Future Research on Human Resource Management

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Asia Pac J Manag (2009) 26:197–218 DOI 10.1007/s10490-008-9103-6 PERSPECTIVES

Future research on human resource management systems in Asia Pawan Budhwar & Yaw A. Debrah

Published online: 17 September 2008 # Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Abstract Re-emphasizing the need to examine human resource management (HRM) in context, this article builds around four themes. First, it analyses the main issues discussed in the existing literature regarding HRM in the Asian context. Second, it highlights the critical challenges facing HRM function in the region. Third, along with the analysis, it presents an agenda for future research. Fourth, it presents a framework useful for highlighting the context specific nature of Asian HRM functions and the main determinants of HRM policies and practices from a cross-national comparative perspective. Keywords HRM . Asia . Research in HRM . Cross-national HRM Considering the rapid globalization, developments in the field of HRM and a number of region-specific significant developments, there is now a greater need to examine HRM systems of Asian countries. For compositional simplicity in this article, we use “Asia” (or “Asian countries”) to refer mainly to the main emerging economies in the region (i.e., China, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) often referred to as “developing Asia” by the UN and also Japan. An analysis of key achievements of the Asian region highlights a number of important facts, such as it produces more goods and services than either North America or the European Union and this trend is expected to accelerate in the years to come. Many of the important emerging economies are located in Asia (see The Economist, 2007). Further, they attract an enormous amount of foreign direct investment (FDI). For example, China was the top destination for foreign capital in 2003 with a record inflow of $55 billion, overtaking America for the first time and now continuing to do so (see Rowley & Warner, P. Budhwar (*) Aston Business School, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK e-mail: p.s.budhwar@aston.ac.uk Y. A. Debrah School of Business and Economics, University of Wales, Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea SA 2 8PP, UK e-mail: y.a.debrah@swansea.ac.uk


P. Budhwar, Y. Debrah

2005; UNCTAD, 2007). It is also predicted that most new members of the newly affluent nations would come from Asia in the twenty-first century (see Tan, 2002). Despite all this, most Asian emerging economies have a long way to go before they acquire the status of developed nations (for example, in professionalism, formalism, and rationalization of management systems). Nevertheless, it is important to examine the role of HRM function in the region as it plays a significant role in the economic development of nations (see Debrah, McGovern, & Budhwar, 2000; Tayeb, 1995). The existing literature (see for example, Budhwar, 2004) highlights a scarcity of HRM research in the Asian context (with an exception of the Chinese and Japanese contexts). Considering the growing economic importance of the region, it has now become an imperative to regularly conduct systematic research investigations which can highlight the relevant HRM system(s) for the region. This will not only help decision makers to develop appropriate policies but will also help in developing valid HRM theories. Lately, Jackson and Schuler (1995) and Schuler, Budhwar, and Florkowski (2002) have called for the examining of HRM systems in a given context. It will not only help to highlight the context specific nature of HRM but also to reveal the influence of various factors and variables on HRM. This will contribute to the development of relevant policies and practices and theories of HRM (Budhwar & Debrah, 2004). Research in contextual isolation is not only misleading, but it strongly hinders the understanding of core aspects of the phenomenon...
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