Ihrm Integrated With Ethics Can Change The Face Of Workers Business Essay

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Study of How IHRM Integrated with Ethics can Change the Face of Workers' Management in the Retail Industry


International human resource management (IHRM) is a relatively new area of management that has been seeing the lime light for a while now. The new theories introduced by the IHRM thinkers are said to change the way human resource is treated. Human resource is now considered an asset to the firm and as such even has a place in the balance sheet of the company. As such discriminative practices in the workplace should have taken a back seat and the face of workplaces should have been changing.

With business turning global and the world beginning to resemble one big department store, the nationality of human resource is also diluting (Briscoe et al, 2009). Human Resource Management (HRM) has thus been expanded to take form of IHRM to manage human resource in the borderless business environment. The basic idea behind the internationalization of HRM is the development of an open mind set while dealing with human resource. The question then arises - has IHRM caused any significant changes in the work place, especially in workplace discrimination? Studies show that there has been change happening in many places with regard to the treatment of human resource. However, many cases that have cropped up in the recent past clearly show that it is only the tip of the iceberg and that there are many layers to go through before a significant change takes place. A proper integration of IHRM and business ethics is necessary to make the change more visible and effective.

Literature Review

IHRM has been defined as "the study and application of all human resource management activities as they impact the process of managing human resources in enterprises in the global environment" (Briscoe et al, 2009, pg 20). In the earlier stages of the development of this branch of management, the focus was mainly on the transfer of knowledge across nations and finding and retaining talent from different countries. The main spotlight was on those HR functions that needed transformation in the event of globalization (Sparrow et al, 2004). Later, it was extended to include the balanced management of people across different cultures and nations and also in studying the practices of different companies.

Business ethics is a broad term which includes the tackling of morally right and wrong practices in relation to business activities, decisions and situations (Crane et al, 2007). Work place ethics, when related to human resource, refers to the social and moral obligations and rights that exist between an organization and its human capital (Sims, 2007). When it comes to the combination of ethics and IHRM, it mainly deals with the kind of relationship that exists between the employees and the company. Organizational transformation is possible not just by globalizing human resource management. It is very important to integrate ethical theories into the system for the transformation to work (Johnson, C. E., 2007).

It is only in the very recent past that ethics has started to take a significant role in IHRM. This is mainly due to light being shed on many HR policies and practices that were highly controversial (Koster, 2002). It is actually the duty of HR department to introduce, implement and maintain ethical practices in the workplace. It is becoming the responsibility of the HR department to ensure ethical compliance and the integration of social responsibility into the corporate culture. Companies are thus coming out with ethical codes of conduct that would dominate the way the employees are treated, the relationship between the employer and the employees and the relationship among the employees. Retailers like Levis Strauss, Wal Mart, Gap Inc. have come up with elaborate written standards of ethical conduct and are trying to implement it around the world in all outlets. These codes are meant not only for the employers and employees but also extent to suppliers and other stakeholders. Ethical IHRM is also leading many of the MNCs to adopt not only the ethical codes from the parent company but also to incorporate the codes that exist in the host country as well (Briscoe et al, 2009). However ethical approaches are also not without its drawbacks. For example the utilitarian approach is concerned with collective human welfare and ignores individual welfare. This approach is considered ethical, yet it can lead to abuse of individual workers (Johnson, C. E., 2007).

Economists have researched and established that there is a direct correlation between the happiness of the workers and the amount of hard work they put in. The study was conducted by a team of economists from the Warwick Business School. After conducting a study on a group of people the research concluded that happier workers were 12% more productive than unhappy workers (The Observer, July 11, 2010). They further implored that the results of their research should be food for thought for human resource departments and steps should be taken to make the workers happy. This can be done through equality at the work place in all respects and a better understanding of the human needs.


