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Compare HR essay


In this essay, a comparative analysis of Asian and western HRM Culture and practices is carried out. The essay details the Asian culture and practices with examples from various countries. Then the western HRM practices are discussed and the limitations are also discussed. The essay concludes by comparing both the practices and the pros and cons are arrived.

Services are increasingly important. In developed countries such as the USA services, as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product, have grown from 58 percent in 1960 to 71 percent in 1997. Similar changes have occurred in ASEAN countries and Australia. In Australia for example, services account for some 62 percent of GDP and more than 72 percent of civilian employment. This is comparable with other European and North countries including Canada, France, Sweden, the UK and the USA (Ross, Bamber & Whitehouse 1998; Dolvik 2001). The decline of agriculture and manufacturing and the growth of the service sector represents one of the greatest changes in the structure of employment in the 20th century and raises important questions about the changing nature of work, human resource management and industrial relations in the ‘new economy’.

– World Bank 1999

Despite the importance of services, most experiments in

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management, work organization, and employment relations are derived from manufacturing. The dominant organizational model in the twentieth century was the mass production system based on dedicated technology, routine repetitive jobs, minimal training and conflict in union-management relations. More recent innovations in organizational behavior have also been based on the experiences of manufacturing in terms of quality management, team working, multi-skilling, management union cooperation and so on. It is commonly assumed that manufacturing models are a dominant paradigm and can be applied to all work settings

– Appelbaum & Batt 1994

In some important respects, though, work in the service sector is different from manufacturing. Many jobs in the service sector are part time or casual in nature, filled by women and youth and poorly unionized. This contrasts sharply with manufacturing employment that is typically dominated by men in fulltime jobs, and strong unions. Further, unlike manufacturing, many services are intangible and do not involve a physical object that can be stored. In many cases, both consumer and producer must be present for service delivery to occur (Allan & Timo 2000) and thus service work has a strong relational and emotional component (Macdonald & Sirianni 1996:5). Indeed, it has been argued that the emotive and personal relationship between workers and customers represents a critical distinguishing feature of service work (Frenkel et al 1999; Leidner 1996). This interpersonal component has been described as ‘emotional labour’, (Hochschild 1983) or a component of the ‘personality market’, as C. Wright Mills observed in the 1950s (Mills 1951).

These differences raise some important questions about understanding the nature of work and employment relations in the service economy. The varied collection of articles addresses a range of issues about service sector work and employment. For example, the article by Johnson & Lucas examines the nature of youth employment in the hospitality and tourism labor market comparing experiences in selected East European Countries with that of the UK. Their conclusions suggest a degree of labor market ‘convergence’. The adoption of market led economic policies in Eastern Europe entails the adoption of western style patterns of part time and vocational employment amongst full time students. The implications for public policy makers are underlined.


Western practices of recruitment and selection are not transferable, easily or automatically, by multi-national or local companies entering the economically vibrant Chinese market. In the current paper, Western HR functions are compared with Eastern, Chinese approaches; the major finding being that, although similar language is used to describe HR processes, cultural factors affect the practices differently.


Background: One thing to bear in mind is that recruitment strategies flow ultimately from the organization’s mission statement and strategic objectives; i.e., the strategies and processes of recruitment must be compatible with higher level strategies (Nankervis et al., 2002).  Reddins (n.d.) contributed to the strategy debate in Australia by outlining his views on the features of strategic recruitment; something he claims is practiced by only a handful of successful organizations.  His five key features are:

·         HR plans are linked to and support corporate plans;

·         HR plans include people developmental and succession plans;

Recruitment strategies are in place and deliver against the goals of the organization;
·         Appropriate skills are in place to support the recruitment strategies; and

Subsequent induction, training, development and mentoring programs are available to add support to the recruitment program.

Recruitment from within.

In Australia, it is common practice to recruit from within (Nankervis et al., 2002).  Organisations often try to follow a policy of filling job vacancies above the entry level position through promotions and transfers.  By doing so, an organisation can capitalise on the costs that it has invested in recruiting, selecting and training its current employees.


One of the most widely used methods for contacting applicants in Australia is through advertisements.  Newspapers and journals are used most commonly, although radio, television, billboards and posters have been utilized by some companies.  Advertising has the advantage of reaching a large audience of possible applicants (Gill, 2000).  Some degree of selectivity can be achieved by using specific newspapers and journals directed towards a particular group of readers.  The preparation of advertising copy is not only time-consuming, but also requires creativity when developing design and message content.  Well-written advertisements highlight the major assets of the position; at the same time, they are responsive to the job/career needs and concerns of the desired applicants (Bucalo, 1983).

