Evolution of Human Resource Management

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In this introductory note, we offer an overview of how human resource management in Asian countries and corporations is evolving in the face of rapid business growth and integration into the global economy and we describe how the articles in this Special Issue contribute to new knowledge and insights regarding key issues, challenges, and evolution in the field of HRM in Asia. Driven by the combined forces of rapid gross domestic product growth in many Asian economies and their further integration into the global business arena, firms in Asia are in constant flux, no matter whether they are developed economies like Japan, Korea, and Taiwan; developing economies like Malaysia and Thailand; or transitional economies like China and Vietnam. How will HRM systems in these countries evolve and transform under the combined forces of growth and globalization? We argue that HRM systems in these Asian firms most likely will evolve toward “bounded convergence. The demands and ex” pectations of the HR function to take on strategic roles (versus administrative roles) and address critical HR issues like attracting and retaining key talent, building talent pipelines, and creating high-performing cultures are greater than ever. We conclude with a high-level summary of the key contribution of the eight articles covered in this Special Issue. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.



s many Asian economies’ expectations continue to be surpassed (with a recent gross domestic product growth rate as high as 11 percent in China for example) vis á vis an otherwise darkening outlook for the world economy (see “Economic and Financial In-

dicators,” 2007), they present opportunities for firms around the world both to capture these high-growth markets and to accelerate the migration of their higher value-added business activities (like research and development, in addition to procurement, manufacturing, and sales) to some Asian countries where costs of labor are low but supply abundant. Since 1980, the world’s supply of

Correspondence to: Arthur Yeung, Associate Dean, China Europe International Business School, 699 Hongfeng Road, Pudong, Shanghai 201206 P .R.C., Phone: 86-21-28905636, E-mail: ayeung@ceibs.edu. Human Resource Management, Spring 2008, Vol. 47 No. 1, Pp. 1–13 , © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI: 10.1002/hrm.20194



labor has effectively quadrupled (International Monetary Fund [IMF], 2007). The effect of this growth has been dramatic for the global economy and it has produced a flow of low-cost manufactured goods that has contained inflation in the advanced economies, other things being equal. Of course, not all Asian countries follow this trajectory. Some, such as Japan and South Korea, face different demographic and labor market challenges from others, such as China and Vietnam (Rowley, 2007). Also, in the decade since the 1997 Asian Crisis, Northeast Asia remains different from Southeast Asia in the performance of various dimensions of employment The growth and and the labor market, including unemployment and productivity globalization of firms (Rowley, 2007). Meanwhile, many national champions from Asian in Asia and the economies are rising up to be aggressive global players, as witevolution of HRM in nessed by recent high-profile the region are two merger and acquisition activities undertaken by firms like CNOOC, faces of the same Lenovo, or Haier, to name but a few. China has to date produced phenomenon. few “world-class brands,” but this may be changing. In the midst of such rapid growth and globalization, the impact and implications on human resource management for firms operating in the region at the ground level appears to be both...
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