Complexities and controversies in linking human resource management and organisational outcomes

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234 Citations (Scopus)


Our understanding of the way in which human resource management (HRM) is linked to organizational performance is still limited, despite recent advances that use a quantitative approach to argue for a strong positive relationship between 'High Performance Work Practices' and firm financial performance. These studies are limited by their reliance on a single informant in each organization, and their emphasis on financial performance at the expense of a broader range of outcome variables. This paper contributes to the debate by analysing in detail the human resource policies and practices of one case-study organization over a two-year time period, using a variety of methodologies and drawing on a broad range of informants across the organization. Instead of devising a list of 'best practice' HRM from the literature and testing its impact on performance, we instead invert the question and take a firm that is financially successful and ask what HR policies and practices it uses. We also examine the way in which these policies are enacted. This methodology enables us to show that even successful organizations do not always implement 'best practice' HRM, and that there is frequently a discrepancy between intention and practice. Outcomes at the individual and organizational levels are complex and often contradictory; we question the extent to which is it possible or meaningful to attempt to measure the interrelationship between HRM, at the level of the formal system, and organizational performance, without taking into consideration the role played by the informal organization in the process and implementation of HR policies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1121-1149
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2001
Externally publishedYes

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