Recruitment Agencies.

National networks of specialist organizations undertake the placement of employees across a wide range of jobs throughout Australia.  The Australian Job Network consists of over 300 private, community and government organizations that compete to help people find the best possible position (Nankervis et al., 2002).  Their emphasis is on matching appropriately skilled and experienced employees to job vacancies, along with interview and job search skills training.

Educational Institutions.

Typically, educational establishments are a source of young applicants with formal training, but with little full-time work experience.  High schools are usually a source of employees for trainee, clerical and blue-collar jobs.  TAFE colleges, with their various types of specialized training, can provide candidates for technical jobs.  Also, some management trainees are staffed from this source.  Organizations that are involved in internship projects find that Universities provide a source of potential, well-educated employees with ‘professional’ qualifications. .



Traditionally, the employment interview has an important role in the selection process in Australia.  Various surveys over the past decade have shown that it is considered the most important step in selection (Compton, 1996).  Employment and selection interviews differ according to the methods that are used.  It can be a non-directive interview where the applicant is allowed the maximum amount of freedom in determining the course of discussion; or a directive interview that is highly structured with a detailed set of questions on a specifically prepared form (Nankervis et al., 2002).


Tests are an objective and standardized measure of a sample of behavior that can be used to measure a person’s abilities, aptitudes, interests or personality in relation to other individuals.  Some organizations develop job knowledge tests, a type of achievement test designed to measure a person’s level of understanding about a particular job (Compton, 1996).  Individual managers make up their minds about the potential advantages or disadvantages of using tests.

Reference Checks

It has been estimated by the Society for Human Resources Management that 25% of job applications and CVs/resumes contain errors (Schermerhorn, 2001). It is not surprising, therefore, that Australians regularly make reference check enquiries from previous employers, academic advisors, co-workers and acquaintances regarding a job applicant’s qualifications, experience and past work record. For senior management positions or overseas appointments it is not uncommon for the applicant’s spouse to be interviewed. The list of referees provided by a job applicant can add prestige and credibility to the written job application, and confirmation of the written information. Australians have a very egalitarian approach to the workplace and tend to provide honest assessments of an applicant’s merits; so, despite fears that friends may provide a ‘biased’ response to enquiries, the use of several background checks usually elicits a balanced response.

Physical examinations

All government, and an increasing number of private, sector organizations in Australia require job applicants to undertake a physical examination prior to employment being confirmed. Results are used as a basis for allowing the applicant to receive fringe benefits such as life, health, and travel and/or disability insurance programmes. Drug testing, which was originally used in mining and construction occupations where there may be a health risk, has become more commonplace and used in a range of industries and occupations.


Background: While human resource management strategies have been widely exercised in Western organizations and also been recognized as a significant partner to help the organization achieve its business objectives, the development of HRM in China is still at an embryonic stage due to the socialist regime (Chatterjee & Nankervis, 2003). Consequently, prior to the 1980s, recruitment and selection were of little significance (Lewis, 2003). Before 1978 the economy of China was a planned economy where HRM policies were a political issue and HR planning and policies were strictly controlled by the central government and its labor bureau.  Chinese enterprises had no say in HR plans and had no formal personnel departments because workers were assigned to the enterprises by the state (Lewis, 2003).

Organizations were mostly state-owned and run, and the workers were provided with a ‘cradle-to-the-grave’ welfare coverage that included lifetime employment and a guaranteed wage and seniority system (Child, 1994).  Therefore, the HR function was immaterial except in the role it played in administering state-supported benefits and developing a relationship with the relevant government labor bureaux (McComb, 1999).  This system of recruitment, allocation, employment permits, transferals and dismissals of employees under the ‘iron rice bowl’ had its origins in the Soviet management system of the 1950s (Zhu, 1995; Warner, 1997).   Since the more open policy was introduced in 1978, various stages of economic reform have lead to a series of changes.  For example, the State relaxed control over technology development and economic planning, as well as the planning of HR deployment, and a more western style human resource management system that included employment contracts was introduced (Child, 1994; Warner, 1997).  Thus, the State-Owned Enterprises and other collectively owned organizations transformed to something closer to independent economic units with more autonomy to set production plans. Therefore, HR plans were gradually introduced; such as hiring and terminating employment in response to operational needs in order to meet business objectives (Chatterjee & Nankervis, 2003).  These significant developments, together with the amount of foreign investment flooding into China, contributed to the need for a change of human resource management practices. Similarly, the trend towards localization of employees “increased salaries of locals and continues to level the playing field between foreign and local recruits” (Loong, 2004a, p. 130) and competition for skilled professionals became more vigorous than previously.

