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Fellow (1 September 2001 - 30 June 2002)
During the last two decades both academics and practitioners in the field of (strategic) management have emphasised the importance of human resources as a source of sustained competitive advantage for companies. A view, which has been stimulated by the so-called resource based view of the firm.
On both sides of the Atlantic a number of studies have been carried out in the area of HRM and Performance. The emphasis in the USA is very much upon so-called hard performance indicators (financial) and with a strong focus on whether HR practices contribute to increasing shareholders value. Some authors claim to have found a universal set of best practices, applicable irrespective of the situation or the context, which is of course far too simple. European approaches emphasise the importance of stakeholders. Especially in the area of HRM legislation, works councils and trade unions have an important voice in all matters related to HRM. So in addition to the resource-based view and economic rationality we are in need of a broader perspective. This broader perspective can be found by including the concept of relational rationality, defined as the way in which an organisation is able to develop and sustain viable relationships with his key stakeholders and not only shareholders. We also need to broaden our theoretical perspective by including institutional theory. Institutional theory, especially new institutionalism is able to offer explanations for the way in which organisations conform to contextual expectations in order to gain legitimacy and in this way increase their probability of survival.
During my stay at NIAS I wrote five theoretical chapters in order to highlight the above-mentioned issues and to counteract the sometimes single-minded approach in the USA. These chapters are on Strategy, Institutional context, Performance, Human Resource Based Theory of the Firm and on HR roles/HR effectiveness.
The importance of the context and the usefulness of making use of institutional theory is supported by empirical evidence at various levels of analyses: comparison of chemical plants, both in the USA and in the Netherlands and comparison at industry level, with contrasting degrees of institutionalisations and between companies in the same industry. So the five theoretical chapters are followed up by four empirically based chapters, based on my own research and based upon PhD projects, supervised by me. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
In addition to the above-mentioned research project, I was involved in writing (with co-authors) five papers/chapters in related subject areas and developed the design of two books I will be editing.
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