Cornell University

International Programs

117 Ives Hall, 607-254-7255


August 18 2006

ILR Launches HRM Field Study Course in Europe

Spring 2007 Field Study Course: ILR 658 "Strategic HRM"

Based on the success of the 2006 pilot course (story below), ILR is planning its second international field study in Europe during Spring 2007. It will provide students with in-depth classroom instruction on Strategic HRM, with special attention paid to the most recent EU member states. Students will study the development of selected European businesses, the history, role, and current efforts of the European Union in the workplace, and local cultural nuances as they affect the world of work. Students will be asked to compare and contrast significant aspects of the dominant U.S. strategic HR model with strategic HR models found in Europe, later incorporating their field and classroom learning in a final project. Enrollment is open to ILR seniors and graduate students. There is a course enrollment fee to cover travel expenses. Please contact course instructor,  John Haggerty.

ILR Launches International HRM Field Study Course in 2006

HR ClassIn a first for HR in the ILR School, graduate students in the course Field Study in Strategic HRM, and members of Cornell’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS), went to Europe to experience first-hand how the HR function impacts business on the other side of the world. The trip, which was focused in Amsterdam and Brussels, brought students together with peers from a Dutch HR program and provided a glimpse of the uniqueness of doing business in Europe.

In preparation for the trip, the class, led by Ph.D. student and former General Electric international HR leader John Haggerty--along with Professor Pat Wright--grounded itself in the European HR model as described by European industrial relations thought leader Professor Jaap Paauwe, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences and Chairman of the Department of HR for Tilburg University. Paauwe’s model strongly considers the institutional context of a firm in addition to the competitive environment, and defines performance on multiple levels, such as fairness, viability, legitimacy, and profitability. Furthermore, before the trip, each student gave a presentation of labor issues in a group of countries. Guest speakers ranged from European labor and history experts, to HR practitioners from CAHRS sponsor companies such as Shell and General Electric. However, the dialogue and theory of the classroom only crystallized when they arrived in Europe and experienced it in practice.

Jaap Paauwe and studentsOnce in Europe, the Cornell contingent was joined by eight Dutch students from Tilberg University’s HR Studies, two of their professors (including Paauwe) and a small group of IBM executives. During the week-long program, the group visited three Dutch companies – ABN AMRO (Europe’s 10th largest bank), Heineken, and Royal Dutch Shell – and two U.S. multinationals – General Electric and IBM. In addition to the corporate exposure, the group spent a day with European Union representatives and had the opportunity to get a better sense of the labor market for HR professionals through a meeting with Hansar International, a leading European search firm.

Amidst much dialogue and healthy debate, four major themes stood out: one, the complexity of the institutional environment facing employers; two, the differences in doing business throughout continental Europe; three, the talent pipeline challenges facing European companies; and four, the current limitations of the EU. These issues were evident in the course of corporate interactions throughout the week, and were raised informally through the interaction with the Dutch students. The unique perspectives of each group forced the other to reconsider their own viewpoints, and the learning from that process was the lasting memory of the trip. (Summary contributed by Andy DeLeone, MILR '06.)

Comments from other Spring 2006 Students

"As an International MILR student, I was thrilled when the FieldCornell students in Amsterdam Study Course in Europe was announced. While the opportunity to spend Spring Break in Amsterdam and Brussels would make any student happy, I was drawn more to the people that I would be meeting and spending my week with. The HR professionals would be a fantastic resource for my international career and the HR students would provide a different perspective to how HR is taught outside of North America. As cliché as it may sound, being able to see and hear first hand how HR is practiced in Europe was an invaluable experience, and one that will greatly affect how I look at HR. In so many ways the trip was similar to an internship - it was amazing how much I learned in such a short period of time." Anne-Marie Kontakos

"Upon arriving in Amsterdam for the first part of our trip I was determined to get straight to business to find evidence of convergence or divergence of European HR practices with U.S. HR practices. From day one I realized this was going to be a lot more challenging than it seemed. A group of students from Tillburg University studying HR in Holland joined us for the trip and provided an enlightening experience of the similarities of HR topics they are researching. Their openness to sharing their culture and ideas added to the quality of our experience. From each company visit we were given insight as to how each company culture differed and how the differences in business strategy and diversity in leadership created an influence in the direction of HR Management. The differences in HR issues due to works councils and approaches to unions and collective bargaining agreements where things I had previously only read about in classes. But being there and hearing from different professionals the varying approaches to IR/ER systems was invaluable. New food experiences also prevailed including mussels, frogs legs, Belgian white beer, gourmet chocolate, and of course the most amazing waffles. I could not imagine time or money better spent for this invaluable perspective that has helped me gain a better understanding in contributing to the world of work as it continues to expand." Irene Capous

Making Future Courses Accessible to More ILR Students

We hope to make this course accessible to all eligible ILR students and very much appreciate the generosity of alumni and friends interested in supporting student travel for this important learning experience. Please contact Robin Remick.