Role of authentic employer brands in addressing the integration-responsiveness problem in religiously-sensitive environments

Saud Taj, Katie Sinclair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose: Multinational enterprises (MNEs) face twin pressures of maintaining a globally integrated brand while remaining responsive to local demands. Previous research has shown that misunderstandings may surface from the way subsidiary employees read corporate messages, particularly if institutional and social distances between corporate headquarters (HQs) and subsidiaries are wide. Employer branding is sometimes used to help resolve such tensions if HQs are sensitive to signals from their subsidiaries in the policy development process. Thus, this paper addresses the question: to what extent does institutional proximity facilitates the creation and maintenance of socially legitimate employer brands in MNE subsidiaries.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper uses an interpretive approach in analysing two cases of multinational subsidiaries operating in Pakistan but with divergent HQ institutional distances (Northern Europe and Middle East). A qualitative approach to data collection was taken and ten semi-structured interviews with senior and middle managers and two focus groups of six lower level employees in each case organization were conducted.

Findings: The findings suggest that institutional proximity played a secondary role in establishing a legitimate employer brand whereas a receptive and responsive signalling process was of greater importance. The authenticity of the employer brand was stronger in the organization that was more receptive to the incoming signals from local employees compared to the firm that was rather institutionally closer due to shared customs and culture. Practical implications: Findings point to the significance of the character and intensity of the employment relationship at a micro level as the honesty and credibility of organizational messages and interpreted and re-interpreted at a localized level, thereby bearing serious implications for both global and local managers.

Originality/value: These findings contribute to the IHRM literature on the integration-responsiveness problem, to the debate over institutional proximity, and to the influence of religion on people management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-95
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance
Issue number1
Early online date21 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Employer branding
  • Institutional proximity
  • Integration-responsiveness problem
  • Legitimacy
  • Multinationals
  • Signalling theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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