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Monks, K.; Loughnane, M. and McMackin, J. 'Greenfield Sites in Brownfield Locations: Creating New HR Systems by Managing Old HR Problems', CISC Working Paper No. 5

Greenfield sites have proved to be of great interest to researchers in the area of international human resource management as they have provided the opportunity to study the impact of HRM practices that are introduced into organisations when management has more or less a free rein in relation both to the choice of practices and the way in which these are implemented. Given this choice of HR practices, the option to utilise what have been labelled 'high commitment' practices is possible for the employer and this offers the possibility of monitoring the impact of different HR strategies on firm performance (see, for example, Hallier and Leopold, 2000; Gunnigle and Morley, 1998, Guest and Hoque, 1994).

Greenfield sites are, though, an expensive option. In many cases, the setting up of a plant in a new physical location is not a real possibility, even for the large multinational organisation. Instead, organisations that need to expand their plant capacity may have to do so within their existing locations. This process may involve the utilisation of some of the existing staff who may bring with them the legacies of ways of working that predominated within the original plant; legacies that may present barriers to introducing the types of initiatives that are possible in a completely greenfield situation. At the same time there may be opportunities presented by the new premises to introduce new working practices. Locations that mix both greenfield and brownfield elements are therefore interesting case studies as they provide the opportunity to examine the ways in which organisations mould their existing HR practices in order to manage change and this offers the possibility of identifying the key HR practices in the process of such change. In addition, they present insights into the relationship between HR practices and performance as comparisons are possible between the old and the new plants. As Purcell (1999) has pointed out, focusing on change in this way holds out distinct possibilities for the understanding and analysis of HR issues.

This paper provides an insight into some of these issues from a study undertaken within a power station in Ireland. The paper begins by discussing some of the issues within the HRM ?performance literature, before describing the results of the research.

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