A Comparison of the Offshoring and Outsourcing Strategies of German and UK Multinational Companies: A Critical Engagement With the 'Varieties of Capitalism' Perspective
The aim of this research is to examine the extent to which the offshoring and outsourcing practices in Multinational Corporations, when the headquarters are registered and located in either the UK or Germany; are embedded in the institutional contexts of their respective home countries. There are six research questions relating to differences in approach and choice of location, ownership and coordination, employment practice, cultural proximity, trade union influence and finally the extent of re-shoring. These are primarily assessed through the ‘varieties of capitalism’ perspective. A comparative case study approach has been adopted with a focus on two sectors; airlines and engineering; in each case a major UK and German organisation are compared. Fourteen in-depth, semi-structured interviews took place in both the home countries and overseas locations in Europe, India and Asia. The sample size is small, however, each was with a senior executive and the transcripts revealed ‘rich data’ for compiling the case studies and answering the research questions. The contribution to original thinking is a conceptual framework posited by proposing a taxonomy to analyse the relationship between coordinated and liberal market economies and the components of the offshoring and / or outsourcing process. Reference is made to theory drawn from the resource based view, global production networks, dynamic capabilities, embeddedness as well as varieties of capitalism to focus on competences, spatial dimensions and power. It is this collective approach that is considered to be novel. Qualitative analysis is deployed to re-construct the actual framework for each industry sector. Constructs (Reichertz, 2004) combining abduction, deduction and induction are used to develop propositions that lead to conclusions. The similarities between the two UK companies and the two German companies confirms the usefulness of the taxonomy and allows for its extension to other firms and sectors. Key findings and conclusions from the two case studies are that German organizations are less inclined to outsource (in both sectors) preferring to reduce costs and retain control through captive offshoring. The UK businesses were less risk adverse and more flexible and agile in their sourcing policies. There was evidence that the UK companies regarded outsourcing and offshoring as options for closer co-operation that may lead to strategic alliances and mergers or acquisition. The relationships’ with trade unions / works council was also found to be very different, with a reluctance by management in Germany to progress radical initiatives. Other differences in terms of autonomy and division of labour were found. From an institutional perspective the German CME’s cases were less able to deploy outsourcing and offshoring strategies with the degrees of freedom that the UK LMEs typically enjoyed. CMEs are constrained by their policies, interconnectedness and style of working. A number of ambiguities are highlighted. The thesis argues that the outsourcing and offshoring practices are embedded to a high degree in the institutional practices of the home countries. Finally, the empirical novelty lies in the ‘rich data’ generated by valuable insights from the senior executive interviewees to which the researcher was privileged to have access.