Increasing globalisation offers a wide range of opportunities for businesses operating in an international market, and managers are required more than ever before to work with individuals from different countries (Sparrow et al., 2004). However, in order to manage effectively across national borders and to prevent misunderstandings or conflicts, it is imperative for international managers to understand the complex differences between countries and their implications for business. Against this background, it is particularly worthwhile to scrutinise existing research concerned with the current challenges faced by multinational corporations (MNCs) more closely. Accordingly, the aim of the present essay is to critically evaluate the research paper “Managing talent across national borders: the challenges faced by an international retail group” by Mehdi Boussebaa and Glenn Morgan (2008) and to provide implications for theory and practice in cross-cultural management.
First of all, to set the stage for the article analysis, a brief overview of the paper will be provided. Subsequently, theoretical frameworks used in the article will be presented and evaluated. This is followed by a critical evaluation of the appropriateness of the chosen study design and methodology for the research questions posed by the authors. Further, the findings and conclusions of the undertaken study will be outlined and discussed, and afterwards, based on the critical analysis of the paper in the previous sections, the implications for individuals involved in cross-cultural management will be presented. Finally, the essay will conclude that the reviewed research paper, despite some flaws, is an interesting piece of work that makes a contribution to the existing research on international management.
Research Paper Introduction
The research paper deals with the influences of national institutional environments on a MNC’s attempt to develop a transnational talent management (TM) framework. More precisely, Boussebaa and Morgan examined in their single case study of a British-French retail group, the perceptions of British and French managers towards to the TM programme which was sought to be established by the MNC’s headquarters, i.e. the UK-firm. The aim was to provide a common TM system across the British and the recently acquired French company in order to ensure consistency concerning the management of talent between the two firms. However, it should be noted that this TM framework was essentially based on the British approach to TM.
Based on the results of interviews with British and French managers, observation and documents, the authors have revealed considerable differences in the conception of talent management between the two companies. According to Boussebaa and Morgan, the reason for this is that the British managers held the belief that talent should be identified by measurements, such as assessment centres, whereas the French managers did not share this view as they thought they had already proven their abilities through highly competitive studies at the grandes e´coles. Since the corporate headquarters ignored this differing understanding of talent and thus encountered strong resistance from its subsidiary regarding the proposed TM framework, the project resulted in a complete failure. Based on these findings, the authors point to the major difficulties associated with implementing transnational management practices which can be attributed to the prevailing institutional differences between nations.
Theory and Literature
In order to underline the significance of their findings, Boussebaa and Morgan draw firstly upon mainstream international management literature that essentially maintains that national differences are no longer significant to the management and organisation of MNCs. In this context, the authors particularly refer to Perlmutter (1969) and Bartlett and Ghoshal (1989) who supported this thesis of convergence in management practices and argued that MNCs would evolve over time to respectively geocentric and transnational companies. However, the authors strongly challenge this view and refer in this regard to the increasing research drawing upon comparative institutionalism. Further, they provide various research evidence for the persistence of national differences and point to an existing dialectical relationship marked by micro-political bargaining between headquarters and subsidiaries. Moreover, Boussebaa and Morgan provide, based on a comparative analysis, detailed and significant background information concerning the development and promotion of managers in the investigated countries.
All in all, the theoretical underpinning employed by the authors seems to be appropriate for the conducted study. First, the authors highlight the predominant assumptions in the mainstream international management literature regarding the decreased relevance of national differences to the management of MNCs and subsequently they provide the latest counter evidence for this thesis from various comparative institutionalist research. However, although Perlmutter is one of the earliest and most significant international management theorists, it would have reinforced the authors’ position if they had provided additional and more recent research underpinning this allegedly still prevailing convergence thesis. Further, the literature used for the comparison of French and British management development and promotion processes is mainly from the 1980s/1990s and accordingly not up to date. More recent sources would have been beneficial at this stage.