Cultural Identity

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Understanding the link of High Commitment Work Practices (HCWPs) to performance has been of great interest to both academics and practitioners in the field of Human Resource Management (Becker and Huselid 1998; Combs, Lui, Hall, Ketchen 2006; Marchington, Zagelmeyer 2005) with enormous attention being focused in this area of research over the last fifteen years (CIPD Sparham and Sun) as it not only allows academics to build on HCWP theory, but also enables practitioners to justify investment in HPWPs and thus Human Resource Management as a whole. Beardwell et al 2004 in their opening chapter identify two of the largest themes which have dominated this area of research:

"The first theme is that of HRMs replacement of older tradition [...] The second theme concerned to examine the specific impact of focused types of HRM such as High Commitment Management in order to assess their superiority over [...] traditional methods" (Beardwell, Holden and Claydon, p5;2004)

There has been increasing research being carried especially with regards to the second theme; the impact of HCWPs (Tamikin 2004; Beardwell et al 2004; Combs et al 2006) with the majority of the evidence pointing to HCWPs having a more positive link to both organisational productivity and financial performance over more traditional methods. It is illustrated amongst many research evidence that HCWPs lead to positive outcomes for employees as it leads to enhanced training and skills, greater staff commitment and higher earnings for many employees which in turn leads to greater productivity gains and profitability as these better employee conditions lead to a lower staff turnover, better teamwork and greater staff commitment (CIPD....), with many of these researchers pointing to an extensive use of HCWPs within the UK.

However, not all organisations within the UK are seen to have adopted HCWPs within their organisation, or they have adopted HCWPs but not extensively enough to thoroughly reap the benefits of those links of HCWPs to performance. Many reasons have been given for this ranging from the implementation of just one or two of the HCWPs rather than 'bundles', the incorrect combination of HCWPs implemented into different organisational contexts. Reflecting the first theme noted in Bearwell et al 2004 earlier, one area which has prevailed is whether HCWPs have replaced the traditional methods of management. Within the UK many argue that traditional management methods still exist and follow scientific management methods (Combs, Lui, Hall, Ketchen 2006) not only this but in some cases organisations are using traditional methods such as job design to introduce HCWPs into the workplace, with Tamikin 2004 noting how in the UK less than a quarter of organisations adopt HCWPs to any significant context.

From this it can be seen that in order to thoroughly analyse the evidence which links HCWPs to organisational performance in the context of the UK an examination and reasoning of the use of traditional methods coupled with job designs based on principles of scientific management of HRM within the UK is required. To succeed in this in depth analysis four areas shall be followed. Firstly, an introduction to HRM models and practices; secondly a detailed analysis of the literature linking HPWPs to performance giving examples of organisations which have successfully adopted these; thirdly discussing the evidence that organisations are continuing to use traditional management style coupled with job designs based on principles of scientific management and finally looking at the reasoning why some organisations are continuing to do so, before concluding the degree to which HPWPs are in fact linked to performance.

To get an understanding of the HRM styles of management which are in use in the UK and their links to organisational performance and overview of HRM models and different styles of managements are needed as these will enable a more thorough understanding of HPWPS and traditional styles of management and also gives aids in understanding the reasoning why organisations are continuing with these traditional management methods. There are two main perspectives of HRM the unitarist perspective where there is the view that the goals and aims of the organisation stakeholders can be aligned and everyone within the organisation works together to achieve these goals, this perspective is closely associated with the Hard Model of HRM which as Beardwell et al 2004 states are the 'particular policies that stress the cost minimisation strategy' which is the deployment of people meet business objectives, labour is viewed s a resource. It is about the control of people to lower cost and the use of labour as a resource. These perspectives and models are more closely linked to those traditional and scientific control management methods which will be discussed later.

The other perspective is that of Pluralism this perspective is the identification that there are conflicting goals and aims with people within the organisation for example shareholders want high dividends while employees strive for higher pay as possible, and the role of the HR managers are to find different ways to manage these. This pluralist perspective is linked closely to the Soft HRM model which is viewed as the developmental humanism in which individual is integrated into a work process that values trust, commitment and communication (Beardwell and Claydon 2004), it is viewed within this model that there are a number of best practices that can be used for job enrichment, and attempts are made to enhance commitment and quality of workers.

This links to our main body of analysis which is that of the 'High Commitment Work Practices' which arrived into discussion in the late 1980s (ARTICLE 1), however over the decades this has been researched under a plethora of different terminology which undoubtedly could cause much confusion to academics and practitioners. In some cases HCWPs are called 'high commitment management' (Walton 1985; Wood 1996), 'high involvement management' (Lawler 1986) or more extensively used is the term 'high performance management/work practices' (Combs et al 2006; Marchington, Zagelmeyer 2005; Huselid 1995; Tamikin 2004; Thompson 2000). For the case of this analysis however HCWPs shall be used to refer to each of the evidence being analysed.

