extent of communitarian approaches to production systems can be seen as axes, suggesting four broad national contexts for personnel management in Europe. These are indicated in Figure 1, which we have exemplified with countries.

The model gives us four different regimes. The divergence-in-Europe literature gives us potential countries to represent each of the regimes. The range of each axis is a matter for conceptual analysis: the UK, for example, is only in the top left-hand box of the diagram in relation to the other three countries mentioned: it might be in another box if other countries (say, the USA, Japan and Argentina) were the comparators. In other words the model helps to locate each country in relation to the others but, of itself, cannot tell us whether they are closer to or further from countries not included.

The comparative location of countries and of organizations within countries on each axis is a

matter for empirical investigation. As examples of potential variability we might take the extent of divergence from the single form of employment contract model, examining, for instance, the development of non-core employment practices and individualized appraisal and reward systems. These are particularly useful indicators for our purposes, since they reflect what has come to be seen as symptomatic of the approaches to personnel management understood to be typical in the USA. The vertical dimension of our model suggests that UK firms, like their US counterparts, will have more freedom than their German counterparts to pursue individually tailored employment strategies such as those associated with the core/non-core employment model. Similarly, the horizontal dimension suggests that operating within an environment of lower trust and higher opportunism than German firms, UK firms will actively seek to measure and reward performance at the individual level to a significantly greater degree than German firms. This is also the case for French firms but not for Swedish firms. However, French firms, unlike Swedish firms, diverge in having to relate to an institutional environment pervaded by detailed legislation governing terms of employment, thereby curtailing their opportunities for developing non-core employment adaptations.

Figure 1. Four social contexts for personnel management in Europe exemplified with nations

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Propositions and Hypotheses

We have delineated three broad theses in relation to Europe, the market forces convergence model, the institutional convergence model and the divergence model. Three broad fundamentally different propositions may be respectively derived from these:

  1. Market forces are generating a convergence in HRM practices amongst European firms towards a US model of HRM.
  2. Pan European institutional forces are generating a convergence in HRM practices amongst European firms towards a common European model that is distinctly different from that of the US model of HRM.
  3. Deep seated and fundamental differences between European countries means continuing divergence or no convergence in HRM practices amongst European firms.

One way of testing these competing propositions is to test for changes in the two dimensions that comprise the model featured in figure 2, with no change representing a support for the third proposition. Thus the vertical dimension predicts that:

Hypothesis 1: UK and Swedish firms will con- sistently diverge from German and French firms in having greater latitude for the use of contin- gent forms of employment.

The horizontal dimension implies that:

Hypothesis 2: UK and French firms will consis- tently diverge from German and Swedish firms in having a greater propensity for monitoring and rewarding individual performance.


The data we use are derived from the Cranet data set: comprising the results of broadly

identical surveys of private sector firms in European countries conducted in 1992, 1995 and 1999. The overall strategy has been to mail appropriately translated questionnaires to senior personnel managers in representative samples of firms with more than two hundred employees. Problems in ensuring that the selection and interpretation of topic areas was not biased by one country's approach, as well as problems related to translation of concepts and questions, were largely overcome by close collaboration between business schools located in each country (for a detailed description, see Brewster et al., 1996).

Since the core issue in this paper is that of country-specific, institutional determinants of organizational practices, all foreign-owned subsidiaries are excluded because these are to varying degrees cultural transplants with HRM practices that diverge from the host setting (Gooderham, Nordhaug and Ringdal, 1998).

In order to operationalize the available latitude for the use of contingent forms of employment we will focus on the percentage of firms in which part-time employees comprise more than 20 per cent of the employee total.

In regard to operationalizing the monitoring and rewarding of individual performance we will examine the percentage of firms which use merit/performance related pay at four different levels: the managerial, the professional/technical, the clerical and the manual.


Hypothesis 1

Table 1 contains the percentage of firms by country in which part-time employees comprise more than 20 percent of the employee total. The table indicates that while it is fairly rare in the four countries to use such a high proportion of part-time employees, the practice was relatively widespread in both the UK and Sweden between 1992 and 1999. In con-

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Table 1: The percentage of firms by country in which part-time employees comprise more than 20 per cent of the employee total. 1992-1999.

