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International
Journal of Emerging issues in strategic
Manpower
20,8
HRM in Singapore
Naresh Khatri
516 Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Keywords Human resource management, Strategy, Corporate culture, Competences,
Singapore
Abstract To face the onslaught of hypercompetition, organizations need to be responsive and
flexible. The human factor, if managed effectively, is perhaps the most important in imparting
organizational flexibility. Managing the human factor as a competitive tool falls in the domain of
strategic human resource management. This article discusses the state of HRM in Singapore. It
identifies five important issues in strategic HRM field that, if fully understood, would help
scholars and practitioners develop better theoretical frameworks. Specifically, it is proposed that
the link between HR and strategy depends on the type of strategy pursued by the organization;
organizational culture influences the status of HR and its integration with the rest of the
organization; the competencies of HR managers affect the status of HR and its link with
organizational strategy; HR strategy or lack of it affects the HR function's vertical and horizontal
fits; these factors all influence the outsourcing of HR activities.
The forces of globalization are sweeping across the world and national borders
are disappearing. One major outcome of this change is that competition has
intensified greatly. In the past, inefficient companies could survive because
they were protected by national boundaries. This may not be possible any
more. In the global era, companies have to be able to take on other companies
located in any part of the world. They need to be supple and adaptable to meet
the competitive challenge.
Naturally, the question arises of how companies can face the competitive
threats posed by globalization. The premise of this paper is that people are one
of the most important factors providing flexibility and adaptability to
organizations. For example, a chief executive of a big company in Asia noted
that, in tapping the many new opportunities in the growth corridor of the Asia-
Pacific region, or even the world, it is the human matrix that determines the
success of the ventures (The Straits Times, 1995). Further, one needs to bear in
mind that people (managers), not the firm, are the adaptive mechanism in
determining how the firm will respond to the competitive environment (Rundle,
1997).
Perhaps the field of strategic human resource management has emerged
mainly in recognition of the fact that human resources need to be managed
strategically for the firm to enjoy sustainable competitive advantage over
competition. Several scholars have noted that managing people is more difficult
than managing technology or capital (Barney, 1991; Lado and Wilson, 1994).
However, those firms that have learnt how to manage their human resources
well would have an edge over others for a long time to come because acquiring
International Journal of Manpower,
Vol. 20 No. 8, 1999, pp. 516-529.
and deploying human resources effectively is cumbersome and takes much
# MCB University Press, 0143-7720 longer (Wright et al., 1994).
HR managers in Singapore and many other Asian countries are facing Strategic HRM in
difficult challenges. However, with challenges come opportunities. For Singapore
example, MacLachlan (1996) noted that East Asia is the best place in the world
to be an HR manager because of the focus on recruiting, developing, and
retaining staff. However, at present, HR managers in Singapore and other
Asian countries are not up to the challenge because of the lack of strategic
approach to HRM and lack of HR competencies (Cunningham and Debrah, 517
1995; Debrah, 1994; Khatri, 1998, 1999). For example, Debrah (1994) found that
the ad hoc nature of HRM policies and practices of companies in Singapore
contributes significantly to the job-hopping phenomenon. Cunningham and
Debrah (1995) reported that line managers and executives took over some of the
functions of HR managers because HR managers lacked the skills necessary to
perform their duties competently. Khatri (1998) noted that companies in
Singapore under-practice strategic HR activities in two important areas:
recruitment/selection and training/development. Companies were found to use
employment tests rarely and give little emphasis, if any, to the validity of
selection instruments. The most common approach to selection was the use of
unstructured interviews and unstructured interviews have very low, if any,
validity. The author concluded that job-hopping in Singapore could be
attributed to a significant extent to poor recruitment and selection practices.
