Year

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Management, Operations and Marketing

Abstract

Using institutional theory, this thesis investigates how human resource management (HRM) practices are shaped in self-contained tourist resorts in the Maldives. It does so by comparing case study evidence of the role of resort managers in responding to the institutional forces in relation to HRM practices in international hotel chains and local resorts in the Maldives.

The key findings of the study demonstrate there are a number of coercive, normative and mimetic institutional forces impacting on how tourist resorts manage people in the Maldives. There is a high level of interplay between these institutional forces and HR actors (resort managers). HR actors are strategic, creative and opportunistic in managing the institutional environment. They make strategic choices in responding to these forces. These choices range from passive compliance to active resistance. The findings show that HR actors’ strategic responses to institutional pressures are frequently challenged by the strategies of non-managerial employees. Empowered by newly found employment rights, non-managerial employees put pressure on managers to comply with the laws and regulations in their favour using both individual actions such as employee turnover and collective actions such as petitions and employee strikes. HRM practices emerge in the relationship or the high level of interaction among the institutional environment and different actors. The findings also highlight that the shaping and reshaping of HRM practices is not a straightforward process. Resort managers deal with the plethora of institutional requirements, stakeholder preferences and divergent organisational interests with difficulty.

The findings show that both local resorts and international hotel chains face largely a similar set of institutional pressures. However, formal control and normative integration mechanisms are more prevalent in international hotel chains than local hotel chains. Three broad patterns emerge in strategic responses and HRM practices adopted in resorts. They are: (1) similarity across the resorts; (2) diversity between local resorts and international hotel chains (ownership type); and (3) diversity between international high-end resorts and the rest of the resorts (market orientation). The thesis outlines reasons for each of these patterns.

The study advances the institutional perspective of business strategies and HRM practices by showing how HR actors make strategic choices in relation to HRM practices in responding to institutional forces. By comparing strategic responses and HRM practices in local resorts and international hotel chains, the study also contributes to one of the key international human resource management (IHRM) debates about the extent to which foreign-owned multinational corporation (MNC) subsidiaries diverge from or converge to local firms with respect to their HRM practices. The thesis also has practical implications as it furthers our understanding of the challenges of the institutional environment and how organisations cope with these challenges. It particularly cautions managers about the use of managerial decoupling strategies in relation to institutional pressures and HRM practices especially in tight labour market contexts.

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