An important change that is happening with the internationalisation of HRM is the reduction in the discrimination of workers based on their sex, race, religion and age. This is mainly due to Federal laws that are passed by countries to provide equal opportunities to all. In the USA the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is in the forefront fighting discrimination in the workplace. It requires companies to have an "affirmative action plan" that ensure that positive steps are taken to provide equal employment to all (Draft, 2008). This is related not only to hiring people but also with regard to their compensation. The fair treatment of workers and compliance to legal requirements are two very complex yet important issues that form a part of not only the role of the HRM team but also the members of management as well as the employees (Jackson et al, 2009). This means that implementing the guidelines for fair treatment and legal compliance lies in the hands of HR professionals; the management has to ensure that the organizational requirements are complied in a proper and effective manner; and the employees have to make sure that they are aware of their rights and report deviances. It is only through a cooperative effort that ethical IHRM can make an impact. HR managers need to come up with techniques that would create the right atmosphere in the organization and send the right message to workers. Monitoring of employees is essential but respect for their privacy is also to be paid attention. Employees too need to understand the policies adopted by the company, the why behind the policies and also should get an inkling that there is fair treatment of all in the organization. Fair treatment is extended not only with regard to recruitment and compensation, but also in case of penalties and other disciplinary action.

For many companies recruitment and retention is dominated by the cost of the labour and their search for cheap labour (Vance et al, 2011). This is the reason companies opt to have factories in Asian and South American soil where labour is relatively cheap and federal laws are not applicable. They however, forget to look into how this labour is treated in these places. In these places there is no IHRM or ethics. In fact, leave alone global there is no local guidelines with regard to human resource here and the abuses still continue. The cases of ill-treatment or discrimination against workers are not just confined to developing countries of the world, but are also a large part of Europe and the USA where development has reached its zenith.

Cases of Unethical Treatment of Human Resource

The number of examples from around the world about workplace malpractice, ill-treatment of workers and discrimination are innumerable. Some examples are given below to give an idea of what is being dealt with.

China is a location where labour is cheap and this is the reason many MNCs opt to have a major part of their goods manufactured there. This is a sort of outsourcing, though some companies do have their own factories. However, the human right violation cases that are reported out of China are plenty and have been in the lime light for quite a while. Take for example the case of a nineteen year old boy working in an electronic goods manufacturing factory who committed suicide. The factory has been overworking its workers extensively. The boy himself had worked 286 hours in the month of his death which is much above the legal limit. It was said that he committed suicide because he hated his job but did not have a way out. This was just one of many suicides. The main reason for these suicides is the treatment of the workers in inhumane manner which include verbal and physical abuse (Vance et al, 2011).

Gap, a major fashion retailer, had admitted to child labour in its factories in China and Honduras in 2005. The company has since then claimed that it has taken measures to make amends and now does frequent audits to check the working conditions in the factory. However, in 2007, the company was once more found to be using child labour in the sweatshops of Delhi (The Observer, October 28, 2007).

In the USA there are many thousands of cases filed every year against discrimination at the workplace. This includes unethical layoffs targeting women, the disabled and Hispanics. Many of these cases are dismissed on the fact that there is no real evidence of discrimination. But the fact remains true that the number of cases have risen many folds last year and continue to do so (The New York Times, 11HYPERLINK "#Rampell"thHYPERLINK "#Rampell" January, 2011).

Last year the Equality and Human Rights Commission in UK uncovered workers being abused in UK's food factories that cater to many famous supermarket chains (The Guardian, March 13, 2010). Though the supermarkets are required to conduct HR audit of the supplying firms, it is only done as a formality and no real step is taken to improve situations or boycott violators.

Wal-Mart has been accused of many unethical charges. One charge was for the violation of labour laws in the United States when the store prevented it's workers from unionising. A report published by the Human Right Watch states that Wal-Mart has taken advantage of the loop holes in the labour laws to prevent its workers from forming unions (The New York Times, May 1, 2007). The company has also been accused of using surveillance cameras to eavesdrop on their employees thus invading their right to privacy.

