Kazakhstan’s Greatest HR Problem: The Need to Embrace Modern HRM practices


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Kazakhstan’s Greatest HR Problem: The Need to Embrace Modern HRM practices


Introduction. 2

Challenges Associated with Modernization of HRM Practices. 3

Current Policy Measures: Intended Objectives versus Actual Outcomes. 5

Policy Changes Needed to Resolve the Problems. 6

Conclusion. 7

References. 8


            Kazakhstan aspires to become one of the top 50 economies in the world by 2020 (Davis, 2012). To achieve this objective, it must harness its available human resources in the best way manner. To compete against the world’s most industrialized, the country must embrace the most innovative strategies of human resource development. It should be noted that the country is only 25 years old having gained its independence in 1991. Fortunately, it has managed to achieve tremendous economic growth thereby attracting immense foreign direct investment. The flip side of its glittering economic story is that it compares rather unfavorably with most of the countries it aspires to compete with particularly in the areas of overall human wellbeing, economic indicators, and working conditions.


            HRM is at the heart of the country’s strategic plan to achieve its targets in terms of national development. If the ministry of labor and social protection promotes policies that are in the best interest of the country’s working population, the level of innovation, productivity, competitive production, and overall economic development will rise considerably. A major step towards realizing these objective entails training HR managers and specialists on the best job design and workforce planning strategies. Subsequently, efforts directed towards these goals would spur interest in other equally important areas of HRM such as organizational learning and human resource development.

            Moreover, Kazakhstan needs to foster the development of sufficient human resources needed to promote diversity across all sectors of the economy. If most workers are only skilled in the areas of oil and gas production which is the country’s economic mainstay, serious labor shortages may occur once the country finally succeeds in diversifying in other sectors such as service and manufacturing. Although there is a growing realization of the need to foster self-sufficiency in terms of the available labor force, there is a lack of understanding on exactly how this objective will be achieved. As mentioned earlier, Kazakhstan needs to adopt a more innovative, modern approach to human resource development if it is to compete favorably with industrialized countries that gained independence decades (some even centuries) ago.

Challenges Associated with Modernization of HRM Practices

            Kazakhstan faces a serious HRM problem today. Its HR managers and specialists have not fully embraced modern human resource management practices, and this has led to myriad HR-related problems particularly in the areas of leadership training, the embracement of corporate values, ethics training for employees, and hiring practices. One would have expected that HRM would not only be identified as an enabler of the 2020 vision but also incorporated in its implementation. Consequently, the current situation in Kazakhstan is one whereby everyone acknowledged the need to develop HR capacity to meet the needs of the 21st century but no one explains how exactly this task should be undertaken.

            To begin with, the government has adopted an undesirable strategy of reducing foreign workers in an attempt to protect job opportunities for local workers. In today’s global economy, countries are keen to attract foreign labor instead of pushing it away as a way of solidifying their competitive positions in the global labor market. Instead of keeping foreign workers outside its borders, Kazakhstan should be equipping its local workforce with the requisite skills to enhance their competitiveness both locally and internationally. As the country embraces the principles that are an embodiment of leading economies of the 21st century, it must also embrace modern HRM practices as well (Davis, 2012). The entry of foreign workers into Kazakhstan is a reality of today’s economic system of a globalized world. Thus, Kazakhstani workers should be prepared to compete for available job opportunities both locally and internationally.

            Moreover, Kazakhstan is yet to embrace the idea of knowledge management. Its top HR managers and specialists are still stuck in the old soviet-style way doing business, whereby advanced work practices are rarely promoted (Minbaeva, Hutchings & Thomson, 2007). Whenever foreign workers are hired, no concerted efforts are being made to ensure that their skills are imparted to their local counterparts. More importantly, employee training approaches at the local level have not yet been reoriented to reflect the modern approach that emphasizes knowledge acquisition in addition to the mastery of hard skills.

            Additionally, Kazakhstan’s inability to compete well with other emerging and industrialized economies may be traced to its reluctance to adopt an integrated, modern approach in establishing a framework for policy development on human resource development (Tatibekov, Adams & Prochaska, 2004). For example, all major emerging economies have come up with HR development institutes, associations, and bureaus whose priority is the conceptualization of novel HRM approaches that address unique national visions, goals, needs, and challenges. In the absence of such efforts, Kazakhstan faces the risk of adopting strategies that are not well-suited to its economic circumstances and realities in the name of modernization.

            Lastly, HR managers and specialists in Kazakhstan operate mainly at the level of private corporate entities (Dossova, 2011). Whereas tremendous progress is being made to entrench the best HR expertise in the corporate realm, no corresponding efforts are being made at the level of public service. Consequently, it is extremely difficult to find a HR professional whose mandate is to provide guidance on HRM policy development at the ministry of labor and social protection. Such operational shortcomings renders the ministry, and by extension the government, ill-equipped to put in place the best HR strategies that can guide the country towards the path of economic excellence.

