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Title: Hiring by knowledge-intensive firms in China
Author: Roome, Edward Steven
ISNI:       0000 0004 2729 7748
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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Knowledge-intensive firms (KIFs) depend on their workers’ knowledge assets more than capital- and labour-intensive firms. Knowledge assets, such as human and social capital, enable KIFs to innovate, solve problems, and build relationships. But managing a highly skilled and well-connected workforce presents several HRM challenges – perhaps none more so than hiring. In tight labour markets, workers’ knowledge assets are strategically valuable and rare. To attract knowledge workers, KIFs must signal significant value from entering into employment relationships. They must use hiring strategies that communicate positive organisational attributes (employer branding), as well as HRM practices that entice job seekers (employment inducements).Previous studies on KIFs have focused largely on Western contexts. Few studies have considered HRM by KIFs in developing economies. In China, the focus of this study, KIFs are an emerging organisational form that have grown from privately owned start-ups in high-tech sectors. Such firms encounter hiring challenges at both organisational and external environmental levels. For example, privately owned KIFs face intense labour market competition from state-owned and foreign-invested enterprises for highly skilled workers. This has fuelled upsurges in wages and high turnover. Most private firms are small and vulnerable to market forces, yet scholars know little about their hiring and HRM approaches. Almost no studies have systematically examined hiring as a ‘single’ HRM issue within privately owned Chinese KIFs. By synthesising Western and Chinese HRM literatures, this study developed an analytical framework to explore organisational and external factors that explain variations in KIFs’ hiring strategies and practices. The study conducted interviews with managers and HR workers in seven privately owned KIFs and one state-funded training school.Several case firms had implemented sophisticated strategies that linked hiring with business objectives. Managers and HR workers acquired HRM knowledge from several sources including the Internet and HRM texts, management consultancies, in-house training, the state’s HR qualification, and informal HR clubs. However, firm size and reputation, as well as managers’ tacit beliefs still limited some KIFs’ abilities to attract talented individuals. Firms generally used a wide range of inducements to attract knowledge workers, including competitive salaries, career development, and ‘paternalistic cultures’. Most participants perceived worker referrals, headhunting, and universities to be effective hiring sources. Thus, some firms had developed strategic hiring approaches that enabled them to compete with state-owned and foreign-invested firms. But small KIFs, in particular, must still strengthen their employer branding to offset competition and labour market ‘invisibility’. KIFs must also deliver on their employment inducements, lest they risk high turnover and a loss of valuable human and social capital.
Supervisor: Burnes, Bernard; Batey, Mark Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Recruitment ; Selection ; Human Resource Management ; China ; Knowledge-intensive