International journal of human resource management (IJHRM) special issue on: International human resource management in contexts of high uncertainties

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Wood, G
Cooke, FL
Demirbag, M
Kwong, C
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The aim of this special issue is to examine more closely of the implementations of international human resource management (IHRM) practices in the contexts of high uncertainties. It seeks contexts of relevance, encompassing those experiencing financial crisis, economic sanctions, political and civil uncertainty, environmental collapse and/or deep recession. It aims to supplement the Danger and Risk as Challenges for HRM in the IJHRM special issue which encompasses terrorism, violent disorder, crime and other physical risks, by focusing on initially seemingly peaceful forms of uncertainty, even if their consequences might lead to societal collapse. While appreciating that these contexts are very different, the key theme that cuts across all of these contexts are the unexpected changes that they brought, creating considerable ambiguity for businesses, and how they manage their people. Businesses will face the challenges of coping in such contexts, with unpredictability in demand, and in supplier relations, in adding greater time pressure to the decision-making process, and in terms of work and employment relations (Pearson & Clair, 1998). Through operating in different settings, multinational enterprises (MNEs) may be able to hedge risk, but at the same time protecting their own interest from a distance can be extremely difficult (Cantwell, Dunning, & Lundan, 2010). They will also impact on MNE decisions to invest and reinvest in particular settings (Oh & Oetzel, 2011). However, reducing or eliminating their presence in the host location is not always possible. MNEs may have substantial resources and infrastructural interests in the host location that need to be protected. Again, there is often a pressing need of MNEs to use expatriates on international assignments to complete strategically critical tasks, but the same time managing expatriate staff becomes much more difficult when countries of domicile become less certain. However, these situations often present golden opportunity for businesses. Studies have found that the option value of MNEs in entering a country under the uncertain conditions can be high (Miller, 1998). This is because government and international bodies often inject considerable amount of investments into the affected countries in aiding the recovery and rebuilding process and, in turn, pumped up the local aggregate demands, opening new opportunities for MNEs in relevant industries (Vigdor, 2008). At the same time, consumers’ demand for products and services may change; demand may not necessarily decline, but what consumers may want may be different, and this will impact on the demands placed on a firm’s human resources. These MNEs may therefore experience expansion of workforce under these situations.

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International Journal of Human Resource Management
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© 2018 Taylor & Francis (Routledge). This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in The International Journal of Human Resource Management on 07 Aug 2018, available online:
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Business systems in context
Human resources and industrial relations
Strategy, management and organisational behaviour
Policy and administration
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