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The Impact of Globalisation on Human Resource Management in Zambia: Gaining Competitive Advantage through Effective Management of Human Resources
The Impact of Globalisation on Human Resource Management in Zambia: Gaining Competitive Advantage through Effective Management of Human Resources PDF Print E-mail
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The concept of globalisation refers to an increasing flow of goods and resources across national borders and the emergence of a complementary set of organisational structures to manage the expanding network of international economic activity and transactions. Strictly speaking, a global economy is one where firms and financial institutions operate transnationally, i.e., beyond the confines of national boundaries. In such a world, goods, factors of production and financial assets would be almost perfect substitutes everywhere and would no longer be possible to consider national states as distinct economies. Globalisations is expected to accelerate growth in developing countries.

This paper tries to examine globalisation in relation to the management of human resources. It tries to look at the effects of globalisation in terms of increased competition and how we can achieve competitive advantage through people. This is done by analysing the major activities of human resource management and how they can be performed effectively.

Human resource management in Zambia

The management of human resources in Zambia has not been accorded the attention and seriousness it deserves. In most cases people appointed to man the human resource department are not trained or qualified to perform the functions.

The role of human resource management cannot be over emphasised. The internationalisation process has made it necessary now to consider ways we can effectively manage our human resources. The status of human resource management has changed with the enactment of the Zambia Institute of Human Resource management Act of No. 11 of 1997. This Act gives a legal backing to human resources management.

Another positive development is that most Zambian businesses and organisations are now adopting the human resource management approach to the management of people.

The impact of globalisation on human resource management

A consensus has emerged among scholars and practitioners alike that the business environment has become more competitive than in the past because of globalisation. In order to survive in this new era, businesses have to focus even harder on their competitive strengths so as to develop appropriate long-term strategies. Old practices and systems that have evolved over time are no longer appropriate.

Indeed development is achieved through people. Beardwell and Holden (1997) support this assertion by giving an example of Japan's success despite its lacking natural resources. These lessons are important for us if we have to move forward in terms of economic development.

Armstrong outlines three most important factors in achieving competitive advantage as Innovative, Quality and Cost Leadership, but all these depend on the quality of an organisation's human resources. What this entails is that the starting point should be with the human resource. Scholars have argued that the human resource satisfies four conditions necessary to achieve sustainable competitive advantage: human resource is valuable, rare, and imperfectly imitable and has no substitutes. Competitors can easily duplicate competitive advantage obtained via better technology and products, but it is hard to duplicate competitive advantage gained through better management of people.

The creation of these core competencies can be achieved through effective provision of the traditional services of the human resource management and dealing effectively with macro concerns such as corporate culture and management development.

Human resource planning (HRP)

Human resource planning is a critical management function in that it provides management with information on resources flow which is used to calculate, among other things, recruitment needs and succession and development plans.

There is a need in this new environment for human resource practitioners to take a detailed study of past and protected trends in employment loss and seek to minimise the shock of unexpected shortages of labour, increased and costly surpluses and needless redundancies.

When there is a proper human resource plan in place, we will be able to obtain and retain the number of people we need with the skills, expertise and competencies required. Of late, a lot of teachers, doctors and nurses have left the country for greener pastures. This would not have been the case if human resources were properly managed. HRP will also ensure that we develop a well-trained and flexible workforce, thus contributing to the nation's ability to adapt to uncertain and changing environments.

Recruitment and selection

In this environment, the importance of finding the right person for the job cannot be over emphasised and the decision to appoint an individual is one of the most crucial decisions an employer will ever take. Zambia has a lot to learn from this. Selection decisions should no longer be based on ethnic backgrounds or tribal lines. This new environment challenges the traditional approach to recruitment and selection.

Training and development

There is also a need to continuously train and develop the workforce to achieve competitive advantage. Training will ensure that the employees develop the right skills, attitudes and knowledge that will enable them to perform their jobs effectively and efficiently. Zambia has to invest a lot in education and training. We have to draw lessons from the success of Japan and Germany, which have relied so much on the development of the skills, aptitudes and efforts of their people.

Reward management

Wages do provide a source of motivation for employees to perform effectively. The Zambians leaving the country are doing so because of high wages offered by other countries. As a result of globalisation, there is now free mobility of labour. International companies can advertise through the Internet and recruit employees from across borders.

Management development

Managers should have a vision and should also understand what is expected of them. Managers now should be trained to think globally and act locally. Also there should be people succession plans for management. The capabilities of any organisation to achieve its business strategies in the light of critical success factors for the business (innovation, quality leadership, etc.) depend largely on the capability of its managers as developed within the organisation to meet its particular demands and circumstances.

Employee participation

Employee participation will tend to enhance the employee's contribution. There are various methods of employee involvement, e.g., joint consultation, quality circles, and suggestion schemes. Japan is again cited as an example in terms of employee participation practices. The most emulated techniques have been quality circles.


In order that we achieve sustained high levels of performance through people, they should be well motivated. This can be done through the provision of incentives, rewards, leadership and importantly, the work they do and the organisational context in which they carry out that work. In a study of work motivation in Zambia, Machungwa and Schmitt (1983) found that the most frequent demotivating factor mentioned by respondents related to unfair organisational practices. These practices involved favouritism along tribal lines, corruption and nepotism in employment decisions, unfair promises made to employees regarding promotion, pay rises, transfers and time off.

Quality management

The human resource practitioners should play a vital role in ensuring quality at all levels of the organisation. Quality is achieved through people and in accordance with a basic human resource principle: investment in people as a pre-requisite for achieving high quality standards.

Organisational culture

In order to survive in this uncertain environment there is a need to adopt a work culture that is sustainable to the environment.

Job design

Jobs have to be designed/redesigned in order to suit the environmental demands.


Human resource management should take a new approach in this new environment brought about by globalisation. People should not be seen as a cost to the organisation but as a valuable assert which should be trained and developed to get the best out of them.