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Title: HRM in transition : Chinese HR managers talk
Author: Guan, Weiwei
ISNI:       0000 0004 2703 3072
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2010
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This research aims to ascertain how HR managers in China perceive their roles under China's economic transition period from a state-controlled economy to a market economy. There has been a tendency for studies of Chinese HRM to be dominated by survey-based methods and quantitative techniques and whilst these have provided helpful cross-sectional insights they have generally failed to capture how the practice of HRM is experienced from the perspective of Chinese managers themselves. An examination of the literature shows that both in the context of Chinese HRM, and HRM more generally, the lack of detailed qualitative research has left gaps in terms of HR managers' perceptions of their role, most notably in terms of its emotional dimensions (especially important in the Chinese context of guanxi practices) and its status as part of a career pattern. This research therefore adopts an exploratory approach that aims to provide tentative explanations of patterns that emerge from detailed semi-structured interviews with Chinese HR managers (38 managers from 26 diverse companies). Analysis of this data revealed three groups of respondents, defined according to their HR role descriptions: Restricted Functional; Professional Functional; and Strategic Partners. These groups are compared and contrasted in terms of their HR practices, the ways in which they handle emotions, and their career anchors. In each case a distinctive pattern emerges which appears to reflect a complex combination of individual aspirations and structural factors, the latter particularly associated with the hierarchical structure of the organizations concerned and the ways in which power is exercised. The study contributes to knowledge of HRM in six ways: 1. It supports studies that claim ownership may not be the main determining factor in shaping Chinese HRM practices; 2. It shows a tension in the debates about the role of HR managers in relation to employee care and advocacy; 3. It makes a valuable contribution to the role of emotion in HR work; 4. It contributes to showing the significance of guanxi practices within Chinese organizations; 5. The study contributes to the area of HR career development which has been seen to be largely unresearched in any form; 6. Finally, it contributes to knowledge of HRM in China by filling an important gap in the form of the lack of qualitative studies of Chinese managers. By presenting a view of the nature and roles of Chinese HR work through the words of Chinese HR managers themselves, this study presents a body of rich data that provides a very unusual insight into the experiences of a group that has been widely explored from the 'outside' but has been given little opportunity to 'speak for itself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available