From quality to cost? The evolution of Walmart’s human resource practices in China and its impact on industrial relations (1996-2017)

Human Resources Office    2018-11-16

From quality to cost The evolution of Walmart’s human resource practices in China and its impact on industrial relations (1996-2017) 

Speaker: Fang Lee Cooke, Professor of Human Resource Management (HRM) and Asia, Studies at Monash Business School, Monash University

Host: Prof. Gu Qinxuan

Time: Dec 14th, 2018, Friday, 10:00-11:30

Venue: A303 Antai College Building



This study responds to calls for more in-depth and qualitative studies, the return to a focus on external factors, the inclusion of business strategy and industrial relations in human resource management (HRM) research, as well as more research in the retail sector in the Chinese context. By examining the co-evolution of the business strategy and HR strategy of Walmart (China) in the last two decades, we identify tensions in its corporate cultural values, business priorities, HR policies and practices and causes of labor disputes as competition in the Chinese retail market intensifies. We highlight the interactive effect of business and HR strategies through a historical lens. Our study reveals a subtle shift from the original employee-oriented win-win strategy through rent-sharing between the firm and the employees to a win-lose strategy in which the firm rent captures its employees by restricting their mobility. We argue that a low-cost and quality of service business strategy requires the support of an HPWS instead of adopting a corresponding cost-oriented HR policies and practices.


Fang Lee Cooke (PhD, University of Manchester, UK) is Associate Dean (Graduate Research) and Distinguished Professor of Human Resource Management (HRM) and Asia Studies at Monash Business School, Monash University. She is also a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Previously, she was a full professor (since 2005) at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK. Her research interests are in the area of employment relations, gender studies, diversity management, strategic HRM, knowledge management and innovation, outsourcing, Chinese outward FDI and HRM, employment of Chinese migrants, and HRM in the care sector. Fang is the author of HRM, Work and Employment in China (Routledge, 2005), Competition, Strategy and Management in China (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), and Human Resource Management in China: New Trends and Practices (Routledge, 2012). Fang has also published over 140 journal articles and book chapters. She is an Associate editor of Human Resource Management; International Journal of Human Resource management; Gender, Work, and Organization; and Asian Business and Management; Senior Editor of Asia Pacific Journal of Management; and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources. Fang’s recent research projects include: Chinese firms in Africa and their employment/HRM practices and labour relations; employee resilience, HRM practices and engagement in the finance sector in the Asian region; the evolution of industrial relations and implications for foreign firms in South Asia; organizational practices and management models in the care sector; and HRM in the care sector, including healthcare, aged care and disability care.