Understanding the Indigenous Chinese Concept of Suzhi (素质) from an HRM Perspective: A Conceptual Analysis

Greg Wang, David Lamond, Verner Worm, Wenshu Gao, Shengbin Yang

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Purpose - We examine the indigenous Chinese concept of suzhi (素质) with the aim of furthering the development of Chinese human resource management (HRM) research and practice.
    Design/methodology/approach - An extensive review of the literature on suzhi, published in the West as well as in China, is undertaken as the basis for proffering an organizational level conceptualization of suzhi in the Chinese context.
    Findings - Instead of understanding it as a free-floating signifier, we argue that suzhi can be considered as a criterion-based framework for HRM research and practice. We classify suzhi research into two major sources – indigenous Chinese and indigenized western constructs. We make a further distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic suzhi, and analyze a popular set of suzhi criteria, considering de (morality) and cai (talent) while focusing on de in HRM selection (德才兼备, 以德为先). As multilevel and multidimensional frameworks, suzhi criteria may form different gestalts in different organizations and industries.
    Research limitations/implications - From a sociocultural and historical perspective, HRM research that incorporates a combination of indigenous and indigenized suzhi characteristics may receive better acceptance by Chinese individuals, organizations and society. Accordingly, the reconstruction of suzhi into manageable and measurable dimensions can be undertaken for more effective HRM practice in the Chinese context.
    Originality/value - We advance the extant HRM literature by linking the indigenous suzhi discourse to indigenous Chinese HRM research.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Chinese Human Resources Management
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)98-114
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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