Culture is given a lot of importance in China and the main elements are as follows.

Nevertheless, there are four outstanding features of Chinese culture as it relates to Chinese management practices and organizational behavior; each factor needs to be considered by organizations in the practice of recruitment and selection.

1. Respect for age and hierarchy.

The concept of showing respect for superiors or seniors in a family originates from Confucian beliefs. It is one of the basic requirements within a Chinese family, and to respect the superiors of a different family is recognition of an individual’s social standing and position (Bond, 1991).  In the business environment, respect for authority will result in unquestioned centralized decision-making and the recognition of hierarchy (Sudhir, 1993).

2. Face and harmony.

Face and harmony are significant features of social life in China (Bond, 1991).  Saving face is a key point when reaching consensus within a group.  For example, if a manager criticizes a subordinate in the presence of other employees, this can cause that employee to lose face.  A loss of face will break down all personal relations and will destroy communication between managers and employees and influence the internal management process (Sudhir, 1993).  Gao (1996) explained that the indirect Chinese communication style is an attempt to minimise the loss of face and keep harmonious relationships.

3. Group orientation.

Bond (1996) indicated that Chinese individuals tend to identify themselves to be part of a group, team or unit and they consciously form a distinction between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ due to the collectivist culture.

4. Personal relations or guanxi.

Guanxi can be regarded as customarily dealing with mutual favors and string pulling between organizations and authorities (Xin & Pearce, 1996).  However, it is also important to know that guanxi exists within an organization.  A good personal relationship can promote more open and frank communications between managers and subordinates.  Thus, a close guanxi can facilitate the management development process in the organization and can create ties and loyalty between employers and employees (Bjorkman & Lu, 1999).


Since new labor laws were introduced in 1995 and a new employment contract system was set up, recruitment policies have changed (Benson & Zhu, 1999).  Enterprises, especially the state-owned enterprises, have the power to hire and fire employees almost at will; however, the new labor laws protect the individual rights of each job seeker, whatever their gender or ethnicity, thereby giving graduates the right to seek their own jobs (Ding et al., 1997).  State-owned enterprises can recruit both graduates and people with experience from other companies (Goodall & Warner, 1997; Chatterjee & Nankervis, 2003).  However, these laws do not always counteract the cultural influences surrounding equality and rights of the job seeker.  It is almost impossible to change organizational norms and values because there is such a strong power structure and interpersonal system of ‘guanxi’ prevalent in almost all organizations whether they are state- or privately-owned (Xin & Pearce, 1996).  Hence, it is often difficult for externally recruited employees to integrate into an existing organization, no matter how well educated or skilled they are (Bjorkman & Lu, 1999).

The informal labor market where priority is given to children and relatives of existing employees is prevalent despite the lip service that is paid to the concept of unbiased, objective recruitment practices (Verma & Zhiming, 1995).  A study by Ip (1995) indicated that about 80% of respondents had found their jobs through references from friends and relatives; the figure was found to be similarly high in a study conducted by Ding et al. (1997). Chatterjee and Nankervis (2003) reported that nepotism was still prevalent at department and work unit level although it was less obvious at top management. The implication is that, although the economic climate may have changed and there has been a demand for more Western style HR procedures, recruitment practices in China have changed little.

Business Management Services.

While China has excellent technical education, there is a dearth of managerial training because, in the past, managers were promoted on the basis of their political party allegiance, and many parts of the country remain ‘provincialized’ as shown in the HR inflexibility such as the ‘hukou’ (residence) policy. Thus, although China may be becoming more open, there remain strong cultural imperatives which must be addressed and respected by business management services.

Corporate Co-ordination.

International Communications and PR companies are developing offices throughout China to assist local and overseas businesses work together effectively to meet the demands of Eastern and Western markets. Chinese customers, employees and suppliers are managed by the ICPR companies which also provide technical support in dealings with Chinese government officials.



The interview is a common selection tool for many companies (Huffcult & Arthur, 1994) and is the dominant method used.  Punctuality is very important in China and in greeting the applicant the employer will not look at them directly because lowering of eyes shows respect.


