Table 21.1 Selective Research on Best HRM Practices by Author
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Approaching the second decade of the 21st century provides a fresh opportunity to think about kinds of possible management. In this regard, the area of human resource management (HRM) has become even more important to business, policymaking, and nations, including in the economically dynamic Asia-Pacific region. Most of the Asian economies had rapid growth rates for the past two to three decades, although uneven from year to year, and were then hit by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. Interestingly, now the very same HRM practices formerly seen as paragons (and taken as “best practices” by some), partly responsible for such success and emulated and exported around the world (e.g., via “Japanization”), have become seen by some as problematic. In such a milieu, some Asian companies began looking to other countries for exemplars of HRM to import. Such issues raise important questions: Are there any HRM best practices? Can they be transferred? The search for best practice in comparative management research relates to the debate on convergence toward common practices that apply to all countries versus continuing or even growing divergence practices.
Many Asian economies do share common features, for example, fast economic growth, social development, surge in foreign direct investment (FDI), multinational companies (MNCs), and so forth. These factors can provide a strong momentum to practice transference to Asia. Despite common features across the region, however, their specific institutional forms vary from one country to another (Hamilton, 1995) and act as serious constraints on transfer and, hence, convergence and promote continuing distinctiveness or even increasing divergence. Besides, since the transfer of practices occurs in a multifaceted context (between headquarters and overseas subsidiaries; Briscoe, 1995; Dowling, Schuler, & Welch, 1994) and at different stages (from preinstitutionalization to full implementation; Tolbert & Zucker 1996), the issue of transferability becomes more about “degree,” less about “all or nothing,” and more about “what” practices (Pudelko, 2005) and to what extent.
The aim of this chapter is to examine if there are best practices in HRM that can be transferable to Asia and whether this indicates convergence in HRM. Key HRM practices and policies of employment, rewards, and development will be used to examine these issues. The structure of the rest of the chapter follows. The next section introduces the theoretical debates associated with the possible reasons for transfer, what has been transferred, and how it has happened. The chapter then provides methods to examine the transfer issue and a basis for comparison across countries, along with some general applications and comparisons. Finally, the chapter draws together the propositions and outlines some possible future directions. THEORY
Classical management thought and more recent variants assume that a set of “best” management practices, as in HRM, can be valid in all circumstances and help organizations perform better and obtain sustainable competitive advantage (Becker & Gerhart, 1996; Huselid, 1995; Lado & Wilson, 1994). What Are “Best Practices”?
This idea can be traced back for some considerable time. For instance, Taylor’s (1911) earlier “scientific management” implied that there was “one best way” of managing. We can recall, as do Boxall and Purcell (2003), that studies of individual best practices within the major HR categories of selection, training, and appraisal have a very long tradition, such as when much effort was put into improving selection practices for officers and training for production workers during both World Wars. In the 1960s, best practice would have been taken as those associated with an American model (Kerr, Dunlop, Harbison, & Meyers, 1962) and in the 1980s, a...