Mariappanadar, S. and Kramar, R. (2014), "Sustainable people management practices in the Asia Pacific region", Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration, Vol. 6 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/APJBA-07-2014-0089Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Sustainable people management practices in the Asia Pacific region
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration, Volume 6, Issue 3.
Sustainable human resource management (HRM) opens up new ways of conceptualising HRM. Although it has its origins in strategic human resource management (SHRM), it is much more. Sustainable HRM has broader concerns.
The sustainable HRM approach acknowledges the impact of HRM on a variety of stakeholders in the short term and the long term. Unlike SHRM, which has come to focus on the role of HRM in enhancing organisational performance by furthering financial and economic outcomes, sustainable HRM explicitly identifies the impact of HRM practices on people internal and external to the organisation. It also identifies the impact of organisational and HRM practices on the current and future environment.
Sustainable HRM makes a major contribution to conceptualising and understanding the formulation and implementation of HRM practices. It recognises that HRM practices are often contradictory. Rather than sending consistent messages to employees and managers, they send messages which conflict each other. At the heart of this contradiction is the paradox that managerial policy makers face. They are concerned with using people efficiently, but at the same time maintaining the stock of human capital.
This Special Issue of Asia Pacific Journal of Business Administration provides further insights into the implications and complexities of sustainable HRM. The papers highlight additional fascinating aspects of sustainable HRM and pose challenges to the dominant SHRM approach and its central concerns. At the heart of a number of papers are the concepts which inform HRM, the design and implementation of HRM policies and the significance of contextual factors. The issue makes a particular contribution to the literature by examining aspects of sustainable HRM in the Asia Pacific region.
The paper by Mak, Cheung, Mak and Leung focuses on the relationship between Confucian values and sustainability. The literature on sustainable HRM has traditionally been framed in terms of western perspectives of management, organisational and social relationships. However, the paper highlights the core elements of a Confucian philosophical tradition, such as the importance of an individual's moral cultivation and the ethical ideal of a living a good life, are consistent with sustainable HRM. Interviews with Chinese employees reveal the importance they place on a number of aspects of the workplace. These include job development opportunities, a harmonious working environment, good personal relationships at work, showing care and concern for other employees and the role of persuasion, rather than the use of force to influence people. Mak et al. make the optimistic conclusion that sustainability is supported by Confucian values and that Chinese companies are probably ready to embrace the concept of sustainability and implement sustainable people management practices. Sustainable HRM has profound implications for the design and execution of HRM practices.
The paper by Maley confronts the performance management and the performance appraisal processes. It views these processes from a sustainable HRM perspective and suggests ways of overcoming the common limitations of these processes. A sustainable HRM lens requires a very clear communication of the purpose of the performance management and performance appraisal process to a variety of stakeholders. In order to do this, managers would need to be accountable for effective communication. They would also be required to ensure there is consistency in the expectations of managers and employees regarding the conduct and outcomes of the processes. At the heart of this is the process of managing consensus about the process. This requires the involvement of employees in the development of the performance management and appraisal processes. It implies involvement in criteria setting, evaluation processes and the provision of support practices such as training. Her suggestions indicate the purpose of performance management and appraisal would broaden, its development and implementation would be more time consuming and that the negative impact of appraisal would be explicitly acknowledged.
The paper “Sustainable HRM: The synthesis effect of High Performance Work Systems on Organisational Performance and Employee Harm” by Mariappanadar and Kramar provides insights into the complexities of high performance work systems (HPWS). The study attempts to establish empirical evidence of the simultaneous and the synthesis effects of HPWS on organisational performance and employee harm in the East Asian Pacific region. The simultaneous and synthesis effects of HPWS on organisational performance and employee harm and examined using the Cranet data for five countries in the Asia pacific region. The findings of the study are surprising. It found that tele-working and a compressed working week do not have a simultaneous positive or mutual benefit effect for organisations and employees, but have a negative impact on organisational and employee well-being. However, it was also found that tele-working and a compressed working week when moderated by employee benefits and trade union influence it resulted in improved organisational profitability and reduction of employee harm. These findings suggest that the synthesis effect of sustainable HRM is based on HRM systems (a group of HRM practices) and not HRM practice or function.
The study of the employment systems in Japan takes the analysis of the impact of HRM to a broader level. Sotome and Takahashi examines the impact of the Japanese employment system which has the features of lifetime employment, a seniority based wage system and active enterprise unions, on productivity. The study found that this system created inflexibility and male dominance, and although the system creates positive benefits for a variety of internal and external stakeholders, it is not sustainable in the longer term. It is not sustainable because it harms productivity performance and the sustainability of the organisation. It also has a negative impact on the opportunities available to various groups in organisations.
The paper by Suriyankietkaew and Avery examines the relationship between the 23 sustainable leadership (SL) practices proposed by Avery and Bergsteiner and overall stakeholder satisfaction (OSS). This was done in small and medium enterprises in Bangkok Thailand using a cross sectional, mixed survey method. The study involved 439 managers. The findings of the study indicate that all of the SL practices, except for “financial market orientation”, are significantly related to OSS. In addition a positive relationship between individual SL practices and OSS was supported, with particular practices having different impacts on OSS. These included labour relations, staff retention, strong and shared vision, strategic systemic innovation, staff engagement and quality. The study partially supported the hypothesis that the greater the number of SL practices an organisation adopts, the higher the OSS. Again particular practices such as staff engagement, strong and shared vision, amicable labour relations, strategic systemic innovation and retaining staff were significant. This study adds to the literature on sustainable HRM by examining the relationship between SL practices and OSS in an emerging economy and in SMEs.
Au and Ahmed's paper on sustainable people management through work-life balance: A study of the Malaysian Chinese context explores the harmful effects of negative externality at both national and firm level by identifying practices that impact Malaysian Chinese's well-being in the form of work-life imbalance. The paper investigates, using semi-structured interviews, the factors which influence and shape work-life balance experience of Malaysian Chinese working adults. The study found contextual elements in the macro-environment, such as government legislation and policy, societal values and practices, as well as the firm environment including owner and leadership values and superiors’ shape the experience of work-life balance among Chinese Malaysians. The authors conclude that the findings show that current work-life practices in Malaysia will lead to an unsustainable human resource position for Malaysian firms. This paper provides much needed information about the practice of work-life balance HRM practice in a non-western context.
Sustainable HRM is an emerging area of academic interest. This Special Issue contributes to the literature by examining specific aspects of sustainable HRM. It also contributes by examining aspects of sustainable HRM in emerging economies. We now have to see if sustainable HRM will challenge the supremacy of SHRM.
Reviewers for the special issue
Guest Editors and the Editor-in-Chief of the Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration would like to thank the listed reviewers for their time and effort in reviewing the manuscripts submitted to the special issue on sustainable people management practices in the Asia Pacific region to develop the field of sustainable HRM:
Susan E. Jackson
Dr Sugumar Mariappanadar
School of Business, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia
Professor Robin Kramar
Australian Catholic University, Australia