Skip to main content Accessibility help

Putting Strategic Human Resource Management in Context: A Contextualized Model of High Commitment Work Systems and Its Implications in China

  • Sunghoon Kim (a1) and Patrick M. Wright (a2)


This study contributes to strategic human resource management (HRM) research by offering a contextualized model of HRM effectiveness. Building on HR attribution theory, we propose that the high commitment work system will be more effective in a context when: (i) employees are conditioned to trust employers and (ii) regulatory institutions are less restrictive, giving management more autonomy in human resource decisions. In such contexts, we argue that employees are more inclined to view the high commitment work system as an expression of the employer's genuine concern for employees. Hence, employees are more likely to reciprocate with high commitment. We find our contextualized HRM effectiveness model particularly useful in understanding HRM – firm performance relations in China where business environments are currently under transformation on both trust and regulations.



Hide All
Abrahamson, E. 1991. Managerial fad and fashion: The diffusion and rejection of innovations. Academy of Management Review, 16(3): 586612.
Ahlstrom, D., & Bruton, G. 2001. Learning from successful local private firms in China: Establishing legitimacy. Academy of Management Executive, 15(4): 7283.
Ahmadjian, C., & Robinson, P. 2001. Safety in numbers: Downsizing and the deinstitutionalization of permanent employment in Japan. Administrative Science Quarterly, 46(4): 622654.
Allik, J., & Realo, A. 2009. Individualism-collectivism and social capital. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35(1): 2949.
Appelbaum, E., & Balt, R. 1994. The new American workplace: Transforming work systems in the United States. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press.
Bae, J., & Lawler, J. J. 2000. Organizational and HRM strategies in Korea: Impact on firm performance in an emerging economy. Academy of ManagementJournal, 43(3): 502517.
Batt, R. 2002. Managing customer services: Human resource practices, quit rates, and sales growth. Academy of Management Journal, 45(3): 587597.
Becker, B., & Gerhart, B. 1996. Human resources and organizational performance: Progress and prospects. Academy of Management Journal, 39(4): 779801.
Blau, P. M. 1964. Exchange and power in social life. New York: Wiley.
Boselie, P., Paauwe, J., & Jansen, P. 2001. Human resource management and performance: Lessons from the Netherlands. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 12(7): 11071125.
Boselie, P., PaauWe, J., & Richardson, R. 2003. Human resource management, institutionalization and organizational performance: A comparison of hospitals, hotels and local government. InternationalJoumal of Human Resource Management, 14(8): 14071429.
Bowen, D., & Ostroff, C. 2004. Understanding HRM-firm performance linkages: The role of the ‘strength’ of the HRM system. Academy of Management Review, 29(2): 203221.
Boxali, P., & Purcell, J. 2008. Strategy and human resource management. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Brewster, C., Mayrhofer, W., & Morley, M. 2004. Human resource management in Europe: Evidence of convergence? London: Butterworth Heinemann.
Buck, T., Filatotchev, I., Demina, N., & Wright, M. 2003. Insider ownership, human resource strategies and performance in a transition economy. Journal of International Business Studies, 34(6): 530549.
Cai, F., Park, A., & Zhao, Y. 2008. The Chinese labor market in the Reform Era. In Brandt, L. & Rawski, T. (Eds.), China's great economic transformation: 167214. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Chen, C. C., Chen, X. P., & Meindl, J. R. 1998. How can co-operation be fostered? The cultural effects of individualism and collectivism. Academy of Management Review, 23(2): 285304.
Child, J., & Möllering, G. 2003. Contextual confidence and active trust development in the Chinese business environment. Organization Science, 14(1): 6980.
Collins, C. J., & Smith, K. G. 2006. Knowledge exchange and combination: The role of human resource practices in the performance of high-technology firms. Academy of Management Journal, 49(3): 544560.
Cooke, F. L. 2009. A decade of transformation of HRM in China: A review of literature and suggestions for future studies. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, 47(1): 640.
Datta, D. K., Guthrie, J. P., & Wright, P. M. 2005. Human resource management and labor productivity: Does industry matter? Academy of Management Journal, 48(1): 135145.
Delcry, J. E., & Doty, D. H. 1996. Models of theorizing in strategic human resource management: Tests of universalistic, contingency and configurational performance predictions. Academy of Management Journal, 39(4): 802835.
Denrcll, J. 2003. Vicarious learning, undersampling of failure, and the myths of management. Organization Science, 14(3): 227243.
DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. 1983. The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48(2): 147160.
Ding, D. Z., Goodall, K., & Warner, M. 2002. The impact of economic reform on the role of trade unions in Chinese enterprises. InternationalJournal of Human Resource Management, 13(3): 431449.
Doney, P., Cannon, J., & Mullen, M. 1998. Understanding the influence of national culture on the development of trust. Academy of Management Review, 23(3): 601620.
Dowling, P., Festing, M., & Engle, A. 2008. International human resource management. London: Thomson Learning.
Dyer, J., & Chu, W. 2003. The role of trustworthiness in reducing transaction costs and improving performance: Empirical evidence from the United States, Japan, and Korea. Organization Science, 14(1): 5768.
Earley, P. C. 1989. Social loafing and collectivism: A comparison of the United States and the People's Republic of China. Administrative Science Quarterly, 34(4): 565581.
Edwards, T., & Kuruvilla, S. 2005. International HRM: National business systems, organizational politics and the international division of labour in MNCs. InternationalJournal of Human Resource Management, 16(1): 121.
Ferner, A., & Qiiintanilla, J. 1998. Multinationals, national business systems and HRM: The enduring influence of national identify or a process of ‘Anglo-Saxonization’. InternationalJournal of Human Resource Management, 9(4): 710731.
