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Complex pathways through the HRM-performance black box: a study of the intended-implemented-perceived HR causal process model

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posted on 2023-01-13, 00:30 authored by Matthew Sykes

A continuing challenge for HR practitioners is translating well-designed HR systems into organisational outcomes. Central to this challenge is the distance between HR practices as they are intended by the firm, and the effect of those practices on organisational outcomes. Conceptualisation of this gap has centred around two frameworks. Firstly, the HR causal process model, which posits that HR practices are developed by HR practitioners in a firm, those practices are then implemented by line managers, and then perceived by employees. At the point of perception, HR practices translate into employee outcomes, and ultimately into business unit and firm-wide performance outcomes. The HR causal process model theorises that variability across each of these steps is a determinant of the ultimate outcomes of the HR system. Secondly, there is the process approach to HRM, an idea which is based around the concepts of HR system strength and HR attributions and focuses on the way in which employees attach meaning to the content of the HR system. Within these two conceptualisations, the role of line managers is of central importance. This thesis examines the relationship between HR practices and performance outcomes by integrating the HR causal process model and the process approach to HRM, and affirms the central role of line managers. Presented as a thesis by publication, this thesis adopts a mixed methods approach, comprising four studies. Study 1, a structured literature review, analysed 96 papers that are most central to the HR causal process model. The study used a mixture of analytical processes and content analysis to synthesise the current understanding of the HR causal process model to provide a brief critique of the literature to date and to present an agenda for future research. Study 2 reports on data from 33 interviews across two locations of an Australian accounting firm. Content analysis was used to investigate variability across intended, implemented and perceived levels of the HR process. The study found four drivers of inconsistency related to line manager implementation, alignment, prioritisation, managerial style, and capability. Study 2 provides support for the HR causal process model and demonstrates the potential reasons for variability in the HR process. Study 3 reports on survey data gathered in eight mid-tier Australian accounting firms (n = 407). The study used a moderated mediation analysis to understand the strength of the relationship between intended, implemented and perceived HR practices, and three outcome measures as moderated by managerial effectiveness and HR system strength. The study found partial support for both mediated relationships and moderated relationships. Study 3 provides support for the influence of HR system strength and HR attributions on the HR causal process model and emphasises the role of managerial effectiveness in the employee experience of HRM. Study 4 reports on the employee sample of data collected in Study 3 (n = 237). The study examined the indirect relationship between perceived HR practices and employee outcomes, mediated by the employee-organisation relationship. Results show the mediated relationship between perceived HRM and employee outcomes is complex and varies depending on the employee outcome of interest. The findings of Study 4 have both theoretical and practical implications for firms that may seek to drive specific employee outcomes. In concert, these studies provide new insights for understanding the HR causal process model. The influence of managerial effectiveness, which has received limited attention in the literature to date, is an important contribution to a greater understanding of HR practice implementation. Moreover, the findings of the indirect relationship between perceived HR practices and employee outcomes emphasise the need to better understand this critical point in the model.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. General Introduction -- Chapter 2. A review and research agenda for the HR causal process model -- Chapter 3. Understanding divergence across the HR causal process model HRM -- Chapter 4. The HR causal process model and its moderating influences -- Chapter 5. The transmission of employee-perceived HRM into employee outcomes -- Chapter 6. General Discussion -- Complete Reference List -- Appendices

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD

Department, Centre or School

Macquarie Business School

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Andrew Heys

Additional Supervisor 1

Denise Jepsen


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350 pages

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