UK France Germany Sweden
1992 1995 1999 1992 1995 1999 1992 1995 1999 1992 1999
% 14.0 15.0 15.8 3.8 6.3 13.3** 5.4 9.8 9.3* 18.2 17.1
N= 579 507 322 312 205 122 578 255 257 164 76

** difference between 1992 and 1999 statistically significant at 5%-level

* difference between 1992 and 1999 statistically significant at 10%-level

trast in 1992 very few French and German companies operated with this proportion of part-time employees. However, the table indicates a substantial absolute increase for France and a smaller, but significant, increase for Germany suggesting that these countries are experiencing greater latitude in regard to being able make organizational level decisions on terms of employment. As such convergence is taking

place meaning that hypothesis 1 is not supported.

Hypothesis 2

Table 2 displays the percentage of firms by country which use merit/performance related pay by job level. The table indicates that while these practices are relatively widespread in both the UK and France at managerial and

Table2: The percentage of firms by country that use merit/performance related pay by job level. 1992-1999 (1992 not available for France on this item; 1995 not available for Sweden)

UK France Germany Sweden
1992 1995 1999 1995 1999 1992 1995 1999 1992 1999
Managerial 61.5 63.1 52.7** 68.7 75.6* 18.2 19.0 31.1** 12.9 23.1**
Professional/ technical 56.1 56.5 44.1** 52.8 55.1 41.6 39.0 45.0 7.1 14.9**
Clerical 45.3 46.3 36.2** 43.0 43.9 36.1 37.5 43.7** 6.5 13.2*
Manual 22.3 25.1 25.9 32.2 30.9 34.6 2 9.0 38.4 34.7 20.7*
N= 618 529 406 214 176 606 269 318 170 121

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professional/technical levels, they are relatively uncommon in Sweden at these levels and Germany at the managerial level. In regard to the UK we may note that between 1992 and 1999 there is a significant decrease in the proportion of firms using performance related pay at the upper three job levels, whereas for France we may observe a small increase between 1995 and 1999 at the managerial level. For Germany there was an increase at all levels between 1995 and 1999, particularly at the managerial and clerical levels. Likewise for Sweden there were significant increases between 1992 and 1999 at all levels except the manual level where there was actually a decrease. All in all, the main trend is one of convergence meaning that hypothesis 2 is not supported.


Figure 2 summarizes our findings in terms of our two theoretical dimensions. It indicates that in general our findings fail to support the continuing-divergence hypothesis. In other words there are indications of convergence taking place. Furthermore, our findings suggest that on the whole this convergence is in line with proposition 1 rather than proposition 2, that is Europe is integrating aspects of the US model rather than developing its own model.

That is on the one hand countries that have had restricted latitude for organizational level decision making on terms of employment are experiencing a greater degree of such latitude, and that traditionally high employer-employee trust countries are moving towards less communitarian work environments. In very broad terms, it appears that Europe at the end of the previous decade was undergoing an Americanization of its personnel management. In terms of Oliver's (1997) typology of logicalTitles of pressures for change, European firms would appear to be responding to functional pressures rather than political pressures. That is, they are responding to perceived problems in performance levels and the perceived utility of their practices, rather than political pressures emanating from the EU. However, it must be emphasized that our findings indicate that significant national differences, particularly in relation to Germany, remain a significant feature of European personnel management. As such the explanatory power of the national institutional contexts remains potent.

We are conscious of the limitations of our research both in terms of its limited time frame, the fact that it spans a mere four countries and that it examines only two, albeit core, facets of HRM. In regard to the first of these limitations, as the new round of Cranet data

Figure 2. Trends in personnel management between 1992 and 1999 in the UK, Germany, France (1995 to 1999 on horizontal dimension) and Sweden. 1992 - italics; 1999 - bold.

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collection becomes available in 2004, we will be able to extend our time frame by four years. We might also include more countries. However, we believe that our research would benefit more by including a broader range of HRM practices. Furthermore, future research should also look more closely at the nature of their implementation in order to distinguish between substantive adoption and ceremonial adoption in the sense that practices have been adopted without any belief in their real value for the organization (Kostova and Roth, 2002). A further distinction that should inform future research is that between substantive and customized adoption of practices in which the latter involves some degree of adaptation of practices to the local context (Fenton O'Creevy, 2002). For example Gjelsvik and Nordhaug's (2003) in-depth analysis of the fate of performance related pay and employee evaluation in a Norwegian bank uncovers degrees of both ceremonial and customized adoption. Clearly there is a need to supplement quantitative with qualitative research.

Paul N. Gooderham, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration

Chris Brewster, London South Bank University


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