All this shows that though small changes are happening around the world in the general treatment of workers, discrimination and ill-treatment is still at large around the world.

Industry Background

The retail industry is a booming one especially since globalization. Items are being bought and sold easily without borders and MNCs are setting up shop in different parts of the world to cater to the growing demands. They are hiring people from across cultures and nations and trying to integrate both parent and host country ideologies while conducting business. HRM has evolved and become IHRM so that the needs of a global economy can be accommodated. But the throwing open of the markets bring with it many vices. For one thing it has made it easier for many companies to transfer their manufacturing operations to developing countries where labour is cheap and there is little or no concern for human wellbeing. Leading retailers in UK like Tesco, Asda, John Lewis and Levis have been accused of getting their wares made by low paid factory workers in Asia (The Guardian, October 7, 2009). There is a class action suit filed against Wal-Mart as it was paying women workers much lesser that male workers holding the same post. Though the suit started from a single employee today it has more that 1.6 million women participants and it is one of the biggest class action suits in the US today (Jackson et al, 2009). This just shows that there is a long way to go for the industry to really integrate IHRM and ethics and come up with a solution that would be truly beneficial to workers.

Research Aim

Study in detail how IHRM theories and practices have influenced the treatment of human resources in the in the retail industry and how when properly combined with ethics it can do wonders.

Research Objectives

To discuss the various discriminative practices in the work place in various parts of the world, especially in the retail industry and the factories of famous retail firms.

To see if introduction of innovative IHRM practices have lead to the reduction of unethical and anti-social practices in workplace.

To suggest ways in which IHRM can be combined effectively with ethics and used as a force to successfully eliminate workforce discrimination and ill-treatment.

Research Hypothesis

Mere globalization of human resource management is not enough for retailing MNCs to sustain in the long run.

Ethics and IHRM combined in the right degree will cause radical changes in the workplace and improve business.

Research Questions

Is there a correlation between IHRM and business ethics, and if so to what degree?

Can conditions in the workplace improve if there is better integration between ethics and IHRM?

Research Methodology

Research is a scientific and systematic process that is undertaken to study a particular topic and come up with certain conclusions. Goddard and Melville define research as follows: "good research is systematic in that it is planned, organized and has a specific goal" (Goddard and Melville, 2007). Research can be broadly classified into two - pure and applied. Pure research mainly refers to finding and using new methods in research. The data thus obtained is generally new and added to existing research data. Applied research is used more widely and it refers to the use of already existing methods of research to find out and analyse data. Applied research can be classified into several categories like case study or descriptive research, action research, expository research, etc. Then again research can be further classified into primary and secondary research. Primary research is the collection of fresh data by means of interviews, questionnaires etc. Secondary research is t he use of the already existing and published data to draw new conclusions.

Through the use of the methods described below, the dissertation aims to bring about a clear understanding of IHRM and its correlation with business ethics. It aims to show by means of various examples how workforce are exploited by many of the retail MNCs and what steps have been taken by governments and international organizations to curb the exploitation. The primary research aims to show that mere internationalization of HRM is not enough to end the plight of the workers. It does help to a certain degree but real change is required in the form of integration of ethical concepts into not only management but the very culture of the firms. With this line of research methodology the aim is to draw conclusions and give suggestions as to how the situation in the workplace can be improved and what practical steps can be taken.

Primary Research

Sampling is an accepted method of collecting data for research these says. Sampling is concerned with selecting a small number from the larger population (population refers to the entire set of elements being studied) and collecting the information from them (Kalton, 1983). A sample population of 100 workers will be identified from some of the leading international retail chains of UK. Around 6 companies will be chosen for this. They will be each given a questionnaire to fill that would ask them details of the working conditions and what they feel could be done to improve their relationship with their employers and make their tenure more fruitful. Once collected the data from the questionnaire will be divided in to tabular form and a statistical analysis done on the data. This will give an idea of the status among the sample population and projections can thus be made to include the whole population. Similarly, a sample population of 50 managers working in the human resource department will be interviewed to get an idea of how they see IHRM and what suggestions they have for better integration of ethics and IHRM.

