Academic journal article Research and Practice in Human Resource Management

Building Organisational Commitment to Counteract Brain Drain from Southern Hemisphere Accountancy Firms

Academic journal article Research and Practice in Human Resource Management

Building Organisational Commitment to Counteract Brain Drain from Southern Hemisphere Accountancy Firms

Article excerpt


With countries increasingly thinking like organisations as they recruit and retain global talent, it is posited that High Commitment Management (HCM) Human Resource Management (HRM) systems could be applied to help stem the brain drain, particularly in highly mobile/low organisational commitment professions such as Accountancy. In an online survey, 1,520 expatriate accounting professionals indicated whether they would return to New Zealand, current pushes and pulls on their career intentions, and changes needed to enhance pull forces back to New Zealand. The paper discusses these issues and explores how the evidence gathered can be used to improve commitment to accountancy firms thus, developing the profession in an Asia Pacific country.


Many countries today are experiencing what is widely termed 'brain drain' (Crush 2002, Torbat 2002). Brain drain, or the loss of talented professionals from smaller to larger economies, affects not only countries, but also the organisations within them and the occupations they support. Brain drain is thereby damaging to a range of groups who share a common interest in finding ways to retain and reattract skilled employees. That need is logically sharpest of all for those professions whose workers are the most mobile. In accountancy, for example, mobility is facilitated by the universality of its qualifications, language, and standards. Not surprisingly then, accountants as a profession have been reported to have relatively low levels of organisational commitment to particular employing firms (Pfeffer & Veiga 1999). That finding is important because organisational commitment may be a key incentive to remain with a firm, either by never leaving it in the first place or by returning to it after periods spent working overseas (Swailes 2004). This study explores whether Human Resource Management (HRM) theory, and in particular HRM theory that focuses on building organisational commitment, can be adapted to help redress brain drains in accountancy. The study achieves its goal by asking accountants themselves why they are leaving and not returning, and cumulatively linking these explanations to the principles of High Commitment Management (HCM) HRM. In the process, HCM is extended to global careers to enhance understanding of global mobility in the profession of accounting in an Asia Pacific country.

The globalisation of labour markets has impacted significantly on worker mobility, with the greatest impact being on professionals who engage in knowledge work (Crush 2002). This enhanced mobility affects nations, firms, and occupations alike, which all must struggle to retain a reasonable share of the world's professional talent (Drucker 1992). Given that shared goal, it is reasonable to expect that theories and research in one domain may be able to assist measures to counteract brain drain in another. Hence, the dynamics of brain drain for nations may not be radically different from the processes of turnover for organisations (Rosenblatt & Scheaffer 2001).

A range of countries in the world today have concerns about the loss of highly educated, trained, and skilled professionals, which has the potential to severely inhibit economic growth through the loss of significant resources (Sani 2000, Creehan 2001, Djalal 2001). Countries expressing concern include, for instance, Australia, Canada, France, India, Iran, Russia and Germany (Torbat 2002). Those concerns may become amplified as an economy becomes smaller, is more reliant on migration for its continued development, and is geographically remote (Carr, Inkson & Thorn 2005). A country that meets all of these criteria, and is, therefore, a prime example of how brain drain detracts from economic development, is New Zealand. For example, it is estimated that, at any given time, around 850,000 New Zealanders or around 22 per cent of the total number of New Zealanders, are living abroad (Hugo, Rudd & Harris 2003). …

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