Institut für Weltgesellschaft
Institute for World Society Studies
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„Going Global“ or „Short-Term Adventures“? The Conditions and Consequences of the Globalization of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.

Funded by: Hans Böckler Foundation (Hans-Böckler-Stiftung (HBS)
Central Project Coordination (Bielefeld University): Prof. Dr. Ursula Mense-Petermann (Principal Investigator)

Project Team:
  • Dipl.-Soz. Christoph Seidel, Bielefeld University
  • Dipl.-Soz. Andre Meyer, Bielefeld University

Project Duration: 2012 - 2015

Project Description:

This project considers the long-term impact of globalization on the organizational structure, human resource management and employees interest representation of small and mediumsized enterprises (SME). Although SMEs do have a high relevance for the German economy, so far the consequences of their globalization for the whole SME and their employees have been understudied. In particular, this project explores how SMEs cope with the challenges of long-term globalization processes despite their limitations in organizational knowledge and capital. Various studies, however, have already shown that SMEs choose unique paths of entering into foreign markets. This, and the observable high degree of informal reconciliation of interests between employers and employees within SME structures, points to peculiarities of the globalization practices of SMEs as compared to “global players”. This research project aims to reconstruct the special logics and typical paths of SME globalization in its own complexity and in its implications for the employees and their representation of interests. The three questions that guide this project are: (1) What are the specific risks and chances of the globalization of SMEs? Can we understand SME globalization as an “ongoing Globalization” (i.e. as an extension of the economic processes of globalization by the involvement of more and more SMEs), or is SME globalization only a „short-term adventure“ which eventually leads to a re-re-location of foreign direct investment back home? (2) What are the typical resources that SMEs use for this process of globalization? (3) What are the consequences of this unique lobalization path for the employees and their representation of interest within SMEs? How do these process of globalization transform the typical „social world“ (Kotthoff/Reindl 1990) of SMEs? To answer these questions, we compare SMEs from machine builder and automobile supplier industries within the framework of a qualitative case study approach. As an exemplary field for our research, we choose to analyze the establishment of subsidiaries in China.