This chapter will cover the essential peculiarities of the research methodology – approach, inquiry, design, site, methods, data analysis, and methodological considerations. It will be a foundation for addressing the following issue – the topic is under-researched. The latter statement is founded on the above literature review and the objectives of this study. These objectives are as follows; the first objective is to determine essential peculiarities of and differences between the reward systems of China and the UK. The literature review showed that there had been no contemporary studies on their comparison. The second objective is the business environments of the abovementioned countries. The crucial gap here, again, is that scholars have not conducted research through the comparative lens. The final objective is the experience of Unilever which operates in both the UK and China in the framework of remuneration practices. It should be claimed that the comparison between the business environments of China and the UK, HR policies, and award systems will be made utilizing Unilever’s related experience.
The primary approach that will be used in this project is inductive. The inductive method, or induction, characterizes the path of cognition from fixing empirical data and their analysis to their systematization, generalization, and conclusions drawn on this basis (Streefkerk, 2019). This method also consists of the transition from some ideas about certain phenomena and processes to others – more general and often deeper. The foundation for the operating of the described method of cognition is, again, empirical data that will be obtained from reliable and consistent sources (Streefkerk, 2019). It should be emphasized that induction contributes to a coherent train of thought as it presents concrete facts and prerequisites, and only after this provides argumentative assumptions and conclusions.
Given the fact that the research design of this project is a case study, the inductive approach seems to be an expedient option. This comes from the essence of case studies – they provide plenty of specific data, which is a necessary background for inductive arguing. Hence, after the relevant information from reports, articles, and statistics is given, induction will allow making solid suggestions (Pedraza, 2017). Keeping in mind the rationale above, these suggestions will be evidence-based, as well as form the significance of the entire project. At this point, it might be reasonable to turn to a research inquiry that depicts the nature of the core discussion questions.
The nature of this research’s inquiry is descriptive, which indicates several visible features of the investigation. The purpose of descriptive studies is to assess the prevalence of certain characteristics and, on this basis, to identify not just those encountered but the most typical ones (Formplus Blog, 2020). The main peculiarity of descriptive research is the structuredness of the tasks being solved, as well as the formalized nature of the research tool. When conducting this type of research, answers are usually sought to the questions: “who?” “what?” “where?” “when?” and how?”. Descriptive research does not answer the question “why?”, which implies several limitations that will be discussed later.
Here, it should be emphasized that the descriptive nature of this research is justified by the primary question of the study. The latter aims to depict peculiarities of and differences between Unilever’s reward practices in the UK and China. These peculiarities and differentiation are the specific unit of analysis for the investigation. The descriptive essence of the core question might provide prominent findings and a broad field for related future studies. Now, the research design will be described so that the descriptive nature would seem even more rational.
Research design is a case study, which indicates several distinctive features. The case-study approach is a method of dynamic problem-situational analysis based on solving specific situations. The immediate goal is to analyze the case that arises in a particular state of affairs and to develop reasonable assumptions (Harrison et al., 2017). The end of the process is the evaluation of the proposed findings and justification of their appropriacy. The descriptive method might significantly fit the research design of this investigation due to the following reasons. Unilever’s case will provide essential data on its HR practices; thus, there is no need to conduct exploration in this regard – the needed information is not difficult to obtain. The descriptive approach will allow describing the excerpted data appropriately so that the research question could be addressed expediently.
Then, it seems important to state that there are many prominent studies on the issue of Chinese and British HR policies in general and remuneration practices in particular – as visible from the literature review. However, concrete examples of international companies within this scope are not applied thoroughly. A case study always provides a great extent of specifics, which is vital for the practical orientation of any research (Harrison et al., 2017). Hence, it seems proper to use Unilever’s case in the framework of the theme as the literature review also showed that this would help to address some gaps. The type of this case study is illustrative because it is descriptive and does not aim to find new peculiarities of Chinese and British remuneration practices ([email protected], no date). It rather targets to depict the existing ones through the comparative perspective, applying Unilever’s experience.
