CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Human resource management in China: theory and practice
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Chinese Management Studies, Volume 3, Issue 4
Welcome to this special issue of Chinese Management Studies, focussed on human resource management in China. In other places, my co-editor, Connie Zheng and I (Zheng and Lamond, 2009a) have raised our concerns about the tendency to sideline research about human resource management in China to a subset of the “mainstream” efforts, despite the fact that nearly one in four people walking on the planet is Chinese. When researchers talk about the significance of the concepts they posit, or the generalisability of the results of their empirical work, surely theoretical frameworks embracing such a proportion of the global population and results from representative samples of this group are worthy of mainstream attention. Be that as it may, we are pleased to bring you this collection of six papers, three devoted to the conceptual/theory-building, and three reporting the results of empirical research.
The first of the six papers presents an historical context for the consideration of a Chinese style of HRM, informed by the wisdom of the ancient masters and developed over centuries. Zheng and Lamond (2009b) look at the translated works of Guanzi, Hanfeizi, Xunzi and Yanzi, with attention in particular given to Yanzi and the links between his insights regarding job-person fit, recruitment and selection, employer of choice, reward principles and participative management, and those of modern Western management gurus such as Warren Bennis, Peter Drucker, Mary Parker Follett, Douglas McGregor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Elton Mayo and Jeffrey Pfeffer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Zheng and Lamond (2009b) identify important similarities in thoughts and calls for action to address key issues in HRM from both old and contemporary, East and West thinkers across 2,500 years.
The second paper, by Zhang et al. (2009), follows naturally from the first, proffering a theoretical construction for strategic human resource management in China that seeks to integrate cultural value management. Their “management by values” (MBV) concept incorporates Neo-Confucian values, for responsible management, pragmatic management and humanistic management, with elements of leadership and learning, a variation on a “triple bottom line” approach. While their attention is, naturally, on Chinese HRM, their model suggests a set of more sustainable practices in management, not only for China, but also for the rest of the world.
One well-known Chinese value is that related to guanxi or personal relationships, and the links to, for example, organisational dynamics (Park and Luo, 2001), advancement to partnership in public accounting firms in Hong Kong (Law, 2009), attitudes about fraud and corruption (Bierstaker, 2009), and ethical decision-making (Au and Wong, 2000). Cognisant of the importance of guanxi in Chinese culture, Law and Jones (2009) present a conceptual model of guanxi-oriented human resource management (HRM) that they argue is appropriate for, especially Western-based organisations located in China and wishing to maximise knowledge sharing and exchange. The paper is original in its effort to link guanxi to HRM practices based on Western concepts of human resources.
The fourth paper, and first of the papers to present empirical findings, examines the changing role of human resource departments in multinational company (MNC) subsidiaries in China between 1999 and 2006 (Sumelius et al., 2009). Sumelius et al. (2009) collected questionnaire data from 142 Western MNC subsidiaries located in China, in 1999 and 2006, to ascertain to the extent to which each subsidiary’s HR department was identified as involved in the strategic planning process; to the extent to which the HR managers were viewed by those outside the HR function as partners in the management of business and agents for change; and whether or not the subsidiary was making an explicit effort to align business and HRM strategies. The more each of these elements were in evidence, the more the HR department could be considered to have a strategic role. The results proffered by Sumelius et al. (2009) indicate, first, that, subsidiary size and the size of the HR department are positively associated with overall function – larger HR departments and those HR departments located in larger subsidiaries are identified as having more strategic roles. At the same time, overall, the role of the HR departments in these subsidiaries has moved from being more administrative to being more strategic in role and function over the time period.
