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The challenges of international human resource management revolve around how to deal with the cultural, political, legal and economic among among countries and their people.

We cannot simply copy the practice from one country to another. Different knowledge about foreign countries, such as employment laws, language, diverse staffing or employment relations, should all be taken into consideration.

In this step, we’ll explore several issues affecting international HRM.

International staffing: home or local?

For most multinational corporations, it’s a challenge to choose staff for international assignments. We can staff an international company with parent (or home-country) nationals, local (host-country) nationals or third-country nationals.

Because of where they come from, both home-country nationals and third-country nationals are considered to be expatriates. Alternatively, locals work for the company in its international locations but are citizens of the countries where they are working.

Whether to use expatriates or locals generally depends on quantifiable considerations (such as cost, skills, knowledge and experiences). Top management’s personal inclination and the company’s stage of the internationalisation also affect these decisions.

Cultural diversity

A salient issue in international HR is understanding and maintaining cultural diversity. Working with people from different locations or from different cultural backgrounds means adapting the business’s work style to new ideas, new ways of communicating and unfamiliar social practices.

For example, if you hire an employee from England, the employee might have different ideas about how to manage employees or on how to run technology processes based on her experiences back home. Being open to new work styles and cultural differences is the hallmark of cultural diversity in IHRM.

Talent management

Sufficient professional and managerial talent are the drivers for company development and economic growth. An increasing loss of talent or a ‘brain-drain’ crisis has become a very common and serious problem for many companies, as skilled staff leave for pay increases within a booming labour market. Because of this, the attraction and retention of talented individuals have become key strategic issues for many organisations (Iles and Zhang 2013).

Female careers in international management

Women are less likely to be picked up for the international assignments as their employers assume that women don’t want to work abroad, can’t get their spouses to join them or could not handle difficult situations. Fear of cultural prejudices against women and safety are the main concerns for employers to not choose female expatriates. In fact, most surveyed female expats said safety was no more an issue with women than it was with men.

Your task

Have you experienced any of the HR issues listed above? What would you recommend to manage the issue?


Dessler, G. (2020) Human Resource Management. 16th edn. London: Pearson Education Limited

Iles, P., and Zhang, C. (2013) International Human Resource Management: A Cross-cultural and Comparative Approach. London: CIPD.

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to International Human Resources Management

Coventry University