International Journal of
2003 Vol 3(1): 121–144
Cross Cultural Management
‘To Adapt or Not to Adapt’
Exploring the Role of National Culture in HRM – A Study of Pakistan
Shaista E. Khilji
Carleton University, Ontario, Canada
This study draws out evidence from 11 organizations, local as well as multinationals, in Pakistan to test the ‘culture-sensitive’ view. A number of conclusions are drawn. First, the findings support this view; evidence shows enough similarities exist between local organizations and multinationals to indicate that the influences of the parent companies of multinationals are weakened by the national characteristics of the environments in which they operate. Second, it is pointed out that although some policies of multinationals may be the same as those found in their parent companies, the practices certainly are not, because of adaptation to local norms. It is therefore suggested that a distinction between policy and practice be made in an organizational analysis of this kind. Third, despite culture-sensitivity of HRM practices, their impact on employees is similar to what has been previously documented by researchers in the UK and the USA. It is left to further studies to debate whether HRM outcomes can be termed as universal. • culture-sensitive • HRM • international management • national culture • Pakistan
This article analyzes in detail the national culture of Pakistan, and compares both multinational and local indigenous organizations, in order to examine the impact of national culture on human resource management (HRM) – a view that has been frequently debated as multinationals continue to grow. This view, hereafter referred to as ‘culture-sensitive’, suggests that the HRM of
an organization is influenced by the national culture (Newman and Nollen, 1996), hence it should be adapted to reflect national patterns. The logic used to support this view is based on the idea that the early socialization or conditioning process of people is influenced by various macro institutions, such as family, education and political and economic structures (see Figure 1). Early interactions Copyright © 2003 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi) 1470-5958 3:1;121–144;031856
International Journal of Cross Cultural Management 3(1) Socio-cultural Institutions 2 Political Economic Institutions/ Policies 3 National Human Resource Policies Cultural Values & Attitudes 4 5 National Human Resources 6 7 8 Organizational Culture Human Resource Management Source: Tayeb (1995).
Organizational Human Resources
The linkages of macro and micro levels in HRM
with these institutions and their representatives form the basis of many psychological characteristics impacting the future personality of individuals. The effect of social exposure early in life also determines the values of employees and even the fundamental culture of an organization, thus shaping its HRM (Hofstede, 1991; Tayeb, 1995). The basic argument here is that macro institutions influence organizational structures in a systematic way, with the result that organizational practices and processes reflect typical national patterns. As a consequence, the success of HRM practices in one country cannot ensure their success in another culture. This article will first provide a review of the empirical evidence supporting this ‘culture-sensitive’ view. Second, it will discuss the relevance of this debate to a developing country like Pakistan. In doing so, it will establish the background of the new and vibrant business environment within the country. Third, it will introduce the research design that was used to conduct this study. Fourth, the national culture of Pakistan will
be reviewed in detail to analyze the value systems that form the foundation of the society. Fifth, empirical evidence from a sample of organizations operating in Pakistan...
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