At the present time, much moment is being made in the media about the “bonus” culture underlying reward systems in the financial services sector and its role in the high risk loans and other commercial decision-making that presaged the current global financial crisis (see, for example, Alford, 2009). Accordingly, the design of an effective compensation system has become one of the most important tasks for managers in state-owned enterprises in China under the current market-oriented economy. The fifth paper in this issue, by Wang et al. (2009), provides a comprehensive review and critique of what is already known about pay systems in Chinese state-owned enterprises and identifies the gaps in the literature. They do so by way of putting the micro-level pay practices in the context of government policies at the macro-level, and providing a thoroughgoing, critical review of the published empirical studies on pay practices in Chinese enterprises, their antecedents and consequences, Wang et al. (2009) conclude by providing a series of research questions, including why different types of internal pay structures among firms can be observed; why the link between pay and performance is weak in some firms but strong in others; and under what conditions pay-for-performance enhances firm performance.
Much has been written about employee-organisation connectedness, since the seminal work on the psychology of commitment, absenteeism, and turnover by Mowday et al. (1982). The final paper in this issue, by Tian-Foreman (2009), investigates voluntary employee turnover in a Chinese retail organisation, using a questionnaire survey of 172 respondents. The survey results establish the existence of a negative relationship between job satisfaction and employee intentions to leave the company, with more satisfied employees less likely to signal an intention to leave. At the same time, frontline employees were more likely to express an intention to leave than the management respondents. While these findings are conventionally reasonable in light of the plethora of findings in the west, with a different economic, educational and cultural context, it was reasonable to question whether the similar results would be garnered. The results, therefore, are important in confirming the wider generalisability of the results in the West to the Chinese context.
We hope you find this collection of papers interesting and stimulating. On behalf of Connie and myself, I thank the Editor of Chinese Management Studies, Check Teck Foo, for the opportunity to bring this special issue on HRM in China together. We also thank the authors and reviewers for their contributions and responsiveness to the editorial process. My personal thanks go to my co-editor, Connie Zheng, who is an excellent scholar and colleague, as well as being a great person with whom to work.
David LamondNottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Alford, S. (2009), “George Osborne attacks City bonuses”, Times Online, 15 August, available at: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article6797512.ece (accessed 18 August 2009)
Au, A.K.M. and Wong, D.S.N. (2000), “The impact of guanxi on the ethical decision making of auditors – an exploratory study of Chinese CPAs in Hong Kong”, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 28, pp. 87–94
Bierstaker, J.L. (2009), “Differences in attitudes about fraud and corruption across cultures: theory, examples and recommendations”, Cross Cultural Management, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 241–50
Law, P. (2009), “Advancement to partnership in public accounting firms in Hong Kong”, Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 24 No. 8, pp. 792–805
Law, S.F. and Jones, S. (2009), “A guanxi model of human resource management”, Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 313–27
Mowday, R.T., Porter, L.W. and Steers, R.M. (1982), Employee-Organization Linkages: The Psychology of Commitment, Absenteeism, and Turnover, Academic Press, New York, NY
Park, H.H. and Luo, Y. (2001), “Guanxi and organizational dynamics: organizational networking in Chinese firms”, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 455–77
Sumelius, J., Smale, A. and Björkman, I. (2009), “The strategic role of HR in MNC subsidiaries in China between 1999 and 2006”, Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 295–312
Tian-Foreman, W. (2009), “Job satisfaction and turnover in Chinese retail industry”, Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 356–78
Wang, L., Nicholson, J. and Zhu, J. (2009), “Pay systems in Chinese state-owned enterprises: a review”, Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 328–55
Zhang, Y., Dolan, S. and Zhou, Y. (2009), “Management by values: a theoretical proposal for strategic human resource management in China”, Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 272–94
Zheng, C. and Lamond, D. (2009a), “A critical review of HRM Studies (1978-2007) in the People’s Republic of China”, International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol. 20 No. 11
Zheng, C. and Lamond, D. (2009b), “A Chinese style of HRM: exploring the ancient texts”, Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 258–71
Gaertner, S. and Robinson, J.M. (1999), “Structural determinants of job satisfaction and organizational commitment in turnover models”, Human Resource Management Review, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 479–93