Copycat: HR practices in Central Europe are mirroring the West

With an influx of countries entering the EU, foreign investment has increased, bringing in new employers and different ways of working. Against this backdrop, Deloitte has published a report – The State of HR in Central Europe – looking at how HR is evolving in six countries: Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The overarching trend is that HR practices are beginning to mirror those seen in the rest of Europe. The results from the survey suggest HR is moving away from a process-led function to become more strategic. 

For example, about half of organisations surveyed across the six countries now measure the impact of their HR strategy. In Austria and Poland specifically, the main role of HR is to be a ‘strategic partner’ focusing on aligning HR with the overall business strategy.

“The method of HR service provision is changing,” said Petr Kymlicka, partner at Deloitte Czech Republic. “HR is focusing to an increasing extent on services with added value. The HR model supports business needs through delivery of services such as resourcing, learning and development, talent management, compensation and motivation.”

The reason for this, according to John Herbert, executive director of European HR Forum, is due to foreign companies setting up business and western consultants being employed by local firms.

“For former communist countries, HR management is a relatively new process introduced by consultants and academics, so there is no surprise that the anglo-saxon models dominate and that there is not that much variation between countries or with the rest of Europe,” he said.

Kymlicka agreed that the results suggest strong western influences. “More foreign investors are entering European markets and bringing with them their HR know-how,” he added.

The report also reveals that all the countries surveyed are internally-focused when measuring HR performance. The top indicators were listed as employee satisfaction, employee turnover, absenteeism and the number of training hours per employee. 

Herbert said this trend is mirrored everywhere else in Europe, but is something that has to change. “HR strategy is ultimately about satisfying the needs of the external world. There needs to be a shift in thinking to enable HR to measure its impact externally,” he said.

The widest gap between the countries surveyed is seen in the application of IT. Only in Austria (47%) and Poland (63%) do the majority of organisations have fully integrated HR information systems.

In the other countries this figure stands at just 25%. “This may be part of the catch-up process or it could be down to language problems,” Herbert said.

Although there has been rapid HR development in these countries, Herbert said its success will depend on the people managing new strategies. “It is hard to know if they are being managed with the same level of understanding across these countries, as this may be affected by cultural differences,” he said.

One such difference could stem from a legacy of communism, he said. “The emphasis on the importance of the individual might be the strongest single difference with the West.

“When systems are applied, they won’t want to be handcuffed to them – people in these countries want freedom of action.”
ual might be the strongest single difference with the West.

“When systems are applied, they won’t want to be handcuffed to them – people in these countries want freedom of action.”

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