Further, the author found that companies in Singapore neglect some critical
aspects of training and development such as evaluation of training programs,
training needs analysis, and cost-benefit analysis. In another study, Khatri and
Chong (1999) found that poor management practices had much greater
influence on employee turnover than bad attitude of employees. Factors under
the control of management contributed a unique variance of 37.6 per cent and
uncontrollable factors (bad attitude and labor shortage) a meager 5 per cent of
the unique variance to the turnover model. All the above studies suggest that
HRM in Singapore is not a particularly well-managed function. Given the
competitive environment companies in Singapore face now, they will
contribute to their own demise by ignoring the vital role of strategic HRM.
The remainder of the article discusses issues critical in managing human
resources in Singapore companies strategically. It suggests that business
strategy, organizational culture, competency levels of HR managers, and
presence of HR strategy are the four most important factors for managing HRM
strategically. One other major issue, HR outsourcing, that is being widely
discussed in both academic and practitioner circles is also dealt with. The
arguments are organized in the form of propositions around the above five
issues.

Organizational strategy
P1: Strategic archetypes affect the integration of HR management with
organizational strategy.
Following the contingency perspective, firms that achieve a tight vertical fit
between strategy and HR management perform better than their counterparts
International who have a disjointed linkage (Baird and Meshoulam, 1988; Boxall, 1991; Truss
Journal of and Gratton, 1994). While the relationship between HR practices and
Manpower organizational performance has received much empirical investigation (Arthur,
1994; Terpstra and Rozell, 1993; Huselid, 1995; Youndt et al., 1996; Huang, 1998;
20,8 Lahteenmaki et al., 1998; Wright et al., 1998), research on the relationship
between strategy and HR practices is predominantly theoretical in nature, with
518 efforts generally focusing on normative frameworks on how HRM should be
integrated with business management processes (Miles and Snow, 1984; Baird
and Meshoulam, 1988; Lengnick-Hall and Lengnick-Hall, 1988; Schuler, 1992).
Surprisingly, there are few studies that look beyond what the vertical link
actually comprises (Golden and Ramanujam, 1985; Buller, 1988; Ropo, 1993;
Bennett et al., 1998). Thus, we know relatively little about what factors affect
the degree of vertical linkage and how they do this (Truss and Gratton, 1994;
Bennett et al., 1998; Wright et al., 1998).
Golden and Ramanujam (1985) noted that the HR function needs to address
issues which vary accordingly to the type and level of strategy and thus the HR
system has to develop different degrees of linkage to deal with those issues
specific to the strategy. Buller (1988) contends that firms engaging in a
diversification strategy would have a looser HR-strategy linkage than firms
concentrating on their core business. This is because the strategic conditions of
the diversification do not allow the HR system and programs to be developed
and applied company-wide.
In a recent study, Wright et al. (1998) found that strategic HR involvement is
more prominent when companies are pursuing product innovation strategies.
Bennett et al. (1998) used Miles and Snow's (1978) typology and established
that analyzers exhibit higher levels of HR-strategy integration than either
defenders or prospectors. They also found that the level of HR integration
between defenders and prospectors was virtually identical. This is surprisingly
different from Miles and Snow's (1978) proposition that defender and
prospector exist as opposite ends of a continuum, with the analyzer in the
middle.
Miles and Snow's (1978) strategic typology is regarded as a relatively
comprehensive model, richly describing firm characteristics and the strategy
configurations of each type of organization. It is widely used in strategy
literature because of its ability to generalize across a wide variety of
organizations and industries. The typology is used here to illustrate how
strategic archetypes may influence the link between HRM and strategy.
It could be argued that different strategic archetypes differ in their
approaches to acquiring and developing human resources and thus require
different degrees of integration between the HR function and the organizational
strategy. For example, defenders operate in a relatively stable product-market
domain and focus on developing employees to create and support efficiency.
Thus, HR practices are reactive, structured and well defined. Prospectors face a
more unpredictable and uncertain task environment than defenders and thus
desire to create and maintain flexibility in the workforce. To support this
strategy, HR function works in a manner that is proactive and less structured Strategic HRM in
so as to identify and develop quickly critical human resources required by the Singapore
ever-changing needs.