Secondary Research

This dissertation will base a lot of its conclusions on secondary data that are available in books, newspapers, journals financial reports and reports of organizations like the International Labour Organization (ILO) as well as other publications both printed and virtual. However secondary data can be quite exhaustive. Hence it will be necessary to limit the data used to certain areas. Text books will be used to collect information about existing theories in IHRM and business ethics. They will be used to lay out existing and emerging trends in the field. Journals and newspapers will be used to collect the realities that exist in the business community, especially in the retail sector when it comes to the use of IHRM and to what extent ethics is given relevance. They will also be used to cite success and failure cases in the attempt to truly globalize ethically. Official websites will be used to collect information about the companies that are used as example in the paper. Financial reports of retail giants will be used to see how their growth has been affected by the bad publicity obtained due to ethical violation of workers. Similarly publications from the ILO and other international and federal organizations will be used to detail the legislatures that exist to protect the right of human resource.

Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis

The data collected though primary and secondary methods will be subject to qualitative and quantitative analysis. Qualitative analysis is mainly descriptive in nature and generally does not involve any numerical data. Most of the time secondary data collected is generally subject to qualitative analysis. However, primary data can also be analysed qualitatively. It gives subjective judgements based on the information obtained from experts and other reliable sources. Quantitative analysis on the other hand is mostly done on numerical data. Primary data collected can be subject to statistical tests. This helps draw unbiased and clear conclusions. Charts and tables can also be created to give readers a better idea of what is being discussed.

Qualitative analysis will be used in the dissertation to analyse the various theories and examples of human resource treatment and IHRM ideologies. The suggestions collected from HR managers will be also qualitatively analysed and attempt will be made to link them to practical aspects of the trade. The data collected from the questionnaire will be converted into numerical figures and quantitative analysis done on the data to get projected values for the entire population and to get averages. Bar charts will be created out of the data to give a visual idea of the trend.

Research Ethics

Ethics is important not only in the business community but also in all realms. Ethics is of foremost importance while conducting research as well. In research it is very important to be completely forthcoming and honest. Full disclosure is absolutely necessary. It is absolute taboo to hide, distort or manipulate data collected. There needs to be complete transparency. This means that the data collected should be presented as it is and the subjects involved in the research should be properly informed with regard to the purpose of the data collection (Kimmel, 1988). Plagiarism refers to copying what someone else wrote or published. This is completely against research ethics. It is important to acknowledge and use citations where ever works done by others are quoted or used. If any of the people interviewed for the purpose of data collection requests confidentiality their wishes need to be respected. Clear ethical conduct is one thing that will be stringently followed while conducting the research for the dissertation and also while writing the paper.

Time Frame

The intended schedule for the completion of the dissertation is as given below. The months are divided into seven day weeks.

Week Wise Project Schedule

Date (7 day week)




5 - 11

12 - 18

19 -25

26 - 31

1 - 7

8 - 14

15 - 21

22 -28

1 - 7

8 -14

15 -21

22 -28


Getting Assignment

Topic Selection












Detailed Search












Compilation of Data












Deciding on Research Methodology












Meeting Instructor












Submission of Proposal












Collection of Primary Data












Collection of Secondary Data

Compilation of Data












Analysis of Data












Deciding in Dissertation Layout












Preparing Dissertation Draft












Meeting Instructor












Review of Report












Preparation of Final Paper












Dissertation Submission













Resource refers to places and things that would lend support to the research and from where data can be collected. The primary data will be collected by means of questionnaires and direct interviews. A sample population of 100 retail store workers and 50 HR managers will be used from UK's 6 leading retail giants. The secondary data will be collected from various publications like books, journals, newspapers, financial reports and other reports of international and local organizations.