Q1. "Consider the distinction between 'soft' and 'hard' regulation globally. Which do you consider to be more effective?"
Within a global context, ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ regulation are approaches to regulating international commercial and political affairs by a recognised authority (Mackenzie and Lucio, 2019). ‘Soft’ regulation may refer to guidelines, recommendations, best practices, or non-binding agreements issued to organisations and/or countries (Armstrong and Taylor, 2020). It is referred to as ‘soft’ because compliance is voluntary. By contrast, ‘hard’ regulation refers to enforceable legal agreements, treaties, or laws by an authoritative body through sanctioning.
When considering the effectiveness of ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ regulation, perhaps best defined as ‘compliance with’, it is essential to note the context within which it is applied (Mackenzie and Lucio, 2019). It could be argued that a ‘soft’ regulatory approach is, theoretically, easier to implement owing to its flexibility. However, this flexibility can weaken effectiveness at achieving specific goals. One example of a ‘soft’ regulatory body would be the World Health Organisation (WHO), an agency within the United Nations (UN) responsible for global public health. The WHO publishes information on health-related matters, such as vaccination. The key is that organisations and countries choose how far they comply with these recommendations.
A ‘hard’ regulatory approach may have more success in achieving specific goals through enforcement. The primary difficulties emerge from implementation and negotiation (Armstrong and Taylor, 2020). The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is an intergovernmental organisation regulating international trade. It does this through ‘hard’ regulatory means of a legally binding agreement of member countries. The key is whether non-member countries recognise the authority of the WTO.
Judging by the varied effectiveness of ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ regulatory approaches, it is explicit that international norms and practices are intrinsically complex. A combination of both may prove more successful in adoption and compliance by countries and organisations.
- Armstrong, M., & Taylor, S. (2020). International HRM. In Armstrong’s Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice (15th ed., pp. 76-104). Kogan Page.
- Mackenzie, R., Lucio, M. (2019). MNCs, Regulation and the Changing Context of International Human Resource Management. In S. Reiche, A-W. Harzing, & H. Tenzer (Eds.). International Human Resource Management (5th ed., pp. 248-267). Sage.
Q2. "What role do post-colonial and anti-colonial perspectives play in HRM?"
From an African context, the ‘post-colonial’ perspective refers to the end of colonialism on the African continent, whereby African countries regained independence from colonial European powers (Hack-Polay, Opute, Rahman, 2020). This is generally considered to have begun mid-20th century, with most African countries regaining independence in the 1960s (Hack-Polay, Opute, Rahman, 2020). Closely related to ‘post-colonial’ is the ‘anti-colonial’ perspective that challenges political and sociocultural colonialist structures. Both perspectives are distinct but related because they seek to understand and address the legacies of colonial power relations that shaped and may continue to shape African societies.
Both perspectives challenge global and Western assumptions of Human Resource Management (HRM) practices as universally applicable in African workplaces. The argument follows that global HRM practices should not be imposed and should instead be grounded in the unique local knowledge of African countries and their respective sociocultural norms (Hack-Polay, Opute, Rahman, 2020). By acknowledging the historical legacies of colonialism, HRM can better support the development of more equitable and inclusive workplace practices in African countries (Chizema et al., 2012). Examples of this in practice may include incorporating linguistic diversity in the recruitment and selection process or utilising local African case studies.
The impact of ‘post-colonial’ and ‘anti-colonial’ perspectives on HRM is acknowledging, learning from, and understanding how values within African communities can be applied to the workplace without the sense of ‘one-way traffic’ (Chizema et al., 2012).
- Chizema, A., Kamoche, K., Mellahi, K., & Newenham-Kahindi, A. (2012). New directions in the management of human resources in Africa. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23(14), 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2012.671504
- Hack-Polay, D., Opute, J., & Rahman, M. (2020). Resisting global universalistic practices: the endurance of culture and particularism in African HRM. Journal of Work-Applied Management, 12(1), 55-68. https://doi.org/10.1108/JWAM-11-2019-0032