Research & Practice in Human Resource Management, an internationally refereed scholarly journal sponsored by the Faculty of Business Administration of the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the Singapore Human Resource Institute (SHRI), is proud to publish its pioneer Special Issue. As with the Regular Issue, we bring together a balanced blend of articles and reports that will appeal to both researchers and human resource practitioners.

It is my pleasure to be involved in the planning and production of the journal’s first Special Issue. The theme of this Special Issue is: Towards the 21st Century: Human Resource Challenges and Change in Asia and the Asia Pacific. There are altogether eight articles in this volume, comprising one invited paper and seven refereed papers. There is also a Book Review section on Making Labor Law in Australia.

The first article, an invited paper entitled Scale of Operations, Human Resource Systems and Firm Performance in East and Southeast Asia, examines the impact of high performance work systems (HPWSs) on organisational performance. John Lawler, Chen and Bae also investigate whether the effectiveness of HPWSs is affected in one way or another by a firm’s size of operations.

Drawing from a total sample of 506 firms from South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan, the authors found that utilisation of HPWSs implemented among non-managerial employees was positively associated with firm performance. They further observed that HPWSs did not seem to have a significantly weaker impact on firm performance in smaller and medium-sized organisations. There was also no significant difference between indigenous and foreign firms with respect to the importance of HPWSs utilization. The authors thus concluded that “HPWSs seem to work well in promoting firm performance in East and Southeast Asia, that the relationship is not moderated by firm business strategy, and that the relationship does not depend on firm size”.

Linda Low’s article, Political Economy of Human Resource Challenges and Changes in the Post-Asian Financial Crisis, provides a timely overview on the people and socio-political implications of the recent financial crisis in the Asia Pacific region. It first examines how globalisation, rapid technological change and integrated global markets hasten the need for economic reform, industrial/organisational restructuring as well as human resource development. The author then identifies the challenges, problems and concerns confronting human resource development in much detail and concludes with some policy implications and prospects in the new post-Asian financial crisis era.

In his essay on Industrial Relations Strategies in Times of Crisis and Recovery in ASEAN, Basu Sharma touches on the importance of the State in the shaping of industrial relations systems in times of economic crisis and recovery. Using evidences from the ASEAN-5s (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand), he argues that “high stateness” lends to less disruptive shifts in national industrial relations strategies while “low stateness” leads to more abrupt and disorderly changes. The author also critically compares and contrasts experiences and responses by the industrial relations actors in these five countries. Likely scenario on the future development of industrial relations in the region is also provided.

At the centre of industrial and corporate restructuring is organisational change. Articles four and five in this volume provide vivid case studies of such reforms. Zhu and Dowling, in their paper State-owned Enterprises in Transitional Economies: A Case Study in the People’s Republic of China, first discusses the management of human resources in China’s State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in general and then move on to examine what impact the country’s economic reform has had on human resource practices. Through a detailed and insightful case study on one SOE, they discuss and evaluate each of the key human resource functions in the organisation. They conclude that “human resources activities were not conducted in a Western manner. Some Western HR activities were partially utilised, some existed in name only or with Chinese characteristics, while some were totally absent”.

Ross and Bamber, in a separate piece entitled Deregulation, Downsizing and Outsourcing at Telecom New Zealand and Telstra: Towards an Explanation of Employment Relations Strategies in terms of Transaction Costs Economics, investigate how the deregulation of the Australian and New Zealand telecommunications markets lead to organisational and employee relations changes in both organisations. The use of transaction costs economics in analysing the change process is both refreshing and interesting.

The hospitality industry is the point of focus for articles six and seven. Alan Nankervis’s paper, Human Resource Management Strategies as Competitive Advantage: A Case Example of the Hospitality Sector in Southeast Asia & the Pacific Rim, highlights the very nature of the hospitality sector and addresses what he calls the macro and micro issues associated with this industry. Characteristics of human resource management in the hospitality sector is then examined in detail, followed by a section on managing quality, productivity and performance in hospitality.

Following Alan’s paper on strategic HRM is an empirical study by Rodwell and Teo, Approaches to Human Resource Management on the Pacific Rim: A Comparison across Ownership Categories in the Australian Hospitality Industry. Their findings reveal that firms of different home country orientations tend to employ unique HRM approaches. The readers should find it interesting to know how Asian, U.S. and Australian companies differ in this respect. The authors further suggest that “the distinctive emphasis on either information inclusion (Asian) or manifest rewards (US) may highlight potential sources of competitive advantage that are difficult to imitate and therefore provide another tool in the repertoire of managers on the Pacific Rim”.

This Special Issue concludes with a study on Managing Organisational Change and Resistance in Small and Medium-sized Family Firms by Menkhoff and Kay. Through general discussions and the use of a single case study, they have provided us a useful analysis on the forces shaping the success or failure of SMEs.

On behalf of the journal, I would like to conclude this Editorial Foreward to thank our former Dean, Professor Wee Chow Hou, and Mr David Ang, Executive Director of the Singapore Human Resources Institute for their keen support in the publication of this Special Issue. Indeed, it is our plan to publish Research & Practice in Human Resource Management twice a year, beginning with the new millennium.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Editorial Board and various ad-hoc reviewers. These individuals read the manuscript submissions, provided invaluable feedback to the authors, and shared with us their professional wisdom and insight. I truly appreciated their help and advice. Last but not least, I am indebted to the journal’s editor, Professor Donald Campbell, for his guidance throughout these years.

David Wan
Decemeber, 1999