Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Management, Operations and Marketing


Through the lens of institutional theory, this thesis examines institutional influence on the adoption and non-adoption of human resource management (HRM) practices in Vietnamese equitised state owned enterprises (ESOEs). Qualitative research was used to gather empirical evidence. Six interviews with government officials and 43 interviews in seven large equitised state owned enterprises in Vietnam were conducted. Taking observational notes, collecting organizational documents, and attending organizational meetings and relevant social activities were additional forms of data collection. ESOEs were chosen across a range of industry types and in different stages of equitisation from state dominant to 100% private enterprise. Within each organization, interviewees were selected across a range of employment duties and experiences in order to provide multiple perspectives on the changes taking place in HRM practices in ESOEs.

The study identifies the nature of the institutional forces that affect ESOEs and identifies how and why these forces differ to those in Western contexts. The study highlights resistance strategies against institutional forces and examines reasons for this resistance.

The findings demonstrate that there are a number of coercive, normative and mimetic institutional forces that influence the adoption of HRM practices in ESOEs in Vietnam. There are also HRM practices that ESOEs want to adopt but are reluctant to adopt due to the inertia effect of pre-existing institutional factors. The findings demonstrate that institutional forces in Vietnam are not strong enough to be deterministic due to the conflicting nature and the flux of these forces. Thus, the characteristics of institutional forces in Vietnam are neither linear nor stable; they are undergoing transformation processes. The findings also confirm that HR actors in ESOEs make strategic choices in responses to these institutional forces. Members of organizations do not passively comply with institutional constraints. Indeed, ESOE managers are strategic creatures. They selectively choose HRM practices that balance conflict between institutional forces and their own goals and interests. Opportunism and pragmatism are highlighted as approaches to their strategic choices.

The study suggests that the Vietnamese government would benefit from extensive study of the institutional environment of equitised state owned entities in order to design HRM policies more effectively. For HRM practitioners, an understanding of how institutional forces influence HRM practices helps them to choose appropriate HRM practices not only to balance the different interests of different members of an organization, but also to develop a stronger workforce for the long term benefit of the individual, the enterprise and the developing Vietnamese economy.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.