HRM and organisational performance : an attempt to open the black box
Over the last decade, much research has been conducted in the field of HRM and its association with organisational performance. Encouraged by substantial positive evidence for statistical associations between sophisticated HRM practices and enhanced organisational performance, HRM researchers have become more assertive in their claims that HRM contributes to performance. However, most of the research is based on questionnaire surveys and still leaves key questions unanswered, in particular by which processes HRM contributes to performance. This lack of knowledge about the processes involved in the HRM-performance relationship is referred to as 'black box'. It is the focus of this thesis to attempt to open this 'black box'. A qualitative case study methodology was adopted and the Glasgow four-star hotel sector chosen as a field of enquiry. This choice allowed for a standardisation of factors that might influence the degree of sophistication of HRM and its impact on performance, i.e. regional differences in terms of product and labour markets, capital intensity and unionisation. Four out of seven eligible hotels participated in the research. The cognitions of managerial respondents from different levels (i.e. general managers, HR managers and line managers) formed the basis of the research. Interviews with these respondents were analysed using a causal mapping method. Detailed quantitative secondary data enabled an investigation of the economic context and demonstrated that organisational performance is influenced by the economic context. It is argued that the appropriate level of analysis is the operational departments where HRM is applied by line managers in a way not necessarily in accordance with formal policy. On this level, HRM has demonstrated both direct effects on the achievement of departmental performance indicators and indirect effects through employee outcomes.