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High-Involvement Work Systems in Japan, the United States, and Korea: Evidence from Field Research

International Perspectives on Participation

ISBN: 978-1-78441-169-5

Publication date: 21 November 2014


This chapter is aimed at filling two important gaps in the large literature on high-involvement work system (HIWS). First, the existing literature tends to focus on North America and Western Europe, and detailed information on HIWS outside of the two regions (especially Asia) is still limited. Second, while there is a large body of quantitative evidence, the literature is relatively scant on detailed account of exactly how specific HIWS practices are implemented in the real workplace. This chapter draws on our extensive field research at firms in Japan, the United States, and Korea, and presents real-world examples of HIWS of firms in Japan, Korea, and the United States. Our detailed account of the implementation of HIWS in the three countries points to an intriguing process of transnational diffusion of HIWS. Japanese firms as early experimenters of HIWS posed a challenge to U.S. firms in the global marketplace, resulting in the trans-pacific diffusion of HIWS which is modified to the U.S. corporate culture. Due to its geographical proximity and historical connections to Japan, Korean firms were initially heavily influenced by Japanese HIWS. However, with the rising link to the United States and Europe, Japanese influence appears to have been waning, and interest in U.S. style HIWS and European-style state-mandated works council has risen, suggesting that a hybrid model may be emerging in Korea.




I am grateful to Motohiro Morishima, Derek C. Jones, Ju Ho Lee, Kang-Sang Lee, Jang-Soo Ryu, Ryo Kambayashi, and Adam Weinberg with whom I collaborated on my previous works (on which this chapter draws) as well as Dong-Bae Kim, Sam-Su Kim, Yong-Jin Ro, and Jiman Lee who provided me with helpful comments and suggestions on Korean human resource management. I am also grateful to the guest editor, Jaime Ortega and an anonymous referee for their help in my preparation of the revised manuscript. Finally, I owe my great debt of gratitude to the HR managers, line supervisors and union officials of Japanese, the United States, and Korean companies who granted me the opportunities to interview them.


Kato, T. (2014), "High-Involvement Work Systems in Japan, the United States, and Korea: Evidence from Field Research", International Perspectives on Participation (Advances in the Economic Analysis of Participatory & Labor-Managed Firms, Vol. 15), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 95-119.



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