There are a series of tests that often are used by Chinese companies, such as technology tests, technical tests, problem solving tests and English proficiency tests.  Traditional companies rarely use psychological or aptitude testing because they result in a potential loss of face for applicants (Bjorkman & Lu, 1999); however, psychometric testing of abilities and attitudes, interests and motivations, needs and aspirations and/or personal management style has been adopted from Western HR practices, especially in the Healthcare industry.

Behavioral Event

Interactive role play, simulation exercises and leaderless group discussion (LGD) are behavioral events which are increasingly popular in the task of selecting the most appropriate employees. There is an emphasis on identifying values and experience because companies are seeking to have an excellent working relationship among staff and that is considered to come from staff having common education, culture and norms.


Standard HRM techniques in Western world do not yield the same level of result in emerging economies like China. For example, motivation factors in US do not have a universal appeal in China. People are motivated to certain extent by financial benefits such as higher salary or a bigger bonus etc. However such tools have limited effects on motivation after a certain level in China. Similarly, job hopping for a higher salary or for a better position is considerably lower in China than in US. The examples of such differences are numerous. As a manager, it is very important to know the exact motivating factors to get the best out of the employees.

Some of the possible reasons are:

China & US are at different stages of industrial and economic development;

China is seeing the free market economy in 1990’s while US always had a free market economy. China is now opening its business to free market competition, while US companies always had foreign competition.

Different political-Economic framework

China had a long history of Economic austerity preached by the political system. The socialist political system discouraged free markets for nearly 40 years; Its only after 1991, China has embraced free market.

Unique value systems, cultural features, and institutions

Religion in China preaches for a simple life and to seek inner peace. For a long time, Chinese religious leaders have preached people to lead a simple life, place a high importance on family values This has been ingrained into Chinese culture. Unlike Protestant Christianity which seeks material wealth & possession, Chinese culture preaches to have “only the necessary” and discourages accumulation of excessive wealth. Even the current religious institutions actively encourage family values.

Intra-Organizational Homogeneity

Chinese Organizations have a very high level of homogeneity (Compared to US). Often, majority of the employees in an office are from that city, have a common language, share similar values and have a common culture.

Cultural background often forces individual to seen a different solution to common problem (when compared to US) i.e., When an American & a Chinese worker are faced with the same problem, the cultural background of the individual forces them to choose a different solution. This along with workplace homogeneity in China produces an entirely different solution than the one developed by an American.

Different choices and levels of employment relationships and the nature and content of the relationship between the organization and the employee

In US, employees see his/her career as a series of opportunities to be exploited by working with different organizations. There is very little bonding between the company and the employee. While in China, people tend to think of their current job as a career in the same company where one can advance by hard work and years of experience. Chinese firms also tend to value employee loyalty and his/her tenure at the firm more than the skills of a new comer.

Variations in spread, adaptation and use of technology

US and China differ in the rate of adaptation and use of new technology. In US new technology is readily adapted and used widely, while in China, new technology is always treated with skepticism and caution. (e.g.:  True Broad band Internet access is still yet to arrive in China)

Differences in the institutional framework and the reality of practice/implementation of rules and regulation

Business & Government Institutions in China have a similar charter, but the actual implementation or practice varies a lot. Public sector or state owned business institutions have a different outlook towards the issues. In Emerging Countries like China and China, relationships matter more than procedural correctness or fairness. For many from the Western countries find this practice appalling and complain bitterly about it. But for people living there, it’s a way of life.

Australian and Chinese companies share a number of similarities in the recruitment and selection processes they use.  Superficially, the overall recruitment and selection processes used in both countries have a high degree of commonality; largely because both countries have imported tested HR policies, strategies and procedures which were designed, trialed and implemented in multinational, global corporations.

However, even when there does not appear to be any difference in recruitment and selection processes and the language used to describe those processes, it is important to know the organizational culture and the cultural influences of the wider society which impose limitations and obligations on job applicants in each country thus making the practices quite different. In China, surface learning (or rote learning) ensues from family enculturation and teacher-centered pedagogical processes; it is reinforced through repetition, group harmony and regurgitation of knowledge. In Australia, students are expected to exercise deep learning (or conceptual learning) which ensues from the student-centered pedagogical processes promoted by the family and school; it is reinforced through model formulation, individual differences and building of knowledge. In both countries, the employees’ understanding of the world has developed from an education moulded to reflect a given reality; fortunately, this is not a problem when people operate with a philosophy of cultural relativism and a good dose of “common sense and plain dealing” (Emerson, n.d.).