HCWPs definition is subject to continuous debate with the number of work practices included also differing amongst researchers, for example it can be defined as a set of complementary work practices covering three broad categories; high involvement practices, human resource management practices and reward and commitment practices which are seen to cover thirty-five different work practices (Sung and Aston ????). Tamikin (2004) also identifies in his study how Guest (???) identifies eighteen key practices and Thompson (2000) identifies thirty in his investigation into the use of HCWPs in the UK aerospace. Pfeffer (1998) identified seven best practices for which it was viewed employees needed in order to be committed, these being employment security; selective hiring of new personnel; Self managed teams and decentralisation of decision making; high wages linked to firm performance; extensive training; reduced status distinctions and barriers and communications involvement. Overall it can be viewed that high commitment management aim is to encourage employee commitment to organisations in order to improve organisational performance which can be done through instilling a number of different of work practices. These differing work practices used amongst different researchers are illustrated in Appendix One.

Now that we have an understanding of what constitutes HCWPs, knowledge as to how it is thought to lead to increased performance shall be illustrated. HCWPs approaches are seen to provide a number of important sources for enhanced organisational performance and researchers point to three mediators through which HCWPs effect organisational performance. Firstly HCWPs increase employees knowledge skills and abilities which are needed to complete job tasks (Delery and Shaw 2000 cited in Combs et al 2006). Secondly HCWPs empower employees to act and HCWPs are seen to motivate employees to work. Collectively these three mediators encourage people to work harder because of an increased involvement and commitment which comes from having more control and say over their work i.e. more control over their job designs and by placing more responsibility into the hands of employees farther down the organisation it saves on administration overheads and other costs associated with having an alienated workforce related to traditional management methods (Pfeffer 1998). These in turn lead to greater job satisfaction, lower absenteeism (Sparham and Sung), reduced employee turnover and greater productivity (Combs et al 2006) and corporate financial performance (Huselid 1995) thus leading to improved organisational performance.

There is substantial evidence of these links to performance in the UK which through analysing a large amount of journal articles, reports and books it can be clearly seen that this evidence showing a link of HCWPs to high organisational performance has varying results in both industry and organisational wide context but also in the actual method of adoption of HCWPs, with Combs et al (2006) estimating that for each unit increase of HCWP use organisations can increase their performance by .20 of a standardised unit. Other evidence identifies how certain 'bundles' of the work practices illustrated in appendix one can increase performance more than others (Sung and Aston, Sparham and Sung). For example Thompson (2000) when examining the use of HCWPs in the UK aerospace industry he identified that the aerospace performance comprises of 'three distinct and complementary bundles of practices - human resources, employee, involvement and industrial relations', with the implementation of certain 'bundles' as being more effective at improving performance than implementing just one of the HCWPs.

As stated earlier there is evidence that HCWPs exist in different industries for example Walton (1985) notes that not only do continuous process industries benefit from HCWPs but also traditional manufacturing industries. This is also supported by other research, Combs et al (2006) stated how they believed how HCWPs had larger effects among manufacturing industry as they are better aligned with manufacturing work, for example HCWPs emphasis on teamwork are effective as they help workers solve complex problems arising from high task interdependence among manufacturing stages. Thompson (2000) also notes reasoning for manufacturers for adopting HCWPs is due to the current manufacturing environment. The changing market dynamics such as global competition has forced organisations to greatly improve their competiveness and gain competitive advantage through creating competitive advantage by implementing HCWPs into their organisations leading to higher profit rates. This was also proved in the UK by Edwards in 1987 (cited in Fernie and Metcalf (1995)) when he interviewed 230 managers and found that manufacturing firms that used HCWPs had a higher profit rate than those that did not.

There is evidence of the use of HCWPs within UK organisations in order to improve organisational performance within a large proportion of the literature analysed. Evidence of organisations within the UK context adopting HCWPs includes organisations from both service sectors and manufacturing industries. They include Nissan, IBM and Hewlett Packard (Wood 1996); GM motors (Osterman 1994); Aspect and Capital, , Data connection, Flight Centre, i-level, Quest Diagnostics, St. Lukes, Timpson,W L Gore (CIPD); Pannone & Partners and Bacardi & Martini (CIPD and Sparham and Sung). In order to thoroughly analyse the evidence within the UK a more detailed look into the two case studies of Bacardi & Martini and Pannone & Partners will be analysed as this demonstrates the evidence of the use of HCWPs in both a manufacturing context and service sector context.


These two case studies discussed and evidence shown previously have illustrated the successful implementation of HCWPs into the UK organisational context, those that have successfully implemented this soft model approach to HRM completely are seen to have taken the 'high road' to achieving enhanced performance (Guest and Conway 2007) through implementing HCWPs as a means to enhance employee commitment and involvement. However through conducting an analysis into the literature there are still those that criticise whether a substantial link between HCWPs and organisational performance exists and debating the evidence of organisations within the UK actually adopting HCWPs.

