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Comparative HRM in context

Module description

The management of human resources varies according to the cultural and institutional environment in which it takes place. In an increasingly globalised business environment, it is more imperative than ever for organisations to understand that Human Resource Management is different from country to country, and within different organisations in different regions of the world. This module aims to examine the range of human resource policies and practices required for effective human resource management and the way they vary across national and regional boundaries. The module focuses on how HRM is practiced in the major economies, focusing on the key differences and exploring why these persist. A heavy emphasis is placed on the context in which HR policy and practice is developed internationally and how this is evolving over time.

This module enables you to learn from experts on a range of practice-based topics in order to give you insight into the ways HRM takes place across a range of international contexts. The method of instruction is through lectures and guest lectures from global HR leaders and experts, supplemented by a residential course and the analysis of cases in workshops and peer study groups. Topics include talent management, training and development, employment relations, managing reward, as well as many others. This module is exclusively for MSc IHRM students and is embedded throughout the first two terms of the programme, drawing together the main programme themes. You will integrate concepts from other modules to gain a deeper understanding of the comparative dimensions of HRM across a variety of contexts, drawing your learning together from across the programme in preparation for the final consultation module.

You will be guided by a single module coordinator over the course of two terms who will invite guest speakers throughout the year. The aim is to help you make connections between your previous experiences and learning, HRM practice and cross-cultural perspectives. The residential at the start of the programme is designed to help you build on your existing skills and further your ability and confidence to perform an HR management role. It includes workshops and activities on topics such as personal effectiveness and group presentations to develop your personal and professional practice. Further, the residential and seminars are designed to enable you to look at business problems from a variety of HRM perspectives. By the end of the module you will be able to consider why and to what extent there are differences in HR practices across countries, and how these take place in the contemporary business environment.

Full module specification

Module title:Comparative HRM in context
Module code:BEMM470
Module level:M
Academic year:2021/2
Module lecturers:
Module credit:30
ECTS value:


Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 1:


Duration (weeks) - term 2:


Module aims

This module enables you to effectively identify, compare and analyse HRM practice within the major contexts in which international organisations operate. You will learn from a variety of real-world examples and current thinking in IHRM. Following an introductory overview of theoretical perspectives of comparative HRM, each lecture will focus on a different HR practice to provide you with an in-depth view of the way they vary across national and regional boundaries, as well as some of the contemporary issues within the field. Seminars are designed to compare practice across specific countries or different regions of the world, such as North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. The residential helps to build on your existing skills and further your ability and your confidence to address practical IHRM problems. This module simulates real issues in IHRM, enabling you to develop essential skills and understanding for applying HRM practice in global contexts. Residential, seminar and assignment content will also prepare you for the International HRM in Practice module in term 3.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. describe the theoretical underpinnings of comparative HRM
  • 2. explain the differences between models of HRM and the way that HR practices take place across a range of national and regional boundaries
  • 3. explain how institutions and culture affect HR practices across a range of global contexts
  • 4. evaluate major contemporary theoretical and managerial perspectives and approaches to HR strategies and practices at an international level

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. examine HRM as a fundamental function of international business and management
  • 6. produce appropriate theoretical and practical solutions to organisational problems within an international context
  • 7. critically reflect on your professional development as an HR professional

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. advise organisations on contemporary HRM challenges facing the international organisations
  • 9. evaluate, justify and critique international HRM practice and research from a range of perspectives

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activities4410 x 2 hour Lectures 6 x 2 hour case study seminars/workshop Residential (if agreed)
Group based activities36Peer learning group sessions Preparation for activities ahead of residential (if agreed)
Guided independent study220To include pre and post session preparation and assignment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
In-class exercises20 hours1 – 6, 8, 9Tutor feedback
Online learning activities20 hours1 – 5, 7Tutor feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation/video201 x 10 mins1 – 6, 8, 9Written feedback
Individual learning log/portfolio 201,500 words / 9 minutes audio or video (approx.)1 – 5, 7Written feedback
Individual case report602,000 words1 – 6, 8, 9Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group presentation/videoIndividual presentation/video (20%), 10 mins1 – 6, 8, 9August re-assessment period
Individual learning log/portfolioIndividual learning log/portfolio (20%) 1,500 words / 9 minutes audio or video (approx.)1 – 5, 7August re-assessment period
Individual case reportIndividual case report (60%) 2,000 words1 – 6, 8, 9August re-assessment period

Syllabus plan

This module runs throughout the programme as a spine unit. The module aims and methods are introduced at the residential scheduled for the first few weeks of your course. The learning and assessment activities conclude during the International HRM in Practice module at the end of your programme.

Ten 2-hour lectures are spread over two terms. School staff and visiting speakers will contribute. The range of topics varies from year to year, but will consider comparative HRM including sessions on:

  • Cultural framework theory
  • Institutional framework theory
  • National cultures
  • Recruitment and selection
  • Reward
  • Training and development
  • Flexibility and work-life balance
  • Employee relations and communications

Six 2-hour practice-based seminars working on case studies comparing practices across a range of global regions.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Brewster, C., Sparrow, P. and Vernon, G. (2016) International Human Resource Management, London: CIPD
  • Kramar, R., and Syed, J. (2017) Human Resource Management: A Global and Critical Perspective
  • Edwards, T., and Rees, C. (2016) International Human Resource Management: Globalization, National Systems and Multinational Companies, Pearson
  • Harzing, A.-W., Reiche, S. & Tenzer, H. (eds.) (2018) International Human Resource Management (5th Edition), London: Sage.
  • Kew, J. & Stredwick, J. (2010) Business Environment: Managing in a Strategic Context, Second Edition. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
  • Özbilgin, M.F., Groutsis, D., & Harvey, W.S. (2014), International Human Resource Management. Cambridge: University Press.
  • Torrington, D., Hall, L., Taylor, S. and Atkinson, C. (2020) Human Resource Management, 11th edition, Harlow: Pearson Education

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Relevant journals include (non-exhaustive list):

International Journal of Human Resource Management

Human Relations

Human Resource Management Review

Human Resource Management (US)

Human Resource Management Journal (UK)

International Business Review

Academy of Management Journal

Human Resource Development International

Human Resource Management Review

Journal of International Management

International Journal of Management Reviews

International Studies of Management & Organization

International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management

Cross-Cultural & Strategic Management

Scandinavian Journal of Management

Employee Relations

Journal of Global Mobility

Journal of World Business

International Journal of Intercultural Relations

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