HR ambidexterity and absorptive capacities: A paradox-based approach to HRM capabilities and practice adoption in MNC subsidiaries

Anton Beletskiy, Carl F. Fey

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Abstract

This article examines the relationship between the capabilities of HR departments and the level of adoption of corporate HRM practices in MNC subsidiaries. To explain this relationship, we leverage paradox theorizing, still rare but gaining increasing attention in HRM research, and integrate the studies of practice transfer, organizational ambidexterity, and absorptive capacity. First, we establish the conceptual linkages between the implementation and internalization dimensions of practice adoption and the potential and realized absorptive capacities of HR departments. Second, we re-define the operational and strategic activities of HR departments in terms of the learning paradox of exploitation and exploration. Third, we introduce the concept of HR ambidexterity to describe HR departments that possess high levels of capabilities in both operational (exploitative) and strategic (explorative) task-domains. Finally, we hypothesize that ambidextrous HR departments are more adept at adopting corporate HRM practices. An analysis of the survey data from 105 foreign subsidiaries of 12 MNCs supports this single hypothesis. The main contribution of this research is in leveraging paradox theorizing to explain the nature of HRM capabilities and their role in the adoption of HRM practices.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • international HRM
  • knowledge transfer
  • strategic HR

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