How Different Are Human Resource Practices in Japanese “Transplants” in the United Kingdom?

Authors

  • STEPHEN WOOD

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    • *Department of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics. I would like to acknowledge and thank the Leverhulme Trust for the research grant for the Japanese part of the study and the Nuffield Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council of Great Britain who supported the study of the non-Japanese plants. I would also like to thank Maria Teresa Albanese for help with some of the statistical analysis; Julie Monday for her contribution to some of the fieldwork in the Japanese plants; and Simon Milner, Mari Sako, three anonymous referees, and especially George Strauss, for their very helpful comments on early drafts of this article.


Abstract

Are the practices in Japanese plants really prototypical of a universal commitment-maximizing approach, or do they largely mirror local conventions? The research reported here aims to address this question by comparing the personnel practices of Japanese manufacturing plants in the United Kingdom and a similar sample of non-Japanese plants. It shows that the extent of high-commitment management is significantly higher among the Japanese plants and moreover that the practices associated with it are used in distinctive ways. As such there is no evidence of a wholesale “Japanization” of British industry. The study shows that the difference between Japanese and non-Japanese plants partly reflects their being Japanese, although the Japanese seniority plus merit pay (nenko) system has not been fully adopted. Nor is the current extent of fully fledged just-in-time in Japanese plants sufficient to account for the difference; yet the author concludes by suggesting that their managements' commitment to developing this still may be crucial.

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