How do social enterprises recruit workers? The case of social enterprises in Thailand

Published date10 December 2018
Date10 December 2018
AuthorChaturong Napathorn
Subject MatterStrategy,International business
How do social enterprises recruit workers?
The case of social enterprises in Thailand
Chaturong Napathorn
Purpose This paper aims to bridge the literatures on social enterprises and human resource
managementto examine the recruitment practices, specificallythe recruitment channels, which are used
by social enterprisesto attract workers and how and why these practices differ fromthose used by more
Design/methodology/approach It uses the cross-case analysis approach and evaluates four
different social enterprisesin Thailand. These four social enterprises are located in different industries,
including food and beverages, textiles and garments, printing and publishing and entertainment and
media. The casestudy evidence draws on semi-structuredinterviews, field visits and observationsand a
reviewof archival documents and Web resources.
Findings Through these case studies, this paper proposes that social enterprisestypically use sub-
stream or alternativerecruitment channels that differ from those used by more mainstreamorganizations
to attract qualified workers whose beliefs and attitudes are consistent with the objectives of social
enterprises,to avoid severe competition in the labor marketand to foster the internal development of their
employeesover time.
Research limitations/implications One limitation of this research is its methodology. Because this
research is based on case studies of four social enterprises across industries in Thailand, it does not
claim generalizability to all social enterprises and their recruitment channels. Rather, the results of this
research shouldlead to further discussion of how and why social enterprisesare able to recruit qualified
candidates, solve financial and human resources constraints and survive severe competition among
organizationsin the labor market.
Practical implications This paper also provides managerial implications for human resources
practitioners, founders and top managers of social enterprises, not only in Thailand but also in other
countries across theglobe. First, these human resources practitioners, founders and topmanagers can
use sub-stream or alternative recruitment channels to recruit employees to their social enterprises
because these channels should help them attract qualified candidates whose beliefs, attitudes,
knowledge, skills, experience and work performance fit with the philosophy and objectives of social
enterprises. Second, they can use mainstream recruitment channels only when they have sufficient
budgets to support this activity because these channels are expensive and may not support the dual
missions of social enterprises. Third, they may attempt to search for an alternative source of potential
employees, such as the blind and the disabled, to alleviate the problem of skill shortages at the
occupationallevel and at the national level as a whole.
Social implications This paper provides policy implications for the government of Thailand and the
governments of several other emerging market economies where the problem of skill shortages is
particularly severe. Specifically, these governments should pay attention to solving the problem of
occupational-levelskill shortages to alleviate severe competitionamong several types of organizations in
the labor market.
Originality/value First, the findings in this paper extend the literature on human resource
management, specifically on recruitment and selection practices, regarding how and why small and
emerging organizations such as social enterprises can compete with mainstream organizations to
survive severe competitionin the labor market. Second, this paper contributesto the literature on social
enterprises, specifically regarding how social enterprises resolve the issue of financial constraints to
access skilled employees whose identification is consistent with the objectives of social enterprises.
Finally, social enterprises in the under-researched country of Thailand are frequently overlookedin the
literature.The four social enterprises in this paperare located in a variety of industries, includingfood and
Chaturong Napathorn is
based at Thammasat
Business School,
Thammasat University,
Bangkok, Thailand.
Received 1 February 2017
Revised 1 July 2017
13 October 2017
Accepted 6 December 2017
This paper was financially
supported by Thammasat
Business School, Thammasat
University, Bangkok, Thailand.
PAGE 508 jJOURNAL OF ASIA BUSINESS STUDIES jVOL. 12 NO. 4 2018, pp. 508-532, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1558-7894 DOI 10.1108/JABS-02-2017-0019
beverages (the Doi TungDevelopment Project and Doi Chaang Coffee), textilesand garments (the Doi
Tung Development Project),printing and publishing (Butterfly Publishing House) andentertainment and
media (Payai Creation). These industries, especially the printing and publishing industry and the
entertainment and media industry, are also understudied in the literature on human resource
Keywords Cross-case analysis, Human resource management, Social enterprises,
Mainstream organizations, Recruitment and selection practices,
Sub-stream or alternative recruitment channels
Paper type Research paper
In this paper, social enterprises refer to organizations that engage in business to achieve a
social impact rather than to solely achieve maximum financial gain; social enterprisesfocus
more on maximum social welfarewhile business enterprises pay more attention to maximum
profit (Austin et al.,2006). Additionally, social enterprises differ from charitable
organizations because they can financially sustain themselves through their activities, while
charitable organizations rely on donations or government funding as major sources of
income. In this regard, social enterprises are hybrid organizations that have and attempt
to achieve both social and economic missions(Newman et al., 2015).
In recent years, social enterprises have grown in importance in both developed and
developing countries, including Thailand. Several factors have driven the emergence and
growth of social enterprises across the globe, such as the effects of the 2008 global
economic crisis, the intractable problem of persistent poverty and environmental change
(Doherty et al.,2014). Research on social enterprises has also increased in recent years,
especially in terms of factors that drive social enterprises’ success (Felicio et al., 2013;Liu
et al.,2013
;Liu et al.,2014). Very littleresearch to date, however, has focused on the role of
human resource management (HRM) in social enterprises. In particular, few studies have
paid attention to how social enterprises attract, manage and reward workers. This paper
thus aims to address this gap by answering the following research questions:
RQ. What recruitmentpractices do social enterprises use to attractworkers, and how and
why do these practicesdiffer from those used by more mainstream organizations?
Specifically, this paper adopts a cross-case analysis approach to assess four different
social enterprises in Thailand: Payai Creation, Butterfly Publishing House, Doi Chaang
Coffee and the Doi Tung DevelopmentProject. These four organizations operate in different
industries. The case study evidence draws on semi-structured interviews, field visits and
observations and a review of archival documents and Web resources. Based on these case
studies, this paper proposes that social enterprises typically use sub-stream or alternative
recruitment practices that differ from those used by more mainstream organizations to
attract qualified workers whosebeliefs and attitudes are consistent with the objectives of the
organization, to avoid severe competition in the labor market and to foster the internal
development of employees over time. The utilization of these sub-stream or alternative
recruitment practices, especially employee referrals and recruitment through internship
programs, indicates that personal relationships play a crucial role in social enterprises’
recruitment of employees in Thailand. Because the final decisions to hire employees are
made by particular managers, it is unavoidable that employees are frequently hired based
on social networks or personal relationships with these managers. In other words, these
recruitment practices typically enable the managers of social enterprises to develop
personal relationships with candidates before they make the final decisions to hire them.
Through a cultural lens, this insight further supports the argument that cultural values and
attitudes such as Mee-Sen (having personal connections with managers or firms) remain
important in Thai business enterprises. In this regard, it is important to note that a major
characteristic of doing business in Thailand and especially in Asia more broadly is that

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