This is the question asked by Jie Shen, Professor in Management at Shenzhen Audencia Business School (SABS) in his article Conditional Altruism: Effects of HRM Practices on the Willingness of Host-Country Nationals to Help Expatriates, just published in Human Resource Management (4 stars journal).
Expatriates often face difficulties in and outside of the workplace in host nations. As such, help from host-country nationals (HCNs) with work and social support plays an irreplaceable role in expatriates’ adjustment and performance on international assignments. Helping behavior toward co-workers often goes beyond one’s job duty and is risk-taking behavior that may affect the provider’s own work performance. Expatriates have multiple identities; in addition to being co-workers, they are also seen by HCNs as representatives of multinational enterprises (MNEs). Therefore, HCNs helping expatriates represents both helping behavior toward co-workers, as well as their positive attitudes and behavior toward the multinational enterprise (MNE).
The past decade has witnessed increasing academic interest in exploring factors predicting the relationship between HCNs and expatriates. However, the extant literature regarding determinants of the willingness of HCNs to help expatriates has a focus on personal and intrapersonal factors such as personality and social categorization. Thus far, organizational factors predicting the willingness of HCNs to help expatriates have been largely overlooked, indicating a need for further theoretical and empirical clarification. Due to the unique identities of expatriates, HCNs helping expatriates is not only HCN pro-social behavior toward co-workers but also reflects their positive attitudes and behaviors toward MNEs. Thus, exploring organizational contextual effects on HCN attitudes and behavior toward expatriates requires new theoretical frameworks that differ from those presented in past studies.
Shen et al. (2017)’s study fills this important knowledge gap by exploring the effects of MNEs’ HRM policies and practices in overseas subsidiaries on the willingness of HCNs to help expatriates and the social and psychological processes involved. This study is significant because it aims to provide a better understanding of HRM antecedents of HCN attitudes and behaviors toward expatriates. Understanding HRM antecedents may guide MNEs to formulate and implement more effective HRM policies and practices in order to facilitate expatriate success. Organizations may adopt a range of HRM practices serving multiple purposes and the HR attribution literature suggests that HR attributions determine HRM effects on employees. Some HRM practices may be required by law or government regulations while others are discretionary. It is argued that compulsory requirements have a less positive impact on employee workplace attitudes and behaviors than discretionary organizational policies and practices. This is why there is a need to examine different HRM practices separately. Shen et al. (2017)’s study focuses on two bundles of discretionary HRM practices, namely high commitment HRM and socially responsible HRM.
High commitment HRM focuses on personal development, such as training, feedback, mentoring, career and managerial development, employee participation and involvement, job security, work-life balance, and health and safety is positively related to perceived organizational support (POS). POS is defined as the perceptions of employees of the degree to which the organization values their contributions and cares for their intrinsic and extrinsic needs. When employees perceive strong organizational support, they become more willing to do extra task for the organization. Socially responsible HRM include emphasizing CSR values in recruitment and selection, providing CSR training and taking account of social performance in promotion, appraisal and reward processes. The adoption of socially responsible HRM is an organizational signal of commitment to CSR that is now a social norm worldwide.
Through an analysis the data collected from the employees of South Korean MNEs operating in China, Shen et al. (2017)’s study reveals that high commitment HRM influences the willingness of HCNs to help expatriates through the sequential mediation of POS and organizational identification. Moreover, socially responsible HRM influences the willingness of HCNs to help expatriates through the mediation of organizational identification. The study contributes significantly to social exchange theory, social identity theory and the international HRM literature.