Analyzers, on the other hand, are expected to have greater integration
because of the need to design HR practices to strike a balance between the two
sets of skills needed by the unique array of defenders and prospectors. To fulfill
the stringent requirements, The HR function is expected to establish a stronger 519
linkage with the corporate strategy.
Khatri (1999), in a sample of the 200 largest companies in Singapore, found
that HR practices of companies in Singapore varied according to their
strategies. However, no study in Singapore has examined the influence of
organizational strategy on the integration of HR practices with organizational
strategy. It is argued that the integration of HR with overall strategy in
Singapore, like in the western companies discussed above, may well depend
upon strategic archetypes.

Organizational culture: control-based or commitment-based


P2: Organizational culture (control-based versus commitment-based)
determines the status of HR function and its integration with the rest of
the organization.
Organizational culture is one of the most important factors of the internal
organizational environment that have a great bearing on SHRM (Buller, 1988;
Truss and Gratton, 1994; Gennard and Kelly, 1995; Aryee, 1991).
Organizational culture exists in the form of norms, values and rules used by
organizational members to interpret and evaluate their behaviors as well as
those of others. At the same time, culture provides a system that lets people
function in a way coherent to the publicly and collectively accepted meanings
operating for a given group at a given time.
In examining the effect of culture, Truss and Gratton (1994, p. 675)
commented that ``the type of culture an organization has can exert a strong
influence on the nature of its strategy (e.g. defender, prospector or analyzer)
and also on its chosen HR strategy''. Similarly, one would expect the
characteristics of the HR department and its activities to alter following a
change in organizational culture. This is because different organizational
cultures emphasize varying level of ``shared vision'' and ``understanding of
organizational goals and values'' (Lundberg, 1985), and thus place different
needs and expectations on the HR department (Buller, 1988). With this change
of needs and expectations, the HR function would need to be transformed
accordingly to reinforce or develop the organizational culture.
Evans (1986) observed that organizational culture is managed partly
through human resource management practices such as selection, development
and reward, and employee retention (Wilkins, 1984). HR practices can be used
effectively to reinforce the culture.
However, little is known about the relationship between culture and HRM.
Issues such as ``What type of impact culture has on the HR practices and how
International great that impact would be'' are not well-examined (Aryee, 1991; Lundberg,
Journal of 1985). Likewise, it is not known what role HR function plays in different
Manpower cultural contexts. Therefore, organizational culture, with regard to managing
HR strategically, is too powerful an issue to be ignored.
20,8 Following the globalization wave and the change in management thought,
organizations are gradually moving away from the centralized, top-down,
520 ruled-based culture (control-based) to adopting a decentralized, bottom-up and
flexible culture (commitment-based) (Walton, 1985). Walton's (1985) paper on
control-based versus commitment-based HRM systems is widely regarded as
the classic statement of this position (Boxall, 1996; Lundy and Cowling, 1996).
The author noted that firms are experiencing a transition from imposing
control to eliciting commitment when managing their workforce. This is
because a model (control) that assumes low employee commitment and that is
designed to produce reliable if not outstanding performance simply cannot
match the standards of excellence set by world-class competitors (Walton,
1985, p. 79).
Organizations employing a control-based culture differ in their basic
approach to managing human resources from organizations having a
commitment-based culture (Walton, 1985; Arthur, 1994). For instance,
employees are required to be efficient and behave in an orderly manner in a
control-based culture. To monitor and control effort, the hierarchy is tall, roles
are specialized, status symbols are emphasized, prerogative lies with the
management, and adversarial labor-management relations exist. In contrast,
commitment-based culture concentrates on attracting, satisfying and
motivating highly skilled employees. The focus of management is to minimize
the status differences presented in the organization, engage in activities such as
employee involvement, information sharing, job security guarantees, and
extensive employee benefits. Further, the organization emphasizes joint
problem solving and planning, and invests in developing harmonious
relationships with employees (Walton, 1985; Arthur, 1992). In sum, the
commitment model represents a shift in societal values away from the
traditional authority and compliance.
