Building integrated workforces across national borders: the case of British and Japanese engineers

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Increased competition in the global market and the rapid pace of technological development have led to the proliferation of cross-border partnerships among multinational firms. However, diversity in national backgrounds, management systems and work practices between partner firms can limit the development of robust co-operative relationships and impede the formation of integrated work teams. This study provides a concrete analysis of how the diversity in the technology management systems and work practices between a Japanese and British electronics firm has constrained their collaboration. It examines how the two firms attempt to co-ordinate the work of their engineers and analyses the limitations of their adaptive strategies. The paper argues that mutual adaptation and organizational learning can have only limited effect in accommodating some of the fundamental differences between the partner firms many of which are closely interwoven with diversity in national institutions and societal contexts. It also argues that ‘integration’ and ‘acculturation’ do not really address the full range of the problems. Inter-firm diversity, although conflict-inducing, is also a source of competitive advantage for the partnership. Firms engaged in global collaboration must face the persistent tension between the need to preserve their core strengths and the pressure for global adaptation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-527
JournalThe International Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1995

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