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With the paucity of published research on human resource management (HRM) policy and practice in the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), the rationale for this article is to evaluate the nature of HRM practices, their development, application and diffusion in South African MNCs. It provides an exploratory analysis in a systematic literature review referring to qualitative case study research and research survey literature to better understand HRM strategies and practices developed and diffused by growing emerging market MNCs from South Africa. The findings underline significant challenges of human resource development and controversies regarding host country issues alongside a degree of ‘sophistication’ in the HRM practices of firms analysed. An aim of the article is to identify areas for further research on business and HRM models of Emerging Market MNCs (EMMNCs) in the African context and develop a set of seven research propositions.
South Africa has a diverse institutional and socio-cultural context and is still experiencing the legacy of the apartheid era for example in the paradox of an over-represented unskilled labour market and shortage of high level skills. Natural resources are its biggest national competitive advantage and the firm-specific advantages derive mainly from the ability of South African firms to deal with domestic turmoil and upheaval to act as a protective incubator against external economic sanctions in the 1970s and 1980s (Klein and Wocke, 2007). South African EMMNCs have seen rapid reorganization of conglomerates and strong ties with the European business community (Goldstein and Prichard, 2009). Considering this it is also debatable how long the paradigm of emerging markets and the developed/developing economy construct will be able to explain a global shift in the economic power balance.
This also underlines the merit of further work on identifying and developing business models of EMMNCs in general (Madhok and Marques, 2013, Madhok and Keyhani, 2012, Wilkinson et al., 2014) and in South African EMMNCs. HR strategies cannot be evaluated in isolation of the underlying business models and attendant strategies EMMNCs adopt. The interrelationship and alignment or fit of IHRM strategy and practices and business strategies, whether the latter are deliberative or emergent (Lampel et al. (2013), or follow Perlmutter and Heenan's (1979) typology, in emerging market MNCs is worthy of investigation; this in part with a view to (a) developing a theory(ies) of EMMNCs and (b) further understanding the relationship dynamics of IHRM strategies and business models underlying EMMNC internationalisation strategies. This article has identified gaps in the link between business models and IHRM policies and strategies of South African EMMMCs. It has sought to foster further research through an identified research agenda. This agenda reflects a potentially rich tapestry of diverse South African EMMNCs in varied sectors operating in global markets. It also offers a valuable opportunity to conduct more comparative and cross-cultural studies between IHRM practices in emerging market multinationals companies from different countries.