According to the behavioral perspective, the control and commitment
cultures require different sets of HR programs and policies to elicit those
characteristics, behaviors and attitudes desired (Cappelli and Singh, 1992). In a
control-based culture, since the objective of the organization is to ``control'', the
HR function takes on the ``stick approach''. Much of the initiative comes from
the top management, and the system is characterized by stringent rules and
procedures (Walton, 1985). HR practices are structured, reactive and well-
defined and thereby minimize the role of HR in the organization and the need
for managing HR strategically.
On the other hand, the goal of the commitment-based culture is to promote
mutuality of interest between employer and employee. This is achieved by
increasing autonomy, responsibility and influence of employees at all levels.
Employees are extensively involved in managerial decisions and formal
participation programs and there is a higher percentage of group problem Strategic HRM in
solving and socializing activities than in the control-based culture (Arthur, Singapore
1992; 1994). To elicit the required behaviors, HR practices are flexible, proactive
and strategically inclined (Walton, 1985). Hence, it is expected that in a
commitment-based culture, the HR function plays an important role and that
strategic HRM would be more widely adopted.
At present, Singapore companies are relying mostly on control-based 521
management philosophy and thus one would expect a secondary role for HRM
function in the majority of the organizations (Khatri, 1999). This indeed is the
case. HR function in most organizations in Singapore is performing a routine,
supportive, and fire-fighting role (Debrah, 1994; Cunningham and Debrah,
1995; Khatri, 1999; Khatri and Chong, 1999). The trend now is that HR function
is seen to be playing an important role and there is much emphasis on
employee participation and involvement. Thus, organizations are moving
toward a commitment-based philosophy. Companies in Singapore are also
realizing the importance of organizational commitment because of chronic
problem of job-hopping. They ignored the importance of commitment-based
culture and relied heavily on monetary rewards and top-down mechanisms to
tide over job-hopping only to realize that such measures have only limited
impact. For instance, an essential aspect of the Singapore Government's human
resource development program is to encourage managers to adopt human
management techniques to build ``worker loyalty'' and ``team spirit''
(Cunningham and Debrah, 1995). It is argued that if companies had used the HR
function as a tool to create commitment-based culture, companies would have
been more successful in overcoming job-hopping (Khatri and Chong, 1999).

Competency level of HR managers


P3: The competencies/skills of HR managers determine the status of HR
function and its linkage with organizational strategy.
Human resource can be a potent source of sustainable competitive advantage to
an organization (Barney, 1991; Wright et al., 1994). Consequently, the firm's HR
function, which has much responsibility in managing this important resource,
should receive more commitment from the organization. However, Barney and
Wright (1998) pointed out that the real scenario is quite contrary to the above
view. They observed that organizational decisions do not reflect this stated
commitment to people or a respect for the HR function. They argue that the
fault could lie in part with the competency level of HR managers. If the HR
managers are competent enough to focus attention and activities towards those
aspects that will truly develop and maintain sources of competitive advantage,
the status of the HR department would be heightened (Barney and Wright,
1998, p. 37). Similarly, Kelly and Gennard (1996, p. 19), through the use of
extensive interviews with the HR managers, concluded that the initial condition
to enhance the status of HR managers in the eyes of other directors was that
``HRM directors should be competent and have a record of achievement in their
own basic field''.
International Apart from enhancing the status of the HR department, past research also
Journal of suggests that the competency level of HR managers has a major influence on
Manpower the level of integration between HR management and strategy (Golden and
Ramanujam, 1985; Buller, 1988; Truss and Gratton, 1994). Golden and
20,8 Ramanujam (1985) commented that the demonstration of expertise by HR
managers resulted in a significant uplift of HR stature and also tightened the
522 HR management and strategy linkage. Ropo (1993, p. 51) stressed that ``the
internal dynamism of the HR function (in this case, the presence of competent
managers) serves as the most critical mechanism to keep the integration
process going after it has been started under favorable organizational and
strategic circumstances''.