Current Policy Measures: Intended Objectives versus Actual Outcomes

            The current impression is that Kazakhstan has put in place the most appropriate human resource management structures and systems. For example, skill levels in the labor force have dramatically risen during the last decade and the country has embrace a vibrant culture of employee development and knowledge management. These efforts have led to a dramatic increase in the country’s potential in terms of human capital. This development has played a critical role in the country’s newly acquired status of one of the most preferred Asian headquarters for some of the world’s leading multinational corporations.


            Nevertheless, behind this façade of labor-force advancement is a gloomy picture of a country that is struggling to modernize its HRM culture in order to meet the growing demand for HR specialists and human-capital competencies. The current approach to human resource development does not match the country’s declared ambition of adopting a modern approach that is well suited to meet the peculiar workplace needs of today’s increasingly innovation-driven global economy.

            Current policy measures may be well-intentioned but are counterproductive to the country’s quest to become one of the world’s 50 largest economies by 2020. For example, the decision to foreign labor quota is not characteristic of a truly advanced economy. All the world’s most advanced economies are endeavoring to attract foreign workers so that they can impart knowledge to local workers. Although discouraging foreign workers from joining the country’s labor market may address the unemployment problem in the short run, it may jeopardize the country’s long-term vision of becoming a world-class economy in five years’ time by jeopardizing its international competitiveness as a preferred business destination.

Policy Changes Needed to Resolve the Problems

A number of concerted efforts must be undertaken for Kazakhstan to resolve its HR problems. To begin with, its human capital needs to be managed more effectively. Its human resource management needs must be addressed in a more modern way. HR specialists in the country must focus more on innovation in the corporate world. The specialists need to embrace the establishment of learning organizations. It is only within such contexts that companies and government departments will be in a position to attract, develop, and retain the best talents.

Moreover, ethics training among the workforce is required as part of efforts to inculcate ethical behavior among workers. This undertaking will play a vital role in tackling myriad challenges affecting Kazakhstani companies such as corruption. At the same time, leadership training needs to be accorded more attention than the one it is receiving today. Successful implementation of a modern approach to HRM cannot become a reality without the existence of an effective leadership strategy in place to offer the much-needed motivation during potentially disruptive organizational activities such as the hiring of new employees, the introduction of new corporate values, and the enforcement of new occupational health rules and procedures.

It should be noted that most economically advanced nations are making frantic efforts to establish effective workplace environments. Kazakhstan must follow suit by redoubling efforts to adopt insightful recruitment strategies, to enhance occupation safety, and to introduce new initiatives geared towards promoting work-life balance. For the same reason, preventing foreign workers from securing jobs in Kazakhstan is not the best solution for the country’s unemployment problem. Rather, its workforce needs to be equipped with new skills that enhance its employability both locally and internationally. Rather than being protected against foreign labor competition, Kazakhstani workers need to be equipped with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century global economy both locally and internationally.

Lastly, the ministry of labor and social protection should come up with a human resource development institute whose mandate would be to articulate HR policy issues and provide guidelines on how best the government should implement its policies to ensure that HRM contributes optimally to the realization of its 2020 vision. The institute should also play the pivotal role of ensuring that all existing policies are implemented in a manner that contributes to the achievement of the stipulated outcomes. Moreover, the institute would provide a viable environment for HR specialists to draw comparison between their strategies and those of other economies. Such a comparative approach would shed light on the lessons Kazakhstan can learn from the HR policy development processes of other countries seeking to address similar challenges and priorities.


Kazakhstan needs to adopt sound policy measures through the modernization of its HRM strategy. Examples of these measures include developing a national HR institute, encouraging foreign workers to share knowledge with their local counterparts, establishing learning organizations, and promoting leadership development. Moreover, the country needs the services of HR specialists and managers not just in the private sector but also in public service in general and the ministry of labor and social protection in particular.


Davis, P. (2012). HR holds back economic development in Kazakhstan. Human Resource Management International Digest, 20(6), 43 – 46.

Dossova, S. (2011). Relationships between Human Resources Management Practices, and Job Satisfaction, and Organizational Commitment among employees in Kazakhstani organizations. Chronicle, 30, 1-13.

Minbaeva, D., Hutchings, K. & Thomson, S. (2007). Hybrid human resource management in post-Soviet Kazakhstan. European Journal of International Management, 1(4)

Tatibekov, B., Adams, J. & Prochaska, N. (2004). Characteristics of the Labor Market and Human Resources Management in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Advances in Competitiveness Research, 12(1), 44-56.

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