In this issue of RPHRM, the Main Section brings together three research articles dealing with topics highly salient to contemporary Asian organisations. The first of these examines the consequences of employee cutbacks on the company. As the author of this paper points out, workforce reduction has become an increasingly significant weapon for firms around the globe in their battle to stay competitive. Even East Asia, which has been experiencing for some time sharp economic growth, has not been completely immune to the allure of “right sizing”. With rising labour costs and slower growth on the horizon, firms in the region may find the idea of paring down to keep productivity up even more attractive. Yet we know little about the associated costs of such reductions. This insightful paper provides some needed analysis of the likely trade-offs firms may experience in reducing their workforce.

Given firms’ current interest in restructuring and right-sizing, the need for employees to engage in active career self-management is apparent. In the section’s second paper, researchers present evidence highlighting complex relationships among career management strategies, personal dispositions, and various measures of career success. They discovered that personal disposition (in the form of achievement striving) predicted job performance, job satisfaction, and career satisfaction, but not speed of promotion. On the other hand, career strategies related moderately to satisfaction, but not to performance. These findings raise some thought provoking questions; and the authors’ interpretation of these complicated results is perceptive.

Any manager who has sat through a general HRM course knows that the potential organisational payoff of an effective performance appraisal (PA) system can be enormous. The same manager, with any experience in conducting PA, also knows that the practical payoff of most PA systems is far less than this. Researchers are acutely aware of this gap, and they continue to undertake investigations that may help PA live up to its promise. In the section’s third article, the investigators argue that some past research findings may be misleading, in that they may have confounded the purpose for doing the appraisal with the potential consequences of the evaluation. If this were the case, it would help explain some puzzling findings related to lenient ratings in personnel decisions. Their research study examined this possibility, as well as a relevant personality characteristic. The analyses offered support for the hypothesised connections. Thus, managers and researchers interested in PA will find this piece relevant reading.

This issue’s Practitioner Focus section contains two papers and two reviews. The first of these papers deals with human resource information systems (HRIS) in Taiwan. In terms of HR functional responsibilities, HR information systems are beginning to play a pivotal role in day to day operations. Some of you may recall that the 1996 RPHRM carried reviews of two computerised HRIS systems. In a sense, this paper represents a continuation of the discussion begun in that issue. The paper analyses the content of the typical Taiwanese system; the uses to which the information is put; and the organisational context in which all this occurs. The paper offers a number of conclusions about the factors affecting successful HRIS implementation; as well as a consideration of the strategic benefits such systems provide.

The second paper in this section presents an overview of HRM practices in Thailand’s banking industry, and examines how these practices are evolving in the face of a changing, competitive environment. The paper provides information on recruitment and selection, training and development, performance appraisal, compensation, labour management relations, and employee involvement. For readers interested in comparative HRM, this piece adds Thailand to a growing data-base.

Concluding this volume are a software and a book review. The software review examines a program that helps managers create accurate and detailed job descriptions. Developed by KnowledgePoint (the same company that markets Performance Now! a performance appraisal package reviewed in the 1995 issue of RPHRM), this software may be a useful tool for managers faced with the unenviable but critical task of generating or updating the firm’s job analyses. The book review focuses on Dr. Linda Low’s new book, dealing with the professions in Singapore. For those who have to manage professionals, the review may help determine whether this book is for you.

Donald J. Campbell