Choosing the right HR managers is important to the strategic management
of the HR function. If HR professionals do not have the right skills, and are not
able to think on a macro-business level, the HR function would be relegated to a
supportive/secondary role. On the other hand, if HR managers can re-evaluate
their priorities and acquire a new set of professional and personal
competencies, the HR function would be able to ride the wave of business
evolution proudly with other functions in the organization (Ulrich, 1996;
Purcell, 1989; Ulrich et al., 1995; Becker and Gerhart, 1996; Barney and Wright,
1998; Wright et al., 1998). As noted by Barney and Wright (1998), one of the
reasons why HR executives are not invited to the strategic planning table is
that they are unable to display the required competencies. Ulrich (1996) and
Ulrich et al. (1995) have identified four sets of HR competencies needed:
knowledge of HR practices, knowledge of business, personal credibility and
ability to manage change.
One of the most important reasons for the low status of the HR function in
Singapore is the lack of competencies of HR managers (Cunningham and
Debrah, 1995; Khatri, 1999). For example, Cunningham and Debrah (1995), in a
study of HR managers in Singapore companies, found that when HR managers
lack the necessary skills to perform their duties competently, line managers
and executives take over some of the functions of HR managers. The authors
observed that HR managers were excluded from the strategic planning
committees and meetings because they were perceived to lack the necessary
competence, authority, and influence to be involved in important organizational
decision making.

HR strategy
P4: HR strategy or lack of it affects vertical and horizontal fits of SHRM.
Apart from seeking a vertical fit between HR management and organization
strategy, achieving horizontal fit among individual HR practices is equally
important. This is because the full impact of HR practices on firm performance
arises when HR practices exist as a coherent system within a particular system
strategy (Wright and Snell, 1991; Grundy, 1998).
Although past studies indicate that a coherent HR system maximizes the
effectiveness of the HR practices (Wright and Snell, 1991; Lado and Wilson,
1994; Huselid, 1995; Becker and Gerhart, 1996), there are few empirical studies Strategic HRM in
that looked at the factors affecting the horizontal fit. Research on SHRM fit has Singapore
mostly concentrated on testing whether firms' policies are aligned with the
overall strategy or whether benefits are derived (Morris and Pinnington, 1998).
Baird and Meshoulam (1988) proposed that it is equally important to look at
how individual HR practices can be effectively aligned.
An important contribution by Grundy (1998) sheds some light on why 523
congruency is lacking among HR practices: HR practices are viewed in
segregation, and HR strategy is frequently owned by HR managers and not
shared with other functional managers. The author also concluded that in the
absence of a clear link between HR strategy and corporate strategy, there
would be a lack of synergies among HR practices. In other words, HR strategy
is important in achieving horizontal congruence among the individual HR
practices.
Similarly, Tyson (1995, p. 169) defined HR strategy as being ``the intentions
of the corporation, both explicit and covert, towards the management of its
employees, expressed through philosophies, policies and practices''. In the
absence of an HR strategy, HR practices are likely to be inconsistent with one
another because there is no broad framework to guide individual HR practices.
In other words, the presence of HR strategy, formal or informal, explicit or
implicit, serves as an ``over-arching'' framework which guides the individual
HR practices to integrate and exist as a coherent system. Hence, one would
expect an organization having an HR strategy to have consistent and non-
fragmented HR initiatives (Massey, 1994).
The implications of the above argument fall into two areas: the presence of
HR strategy, whether formal or informal, explicit or implicit, helps to manage
HR strategically and organizations that manage HR strategically have
consistent HR initiatives and thus their HR practices are coherent with one
another. This is because a strategic approach to HR management would allow
an organization to understand that its HR activities are inter-related, and
recognize the synergies or conflicts among HR practices (Wright and Snell,
1991). At the same time, the presence of an HR strategy might tighten the
vertical linkage between HR practices and organizational strategy.