(ARTICLE one) through analysing the UK Workplace Industrial Relations Survey (WERS) found that there was a low adoption of individual HCWPs and an even lower amount of organisations using the HCWPs as a whole package, supporting this is Tamikin (2004) where he described studies in the UK on this data have come to differing conclusions as he illustrates the HCWPs penetration was shown as ranging from 2% to 26% of companies. Marchington and Zagelmeyer (2005) note that most studies lacked consistency and reported fragmentation and short-termism when implementing HCWPs rather than the deployment of consistent and integrated HCWPs. Walton (1985) also noted how most organisations made a limited set of changes when implementing HCWPs in a transition to a commitment approach. Guest et al (2000) (cited in Tamikin 2004) that only one percent of the companies in the WERS used three quarters of the HCWPs.

Many arguments are given for the reasoning why managers have not fully implemented HCWPs into their organisations. One area is that the use of numerous different terminologies for HCWPs, the differing accounts by researchers as to which work practices are involved in high commitment management, not only this but the varying literature on what 'bundles' of work practices are successful, there is also no prescribed way as to how or what work practices to implement into each organisation as it is dependent on a variety of factors. This evidence shows that despite the positive effects on performance illustrated earlier managers are either not convinced that adoption of HCWPs work or they find the process of implementing them too difficult (Tamkin 2004). Guest and Conway (2006) expand this noting that there is evidence that though the majority of the language of soft HRM model is evident the majority of employers are still taking the 'low road'/hard HRM model approach to performance and not effective used of high commitment model, there is also evidence that a way in which organisations have taken this 'low road' approach is by adopting HCWPs within the organisation though scientific management methods such as job design (CIPD, Patterson et al, Kling, Guest and Conway).

This 'low road/hard model' approach adopted by managers in implementing HCWPs into organisations in the UK leads us onto the third area of analysis. The hard model of HRM is strongly associated with traditional methods of HRM and there is substantial evidence within literature that many organisations are adopting approach to adopting HCWPs. In order to comprehend the evidence showing this adoption an understanding of what is traditional management more importantly the approach to Job design based on the scientific principles are required. Frederick W Taylor is seen by many to be the father of traditional management style (Walton 1985), for which he followed the notion that the best management "is a true science, resting upon clearly defined laws, rules and principles as a foundation" (Taylor ????. A prominent element of this traditional scientific method of management is the idea of breaking down of tasks. For which the work of every man could be fully planned out by management, describing in detail as the task which an employee needs to accomplish, in this view management begins from a capitalist point of view rather than a humanistic view (Braverman ????) which HCWPs follow, in the latter labour is viewed as a means to gaining capital. It is very much a control orientated approach to HRM as shown earlier.

Under this controlled approach there is a huge difference in the job design principles (Walton 1985) compared to high commitment management approach for which as illustrated previously individual employees are encouraged to work as teams, there is a flexible definition of their duties and the job design emphasises the whole task including both the thinking and doing of it. Traditional job designs however are based on scientific principles for which there is a fixed job definition, team work is not encouraged and accountability is focused directly on the individual whose attention is also limited to performing individual tasks (Walton 1985) and which is highly controlled for which commitment does not flourish.

Since the 1970s the traditional ford style of mass production has run into much difficulty and has needed to change its approach to management in order to gain competitive advantage, as due to globalisation the rapid demands of both customers and employees has changed (Biazzo, Panizzolo 1999). In many cases this has led to many organisations who used to follow the traditional management approach attempting to adopt the HCWPs mentioned earlier in order to become competitive, however they do so they are keeping the job designs already in place. Truss et al (cited in Marchington, Zagelmeyer 2005) found that in those organisations that are attempting to adopt HCWPs, while the language of the HCWPs was evident in them so too was the hard model or traditional management emphasising financial control. In many of the literature it was seen that these organisations whilst attempting to implement HCWPs and encourage employee involvement and commitment are doing so using job designs associated with traditional scientific principles.

A huge example of this is the case of McDonalds; though this organisation does not originate in the UK it is found widely here. McDonalds which can be seen as a quintessential example of the employing job designs based on scientific management. As McDonalds attempts to empower employees through employee involvement, with the offer of McDonald's business degrees to some of their staff, an emphasis is also placed on taking employees ideas into account. However what is evident is that McDonalds is attempting to adopt such HCWPs of team work and employee involvement in one way but is doing so with job designs that are strongly associated to that of scientific methods. As each and every job is within McDonald's is clearly defined especially at the lower levels of the organisation, this is further shown by the similarities in every McDonalds across the UK and nationwide. However, in doing this McDonalds is still very profitable but this approach to job design and not adopting HCWPs correctly may be the reason McDonalds is seen to have a large labour turnover (Royle 1999) and as Lashley (1996) illustrates the intentions behind McDonald managers is not to increase employee commitment or involvement but to it is a desire to provide more focus on the organisational profits. Other examples of organisations using traditional management styles include Ryanair and also Asda.