RESEARCH AND PRACTICE
IN HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Editorial

Both globally and locally, firms have recognized that competitive advantage resides in human assets. For a company to compete effectively, it must simultaneously tap and retain the unique configuration of skills, abilities, and motivations of current employees; and it must also (given rapidly shifting environmental conditions) periodically attract and secure new talents, new skills and new perspectives. These two concerns of attraction and retention – form the theme of the four articles in this issue’s Main Section.

In the issue’s lead article, researchers examine the forces that influence a home-based woman’s decision to enter the work force. As the investigators note, one of the most striking changes in today’s work force is the expanding number of women opting for employment outside the home. This study looked at three competing explanations for why women might choose to enter (or re-enter) the labor force. Given that most of the prior work in this area has studied North American samples, a particular contribution of this study is its Singaporean focus.

The second article in the issue moves the focus to Hong Kong, and examines an aspect of work that has substantial implications for an employee’s motivation and satisfaction. This is the problem of work-family conflict, with its accompanying implications of employee stress and tension. A number of studies have addressed this important and complicated issue, but they again have generally used Western samples. Although the findings of the current study have to be interpreted cautiously, the results of this research should help investigators identify unique aspects of the work-family interface peculiar to Asia.

For firms desiring a flexible work force, consideration of part-time workers certainly makes sense. Researchers have only recently begun to examine the attitudes and motivations of this group of neglected employees. In the issue’s third article, investigators report their findings regarding differences in satisfaction, motivation, and intention to quit among various categories of part-time employees. The study has important implications for the HR policies and practices of firms moving toward the use of part-time workers.

The last article in the Main Section is a technical piece, focusing on an significant but under-studied organizational topic: the impact of punishment or discipline on employee performance and satisfaction. Although behavioral theory traditionally urges managers to motivate employees by rewarding desired behavior, particular circumstances sometimes arise in organizations that require a manager to invoke sanctions and discipline, in an attempt to discourage inappropriate or undesirable employee behavior. Are such attempts effective? Using a sophisticated analytical procedure, this research reviews 21 earlier studies that have investigated this question, and concludes that the effectiveness of discipline on subsequent performance remains unproved.

This issue’s Practitioner Focus Section offers two articles and three book reviews. The first of the articles examines the evolving roles of HRM practitioners in Australia; and analyses these roles in terms of the various skills needed for effective performance. The implications of the analysis certainly extends beyond Oz, and appear relevant to anyone doing HR work in the region. The second article focuses on Vietnam and the particular human resource development problems associated with state owned enterprises. Again, the issues and implications contained in this piece appear to generalize beyond the boundaries of the specific country examined.

Three book reviews complete this volume of the journal. One review focuses on a work by Kae Chung and his colleagues devoted to Korean management; another examines the new edition of Human Resource Management by Tan Chwee Huat and Derek Torrington; and the third critiques a book of readings in human resource management, edited by Raymond Stone. Each of these works has something to offer the practitioner or researcher interested in Asia Pacific HRM.

On a concluding noting, I am happy to announce that RPHRM now has a presence on the Web at: http://www.fba.nus.edu.sg/rphrm/ahome.htm. In additional to providing general information about the journal itself, the web site also contains the abstracts of articles published since the journal’s inception in 1993. Please feel free to visit and forward your comments and suggestions. Developing and refining a Web site is an on going process; and later we plan on providing links to other sites of particular interest to the HR community. Again, your ideas and suggestions are welcomed.

Donald J. Campbell
Editor
1998