What is the Singapore scenario? Cunningham and Debrah (1995) noted that
HR managers in Singapore companies may be able to deal effectively with HR
problems if they assume broader and expanded roles in strategic HRM. That is,
HRM needs to be included in the formulation and implementation of
organizational and HRM strategies. For example, HR managers need to
formulate and implement HR strategies to cope with the tight labor market that
could create and sustain competitive advantage for the organization. Such an
approach would help to minimize the erosion of the HRM role and the status of
HR managers as a result of the intrusion of line managers in HRM issues.
Properly formulated HR strategies could also curtail the ambiguity in the HRM
role and increase the authority and influence of HR managers in organizations.
International HR outsourcing
Journal of P5: The outsourcing of HR activities or programs depends on (a) organizational
Manpower strategy, (b) organizational culture, (c) competencies/skills of HR managers,
and HR strategy.
20,8 An increasing trend in many organizations is to outsource HR work (Lever,
1997), in particular, administrative and high transaction cost activities
524 (Grundy, 1998; Klass et al., 1998). Much of the motivation originates from
organizational desire to minimize the workload of regular workers, reduce cost,
reap economies of scale, improve quality and efficiency, and gain expertise
from outside vendors (Laabs, 1993; Lever, 1997; Ulrich, 1996; Klaas et al., 1998).
Others argue that HR outsourcing represents a strategic tool for achieving
competitive advantage. Their argument is that outsourcing the transaction-
based HR activities (e.g. benefit administration) frees HR managers and other
managers to grapple with strategic business issues (Switser, 1997).
Generally, some aspects of the HR functions are judged as cost centers (e.g.
benefit administration) but other elements of an HR system create value as part
of a firm's strategic infrastructure (Huselid, 1995). Decisions with respect to
outsourcing might be straightforward at the two ends of the cost-value
continuum, but for many elements of an HR system, the decision is not so clear.
As a firm assumes a strategic perspective for its HR system, HR activities like
recruiting and selection, which used to be the potential candidates for
outsourcing when quantified against a cost standard, might be retained if their
fit with the remainder of the HR system is a critical source of value for the
entire HR system (Becker and Gerhart, 1996). Outsourcing of these firm-specific
skills would represent short-sightedness on the part of the organization
(Barney and Wright, 1998) and would impede the ability of the organization to
develop unique competencies within its workforce (Ulrich, 1996).
There are few empirical studies on HR outsourcing, especially on factors
influencing the level of outsourcing activities, to provide possible answers. A
study conducted by Klass et al. (1998) used transaction-cost economies to
explain why firms differ in their reliance on HR outsourcing. They found that
in those firms where decision makers perceive having a unique HR, positive HR
outcomes, lots of internal promotional opportunities, and comparatively fewer
competitors involving in HR outsourcing, would rely less on HR outsourcing. In
firms where the demand for labor fluctuates and the pay remuneration leads,
reliance on HR outsourcing would increase.
Firms may vary in their propensity to outsource the number, type and kind
of HR activities. However, little is known about what factors cause firms to
outsource more or less of their HR activities and also which HR activities are
most frequently outsourced.
Organizational strategy may be one of these factors. Miles and Snow (1984)
match different HR strategies with the three strategic archetypes. The fact that
different strategies differ in their requirements for HR practices may imply
varying needs for HR outsourcing. For example, in firms that have a strategy
emphasizing the criticality of the HR function, one would observe less reliance
on HR outsourcing. Likewise, for a strategy that regards the HR function as Strategic HRM in
administrative and relatively unimportant, one would observe more Singapore
outsourcing of HR activities.
Often, one of the weaknesses of outsourcing is the inability to reinforce and
preserve the corporate culture (Quinn and Hilmer, 1994). In other words, there
would be greater level of HR outsourcing if outside vendors are able to replicate
the corporate culture. 525
Competencies possessed by the HR managers may also affect the level of HR
outsourcing. Laabs (1993) asserts that activities should be in-sourced if
companies can perform them cheaper, better and in a more timely manner. And
if HR managers have the critical competencies and experience to manage an
outsourcing project at a lower cost and higher efficiency, most likely the project
would be conducted in-house. Therefore, the presence of a competent HR
manager may reduce the likelihood for HR outsourcing.