One major difference with employment in the West is that, in the East, there are four major types of candidates available; local Chinese, overseas Chinese, Chinese returnees, and repatriates. Understanding the pros and cons of hiring candidates from each of these groups has developed a situation whereby local Chinese have become more familiar with western business practices as training programs and higher education qualifications have increased skill.

However, Bjorkman and Lu (1999) as well as Chatterjee and Nankervis (2003) argued that successfully managing people in the global environment results from understanding the cultural environment.  These researchers stressed that multinational corporations should learn the Chinese culture that affects Chinese management practices and organizational behaviours and then implement that knowledge into local human resource management practices instead of trying to impose the Western processes from their home country. “Using employees of a local joint venture partner is the easiest and most common method of recruiting staff. This can, however, give rise to the problem of grossly over-manned state-owned enterprises putting pressure on their foreign partners to take on more staff than are actually required. The staff themselves are accustomed to long tenure … and they also tend to carry with them inefficient state-sector practices” (UPS, 2003, p. 50).


The nature of work in China is greatly affected by some of the traditional Chinese cultural values such as ‘guanxi’, ‘face’ and ‘harmonious relationships’ that require employers, state or private, to recognize their ‘obligation’ to find or create suitable jobs and retrain surplus staff for new positions (Benson, 1996; Vanhonacker, 2004).  In China, whilst there are financial incentives for those who employ surplus workers (Verma & Zhiming, 1995; Glover & Siu, 2000), the practice of human resource management is largely based on relationships (Goodall & Warner, 1997). Furthermore, although the job for life tradition may be diminishing, it still has a significant place in Chinese psyche and human resource practice.

Historically, it has been difficult to recruit people from different parts of the country because of a strict residency policy (UPS 2003). However, these rules are being relaxed in major cities and city authorities, keen to attract more talented workers, are becoming more flexible.

The difference between western and eastern HRM practices mainly arises with the culture. The eastern HRM Practices have a large quotient of culture aspect imbibed into their processes and practices.

Modern HRM techniques were primarily invented in the west to handle Human Resource Issues faced by the Western countries. One must note that human behavior is very much affected by culture. In the era of Globalization, when companies go abroad, they must localize their HRM policies to suit the local culture. Just like local adaptation of products, Local adaptation applies to HR issues also. At the same time global companies face a dilemma of treating employees in different countries differently because it can border on discrimination. Care must be exercised to avoid being seen as discriminatory and yet localizing the HRM policies.


·         Arun Kottolli, Limitations of Western Human Resource Management techniques in Emerging Economies

·         Dr Nils Timo, Griffith University, Work and Organisation in the New Service Economy, Guest Editorial

·         Allan C. & Timo N. 2000 ‘Globalisation and the Organisation of Work: Case Studies of Three Service Industries’, eds Mylett T., Boas C., Gross M., Laneyrie F. & Zanko M. Employment Relations Perspectives: Globalisation and Regionalism, University of Wollongong Press, Wollongong.

Benson, J. (1996) “The sleeping giant happens no more (State-owned enterprises in China: recent changes in human resource management),”.People Management, 2 (12), 22-26.
Benson, J. and Zhu,Y. (1999) “Markets, firms and workers in Chinese state-owned Enterprises,” Human Resource Management Journal, 9 (4), 58-74.
Bond, M.H. (1991) Beyond the Chinese Face, Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.
Borkman, I. and Lu, Y. (1999) “The management of human resources in Chinese-Western joint ventures,” Journal of World Business, 34 (3), 306-324.
Bucalo, J.P. (1983) “Good advertising can be more effective than other recruitment tools,” Personal Administrator, 28, 739.
Chatterjee, S. and Nankervis, A. (2003) Understanding Asian Management: Transition and Transformation, Perth: Vineyard Publishing.
·         Macdonald C. & Sirianni C. 1996, ‘The Service Soceity and the Changing Experience of Work’, eds Macdonald C. & Sirianni C., Working in the Service Society, Temple University Press, Philadelphia.

·         Mills C. Wright 1951, White Collar: The American Middle Classes, Oxford University Press, London.

·         Ross P., Bamber G. & Whitehouse G. 1998, ‘Employment, Economics and Employment Relations: Comparative Statistics’, eds Bamber G. & Lansbury R., International and Comparative Employment Relations: A Study of Industrialised Market Economics, 3rd ed, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

·         Tannock S. 2001, Youth at Work: The Unionised Fast-food and Grocery Workplace, Temple University Press, Philadelphia.

·         World Bank 1999, World Development Indicators, Oxford University Press, Oxford.


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