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Introduction

According to Ebejer (2010) a growing area in management systems and HR practices focus specifically on enhancing work performance - 'high performance work practices' (HPWPs). Organisations that adopt and implement such practices are considered as high performance work organisations (HPWOs). HPWPs are not radically 'new' practices; they have been around for many years and have already been adopted by various organisations. Under the given context the presented flyer making an introduction to the Causal Chain Model as suggested by Wright & Nishii (2007) furthered to evaluate the key elements of High Performance Work Practices (HPWP) that included the human resource strategies of drawing human capital (Barber, 1998); selection and performance management (Armstrong, 2009); in the context of the adapted case General Electricals (GE). The presented flyer (in brief) attempted to focus on each of the elements of HPWPs. However, Combs (2006) argue that although there is growing evidence that high performance work practices (HPWPs) affect organizational performance, varying sample characteristics, research designs, practices examined, and organizational performance measures used has led extant findings to vary dramatically, making the size of the overall effect difficult to estimate. In addition, Jenson & Winding (2010) found that factors such as globalization, deregulation of markets, changing demands and shorter product life cycles, pose new challenges for most firms. In order to be competitive, firms must be able to continually improve their performance by reducing costs and improving quality, productivity, and speed to the market, and being innovative in terms of introducing new products and services. Therefore, the ability to combine old and new knowledge in order to generate new products/services is key to the prosperity of the modern firm. An important aspect in this context is the human resources and the way they are managed. As such the present study furthers to investigate into the theory and concept of HPWPs with specific focus on the contextual forces that impact and influence the human resource practices. Such evaluated evidences will be further attempted to be assess with the adapted case study organisation.

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High Performance Work Practices

As found in the studies of Combs et al, (2006) human resource practices that SHRM theorists consider performance enhancing are known as high-performance work practices (HPWPs Huselid, 1995). HPWPs include, for example, incentive compensation, training, employee participation, selectivity, and flexible work arrangements (Huselid, 1995; Pfeffer, 1998). In addition as found in the studies of Appelbaum & Gittel (2011) HPWPs have been shown to work in three different ways: 1) fostering development of human capital, creating a performance advantage for organizations through processes such as increased employee skill development and improved customization by employees in service industries (Gibbert, 2006); 2) enhancing the motivation and commitment of employees, creating an organizational and labor-management climate that motivates and supports employee engagement in problem solving and performance improvement (Osterman, 1988); and 3) building organizational social capital, which facilitates knowledge sharing and the coordination of work, and thus improves performance (Nahapiet , 1998). However, Jenson & Vinding (2011) evaluating the studies of Bailey in the context of HPWPs informs that the contribution of even a highly skilled and motivated workforce will be limited if job content is are structured, or programmed, in such a way that employees, who presumably know their work better than anyone else, do not have the opportunity to use their skills and abilities to design new and better ways of performing their tasks. Thus, HPWPs which promote organisational structures that encourage participation among employees and allow them to improve the performance of their jobs may improve the organisational performance. From the above discussions it can be understood that HPWPs are performance enhancers; however, CIPD (2010) informs that human resource (HR) professionals and managers operate within increasingly complex and changing organisational and contextual circumstances, whether in the market, public or third sectors and whatever the size of their organisations or the types of goods or services these enterprises produce for their customers or clients. As such the study furthers to investigate into the contextual factors that impact and influence human resource practices in a organisation.

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HRM Context

According to Jenson & Winding (2010) in accordance to the resource-based view of the firm (Barney & Link, 1991; Penrose, 1959), competitive advantage can be developed and sustained by creating value in a way that is rare and difficult for competitors to imitate. The resource-based view of the firm argues that traditional sources of competitive advantage like natural resources, technology and economies of scale, are sources that are increasingly easy to imitate, especially in comparison to complex social structures like the employment system within the organisation. However, in case of human resource practices (Armstrong, 2009) causal ambiguity and path dependency are two of the key factors making human resource practices difficult to imitate. Armstrong here cites two reasons: First, it may be difficult to understand the precise mechanisms behind human resource practices. Second, the functioning of human resource practices is often complex because the value is determined by the interplay between human resource practices and firm policies. As such Armstrong (2009) further informs that understanding these systems of practices is an organisational capability that is spread across departments and people in the firm. These systems are moreover path dependent since they often have been developed over time and cannot be purchased in the market by competitors. Citing an example in this context Jenson & Winding (2010) argue that even if single employees can be hired from the competitors, the management of competing firms may have difficulties in replicating socially complex elements like culture and interpersonal relationships. Others argue that it is the human resource itself which generates the competitive advantage of the firm. Based on the above arguments this study is of the opinion that the though organisational work force are venerable by competitors; it is the effectiveness of the human resource practices of the organisation that counters any such attempts and retain the talented workforce as Armstrong (2009) informs that SHRM theory asserts that HPWPs practices increase employees knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs), empower employees to leverage their KSAs for organizational benefit, and increase their motivation to do so. The result is greater job satisfaction, lower employee turnover, higher productivity, and better decision making, all of which help improve organizational performance.

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Conclusions