The Euro: Implications for human resource strategies for the 21st Century

Tim Murphy, Consultant Irish Productivity Centre and
Frank O?Reilly, Project Director Irish Productivity Centre


This paper contains a report on the Human Resource Strategies operating in ten companies in Ireland. The companies were examined using a case study approach, that is, using a qualitative research method aimed at identifying personnel practices and procedures through which the companies in question sought to give expression to the people and management values which each uniquely held.

Each case study can best be described as a story in which stakeholders; directors, managers and employees ? over time set out in the face of risk and competition to create relationships and ways of working together that are sustained and endure and that lead to degrees both of personal need satisfaction and business success. What has been extracted in the paper are what the authors consider, from their own experience, to be lessons that companies approaching the year 2,000 would do well to consider.

The companies in question are all multi-nationals but, as will presently emerge, are by no means homogeneous entities. All have a strong Irish representation in their managements. In the case of many of the companies the Irish management had an influence on corporate policies in regard to investment and the development of policy which went a long way beyond what the authors would have expected at the outset of the research.

The aim of this paper is to outline key elements in the HR (human resource) strategies employed by the companies and to point to possible lessons emerging in the context of European Monetary Union (EMU).

Brief Description of Companies

The background of the companies which provided the basis for the study, broken down in terms of industry/ product group, size, length of time located in Ireland and union/non-union status, was as follows:

Company Initial for study Industry/Product Group Size (Ireland) Year locating in Ireland Union Status
A Electronics 3,200 1990 Non Union
B Health Care 720 1981 Unionised
C Injection Moulding 350 1979 Non Union
D Processing of Raw Materials 420 1983 Unionised
E Health Care 500 1969 Unionised
F Computer Products 550 1993 Non Union
G Computers/Computer Products 1,400 1996 Non Union
H Pharmaceuticals 1,000 1977 Unionised
I Eye Wear 500 1982 Unionised
J Pharmaceuticals 760 1975 Non Union

As can be seen from this listing of the ten companies, three each were set up in the 1990s, the 1980s, and the 1970s and one was set up during the 1960s. There were interesting differences between the companies depending on when they had been set up. All companies set up before the 1990s had gone through stages of change, transformation and renewal.

Human Resource Strategies within these companies and the stories of relationships were linked to these changes. Companies entering the country in the 1990s placed no less emphasis on change but in the case of two of these companies the emphasis was on the transmission of values, culture and practices and on particular ways of doing things rather than on changing values and culture as was the case with other companies.

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