Performance management tends to be an integral part of any company’s performance nowadays. Given the focus on Chinese and British practices in this regard, it was vital to identify a firm that would operate successfully in these two countries. Unilever fits this purpose perfectly – it is involved in the sector of household chemistry, food, and personal care (About Unilever, no date). It is a full-scale transnational company that provides a wide variety of goods and employs plenty of professionals around the globe. Hence, the information on its reward management seems to align with the initial aim of the study – to identify features of performance management in China and the UK, appealing to the case of a particular organization.
The desk-based method is among the primary characteristics of the project. Such an approach may be defined as an analysis of information already existing, either on paper or electronically, previously collected by others for purposes other than the purpose of this study (Travis, 2016). A researcher using secondary information adapts and transforms data so that it meets new requirements for it (Oxford Reference, no date). The information obtained in the course of secondary research can both directly meet the needs of its conductor and serve as the basis for primary research. Secondary research is often needed to get a broader view of the market situation and track the dynamics of sales of goods in a certain category. Sources of information for secondary research include internal agency or client records, government records, marketing and advertising research companies, specialized literature, and academic publications (Travis, 2016). Internal sources of secondary information can be data from the company itself – reports from sales, research, and marketing. Given open-access data to Unilever’s reward management – as well as the Chinese and British one, in general – the desk-based method meets the aims of this study.
Then, it should be noted that this research combined quantitative and qualitative methodology. These quantitative and qualitative methods were classified as data processing ones. According to Streefkerk (2020), quantitative approaches may be determined as mathematical and statistical ones of processing information. Then, qualitative methods are a description of those cases that most fully reflect the types and variants of phenomena and aim to investigate their core peculiarities (Streefkerk, 2020). The research question implies that this study investigates the essentials of performance management within the Chinese and British scope, which justifies the appropriacy of the qualitative method. Furthermore, the appropriate application of this method – given the case-study design – is to be founded on the actual data regarding the remuneration practices of Unilever. What is more, a comparative element will also be present as these practices will be evaluated in both China and the UK.
The combination of the described research methods had to be done thoroughly and coherently. After the data collection for the qualitative analysis was obtained from reliable sources, and intermediate assumptions were made, the information for the quantitative method was collected. Then, the mentioned data and suggestions were combined and compared to address the research question. Thus, such a combination seems to be among the core features of the project. The main advantage of the described methodology is that the study can take into account a plethora of factors and, hence, provide wide-scope suggestions and findings. On the other hand, the primary disadvantage comes from the latter – there might be an issue regarding focusing on the specific research topic.
The information for the quantitative method was obtained from Unilever’s latest annual report and the Glassdoor online platform. The remuneration practices for the top management and accurate data on salaries worldwide came from these sources, respectively (Unilever, 2019; Glassdoor, no date). Within the qualitative scope, phenomenological, grounded theory, and case-study strategies were applied (Sauro, 2015). The former contributed to the concise depiction of the HR practices phenomenon; the latter was used to discuss Unilever in the given framework; the grounded-theory approach provided a sufficient theoretical background for the study.
Then, the issue of reliability was addressed by assessing common and appropriate methodology for similar investigations and their application in this research so that the measurement could be reliable (Leung, 2015). Validity was achieved by evaluating how the findings “correspond to established theories and other measures of the same concept” (Middleton, 2020, para. 3). Finally, it was not difficult to address generalizability as the study is extensive itself (Hydrocephalus Association, no date). The findings on performance management from the perspective of comparison of two completely different business environments may be applied in a wide range of studies.
The main problem that occurred during this research was that a few sources are providing reliable data for the quantitative method that is essential for the project’s purposes. However, the obtained information was sufficient to complete the research. Despite the finding that the case-study company lowers rewards in China in comparison to the UK is not surprising, it was found that Unilever’s remuneration core principles are quite universal and were not adapted substantially to the Chinese state of affairs. The only ethical consideration was to pay respect to the cultures of both China and the UK and conduct this research in an unbiased manner.
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Leung, L. (2015) ‘Validity, reliability, and generalizability in qualitative research’, Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 4(3), pp. 324–327.
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