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HR practices for managing aging employees in organizations: the case of Thailand

Chaturong Napathorn (Thammasat Business School, Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy, Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand)

International Journal of Emerging Markets

ISSN: 1746-8809

Article publication date: 9 June 2021

240

Abstract

Purpose

This paper examines the human resource (HR) strategies and practices that are considered to be particularly beneficial for aging employees in organizations in Thailand, which is an underresearched developing economy, from an employee perspective and the implications of national institutions and cultures for the adoption and implementation of those HR strategies and practices across organizations.

Design/methodology/approach

The results of the study, based on a cross-case analysis of seven organizations across industries, are primarily drawn from structured interviews and focus groups with aging employees, field visits and a review of archival documents and web-based resources, including newspaper reports and magazines.

Findings

This paper proposes that HR strategies that are appropriate for managing aging employees in organizations in Thailand’s developing economy can be classified into four bundles: growth, maintenance, recovery and regulation. Each bundle of HR strategies consists of several HR practices that are appropriate for managing aging employees in organizations. In particular, from the perspective of aging employees, these HR practices help aging employees upgrade their skills, prepare them to have a sufficient amount of financial savings after retirement, ensure that they are safe, secure and healthy, help them feel that their tacit knowledge and experience are still valuable, and help them perform jobs that are appropriate for their physical health conditions. Additionally, the adoption and implementation of the proposed HR strategies and practices tend to be influenced by national institutions in terms of deficiencies in the national skill formation system, healthcare institutions, regulatory institutions and welfare state regime and by the national culture in terms of reciprocity and respect for elderly people (i.e. aging employees). However, there are five important HR practices that are specifically appropriate for managing aging employees in Thailand and other developing economies where the level of household debt and/or personal debt is high, where the increasing number of aging employees leads to high demand for medical services when the medical services offered by private hospitals are expensive, and where tacit knowledge and experience are important for creating and maintaining firms’ competitive advantage: (1) the facilitation of financial planning, (2) safety and health training, (3) annual health check-ups, (4) the appointment of aging employees as advisors/mentors and (5) knowledge transfer/job enrichment.

Research limitations/implications

One of the limitations of this research is its methodology. Because this research is based on case studies of seven firms located in Thailand, the findings may not be generalizable to all other firms across countries. Rather, the aim of this paper is to further the discussion regarding HR strategies and practices for managing aging employees in organizations. Another limitation of this research is that it does not include firms located in several other industries, including the agricultural and fishery industry and the financial services industry. Future research may explore HR strategies and practices for managing aging employees in organizations located in these industries. Moreover, quantitative studies using large samples of aging employees who work in firms across industries might also be useful in deepening the understanding of HR strategies and practices for managing aging/retired employees in organizations.

Practical implications

This paper provides practical implications for top managers and/or HR managers of firms in Thailand and other developing economies where the level of household debt and/or personal debt is high, where the increasing number of aging employees leads to high demand for medical services when the medical services offered by private hospitals are expensive, and where tacit knowledge and experience are important for creating and maintaining firms’ competitive advantage. In particular, the aging employees in this study identified the HR practices that they perceive as being appropriate for aging employees and that were already available in firms or that they expect their firms to have but are currently missing. In this regard, HR managers should take note of these good and appropriate HR practices to ensure that they become part of official, structured HR strategies and practices. This would ultimately help line managers and aging employees think more positively about the future of aging employees within the company and help retain invaluable aging employees over time.

Social implications

This paper provides social/policy implications for the government and/or relevant public agencies of Thailand and several other developing economies where the majority of aging people do not have sufficient savings to support themselves after retirement, especially when these countries are becoming aging societies, where the increasing demand for medical services cannot be adequately addressed by existing public hospitals while private hospitals’ medical prices are quite expensive, and where intellectual property right (IPR) protection laws are weak. That said, such governments should encourage firms located in their countries to implement these HR strategies and practices for developing, maintaining, deploying and supporting aging employees.

Originality/value

This paper aims to contribute to the literature on human resource management (HRM), specifically on HR practices for aging employees, in the following ways. First, this study is different from the previous studies in that it examines HR practices for managing aging employees from an employee perspective, while most of the previous studies in this area have focused on the management of such employees from an employer perspective. In this case, it is possible that formal company policies may be different from actual HR practices as perceived by aging employees (Khilji and Wang, 2006). Second, this paper explores the implications of national institutions and cultures of Thailand’s developing economy for the adoption and implementation of HR strategies and practices that are appropriate for managing aging employees in organizations. Finally, this paper examines HR practices that are specifically appropriate for managing aging employees in Thailand and other developing economies. The literature on HR practices for aging employees has overlooked developing economies, including the underresearched country of Thailand, as most of the studies in this area have focused on developed economies. In fact, developed economies and developing economies are very different in several respects, which may influence the HR strategies and practices that are appropriate for managing aging employees in organizations.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: This research was financially supported by Thailand Research Fund and Thammasat University (MRG6180146).

Citation

Napathorn, C. (2021), "HR practices for managing aging employees in organizations: the case of Thailand", International Journal of Emerging Markets, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOEM-01-2020-0043

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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