The presence of HR strategy may also affect the outsourcing of HR
activities. If the HR practices of an organization exist in a coherent system, the
level of strategic activities would go up. Outsourcing vendors would then find
it difficult to replicate those strategic HR activities and firms would also be
unwilling to outsource HR activities that would have an added advantage to
them (Becker and Gerhart, 1996).
In Singapore, at present the state of HR function and competencies of HR
managers are not satisfactory. As a result, line managers have much say in HR
decisions and they want to avoid the involvement of HR function as they see it
as bureaucracy or burden. So, the tendency may be to outsource a lot of HR
activities/programs. However, doing so may be more expensive than
organizations realize. In view of the changing role of HR function in Singapore,
the strategic HR activities would be performed more and more inside and
routine HR activities would be more and more outsourced. Vaidyanathan (1992,
p. 34) puts it nicely:
Things are looking up . . . their (line management) attitude will change in the coming years,
simply because Singapore has no resources other than its people . . . So, if an HR manager is
capable of performing effectively as an in-house consultant linking his/her people with the
productivity or performance of the organization, the role he/she plays will be pretty much
indispensable.

Implications and conclusions


Despite many theoretical and empirical studies in strategic HRM, no coherent
theoretical framework has emerged in the field. This paper discussed various
propositions on key strategic HRM issues. It is hoped that an understanding of
these issues would go a long way in developing a coherent body of knowledge
in the field.
Further, all the above issues would lend themselves better to a qualitative
study. A major limitation of prior work in the strategic HRM area is the lack of
in-depth qualitative studies (Dyer, 1985; Guest, 1991; Boxall, 1996; Becker and
Gerhart, 1996; Guest, 1997). This form of research is very much needed in
International strategic HRM in developing comprehensive and more valid models and
Journal of frameworks. This is because the long-term, multidimensional and political
Manpower nature of both business and human resource strategies require such form of
research methodology (Boxall, 1993; Ropo, 1993; Kelly and Gennard, 1996;
20,8 Tyson, 1995). Qualitative research also shifts focus from content to process and
is consistent with the shifting focus of the field from planning to strategizing.
526 For instance, Dyer (1985, p. 26) argued that ``the immediate need is for
descriptive research aimed as much as possible at providing accurate
descriptions of what is in a variety of settings . . . such research, by its very
nature, is exploratory and being pursued through qualitative methods,
principally in-depth case studies. Once the territory begins to become better
known, and descriptive theories begin to emerge, attention can turn to smaller-
scale measurement and hypothesis testing studies . . .'' Becker and Gerhart
(1996, p. 796) also suggested that ``deeper qualitative research is needed to
complement the large-scale, multiple-firm studies that are available in order to
find out managers' HR decision making process''. Guest (1997, p. 274)
complemented the view by writing that ``case study research can help to
generate insights which can be more extensively tested''. In a manner similar to
Dyer (1985), Guest (1991) proposed that more detailed case study research on
HRM strategy is needed. Unfortunately, response to these increasing calls for
more case study research has been quite disappointing. ``What is lacking is not
an understanding of this need (for case study research), but the commitment of
academics to take it more seriously'' Boxall (1993, p. 658).
Further, most of the studies in the strategic HRM field are based on the
Western context and there is relatively little research in the eastern context.
Boxall and Dowling (1990) noted that the seminal HRM texts are all American
and the most significant critical responses to date have been British. Boxall
(1993) suggested that globalization and increasing environmental complexity
have called for the development of a comparative and international stance on
the subject. Likewise, Guest (1997) emphasized that researchers need to ensure
that the studies are not confined to the USA only. Therefore, conducting
strategic HRM studies in other parts of the world, for example Asia, would help
to meet the shortage of empirical work in the field in those parts of the world
and also serve as a vehicle for comparative studies.

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