Globalizing Actors in Multinational Companies

‘Globalizing Actors in Multinational Companies’ is a publicly-funded research project conducted by academics from Loughborough University London and the University of East Anglia. The project seeks to investigate how norms—well-established behaviours, beliefs, and processes within organizations—are created, disseminated across borders, and adapted over time. Our particular interest lies with the individuals who are responsible for the creation, diffusion, interpretation and negotiation of norms across international operations and the resources they mobilize to help them succeed.



An organisation’s norms constitute the operating system that everything else runs on. These norms consist of the intangible beliefs people hold, the stories they tell and the behaviours they display. Norms may be deliberately created and disseminated through the formal power of managers, but are also subject to complex interactions between various actors within the organization—some of whom may contest norms, adapt them to their own needs, or become unexpected sources of new ones. In a globalized economic and business context, the norms that shape management practice travel internationally. This is particularly the case within the multinational company. Understanding how and where norms emerge and spread enables managers to streamline processes within their organization, contributing to improved performance.


Project Aims

This new research project seeks to understand how those individuals who are responsible for the creation, diffusion, interpretation and negotiation of norms succeed across international operations. We seek to understand how these "globalizing actors" mobilize resources in the creation, diffusion, interpretation and negotiation of norms concerning the global coordination of human resources.

We will look at what such actors actually do and assess the ways in which cultures and institutions affect what they do.

We will assess:

  • how they create new norms
  • the strategies they use to diffuse these across borders
  • how these new norms are interpreted by others in the company
  • the processes of negotiation between globalizing actors and those who receive the norms

and consider:

  • the skills and knowledge (or 'human capital') they need to engage in these processes
  • the social capital (in terms of power and trust) they make use of
  • their transnational experiences and exposure



We will examine UK MNCs, both at home and across subsidiaries in Europe, North America and East Asia. The research will use multiple methods, consisting of four steps:

  1. UK Interviews These will focus on providing details of the strategies of the firms and identifying those charged with creating new norms and spreading them across international operations.
  2. Interviews in the Regions We will conduct interviews in the international operations of each firm, enabling us to understand frames of reference and actor choices in Europe, N. America and E. Asia.
  3. Survey The survey of a set of globalizing actors will establish individual level capabilities associated with the establishment and diffusion of global norms.
  4. Diary Study This methodological innovation allows us both to explore what globalizing actors actually do and to test predictors of behaviours and attitudes.


Who we are looking to work with

The project will be based on partnerships with a range of organizations. The partnership will involve the company agreeing to some staff time being devoted to speaking to interviewers in the project team, and taking part in a survey and diary study. We guarantee confidentiality of individual responses, i.e. all identifying information will be removed, and participants are free to withdraw from the study at any time. In return, the research team undertake to regularly feedback the lessons learned from the research and establish a range of ways in which the organisations can gather useful information, both from the study of their own staff but also from those of others.


We seek to find

Globalising actors in MNCs responsible for establishing norms globally…

…who want to develop their practice by sharing with peers in diverse organisations.

…who are willing to experiment with new approaches and share their experiences.


What you get By Participating

  • Informal CPD working with a team of academic thought leaders
  • Regular meet ups in London with peers to share knowledge and build networks
  • Access to a pool of knowledge and expertise to support your own work
  • Access to the research and emerging insights produced by the study


What we intend to produce

The research will identify

  • A set of key personal attributes and competencies that help GAs achieve their aims
  • The practices organisations can develop that support new norms
  • A guide to the various roles played by GAs and the skills associated with them
  • Impact studies demonstrating the value created by successful norm deployment



Funding for this study is provided by the Economic and Social Research Council (award number ES/N007883/1).