Ferrin, D., & Dirks, K. 2003. The use of rewards to increase and decrease trust: Mediating processes and differential effects. Organization Science, 14(1): 1831.
Fukuyama, F. 1995. Trust: The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. New York: Free Press.
Gong, Y., Law, K., & Xin, K. 2006. The commitment-focused HRM system: Adoption and performance implications in domestic private firms. In Tsui, A., Bian, Y., & Chang, L. (Eds.), China's domestic private firms: 261276. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe Inc.
Gooderham, P. N., Nordhaug, O., & Ringdal, K. 1999. Institutional and rational determinants of organizational practices: Human resource management in European firms. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(3): 507531.
Greenwood, R., Oliver, C., Sahlin, K., & Suddaby, R. (Eds.). 2008. The Sage handbook of organizational institutionalism. London: Sage.
Hall, P., & Soskice, D. 2001. An introduction to varieties of capitalism. In Hall, P. & Soskice, D. (Eds.), Varieties of capitalism: The institutional foundations of comparative advantage: 168. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hofstede, G. 1980. Culture's consequences: International differences in work related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Huang, Y. 2003. Selling China. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Huang, Y. 2008. Capitalism with Chinese characteristics: Entrepreneurship and the state. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Huff, L., & Kelley, L. 2003. Levels of organizational trust in individualist versus collectivist societies: A seven-nation study. Organization Science, 14(1): 8190.
Huselid, M. 1995. The impact of human resource management practices on turnover, productivity, and corporate financial performance. Academy of Management Journal, 38(3): 635672.
Jackson, S., & Schuler, R. 1995. Understanding human resource management in the context of organizations and their environments. Annual Review of Psychology, 46(1): 237264.
Johns, G. 2006. The essential impact of context on organizational behavior. Academy of Management Review, 31(2): 386408.
Kim, S., Wright, P., & Su, Z. 2010. Human resource management and firm performance in China: A critical review. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, 48(1): 5885.
Kirkman, B. L., Lowe, K. B., & Gibson, C. B. 2006. A quarter century of culture's consequences: A review of empirical research incorporating Hofstede's cultural values framework. Journal of International Business Studies, 37(3): 285320.
Kostova, T., & Roth, K. 2002. Adoption of an organizational practice by subsidiaries of multinational corporations: Institutional and relational effects. Academy of Management Journal, 45(1): 215233.
Lawler, E. 1986. High involvement management. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Leana, C. R., & Van Buren, H.J. 1999. Organizational social capital and employment practices. Academy of Management Review, 24(3): 538555.
Lengnick-Hall, M., Lengnick-Hall, C., Andrade, L., & Drake, B. 2009. Strategic human resource management: The evolution of the field. Human Resource Management Review, 19(2): 6485.
Li, S. X., Xiatao, Y., Sue-Chan, C., & Xi, Y. 2010. Where do social ties come from: Institutional framework and governmental tie distribution among Chinese managers. Management and Organization Review, 7(1): forthcoming.
Lincoln, J. R., Hanada, M., & Olson, J. 1981. Cultural orientations and individual reactions to organizations: A study of employees of Japanese owned firms. Administrative Science Quarterly, 26(1): 93115.
Locke, R. 1995. Remaking the Italian economy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Meyer, J. W., & Rowan, B. 1977. Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. The American Journal of Sociology, 83(2): 340363.
Mezias, J. 2002. Identifying liabilities of foreignness and strategies to minimize their effects: The case of labor lawsuit judgments in the United States. Strategic Management Journal, 23(3): 229244.
Miles, R. E., & Snow, C. C. 1984. Designing strategic human resources systems. Organizational Dynamics, 13(1): 3652.
Nishii, L. H., Lepak, D. P., & Schneider, B. 2008. Employee attributions of the ‘why’ of HR practices: Their effects on employee attitudes and behaviors, and customer satisfaction. Personnel Psychology, 61(3): 503545.
Paauwe, J., & Boselie, P. 2007. HRM and societal embeddedness. In Boxall, P., Purcell, J., & Wright, P. (Eds.), Oxford handbook of human resource management: 166184. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Peng, M., Wang, D., & Jiang, Y. 2008. An institution-based view of international business strategy: A focus on emerging economies. Journal of International Business Studies, 39(5): 920936.
Pfeffer, J. 1998. The human equation: Building profits by putting people first. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Pfeffer, J., & Cohen, Y. 1984. Determinants of internal labor markets in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 29(1): 550572.
Pfeffer, J., & Salancik, G. R. 1978. The external control of organizations: A resource dependence perspective. New York: Harper and Row.
Putnam, R. D. 1993. Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Putnam, R. D. 2000. Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Redding, G. 2008. Separating culture from institutions: The use of semantic spaces as a conceptual domain and the case of China. Management and Organization Review, 4(2): 257289.
Rousseau, D. M. 2001. Schema, promise, and mutuality: The building blocks of the psychological contract. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 74(4): 511541.
Rousseau, D., & Fried, Y. 2001. Location, location, location: Contextualizing organizational research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 22(1): 113.
Rousseau, D., & Schalk, R. (Eds.). 2000. Psychological contracts in employment: Cross-national perspectives. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Salancik, G. R. 1979. Interorganizational dependence and responsiveness to affirmative action: The case of women and defense contractors. Academy of Management Journal, 22(2): 375394.
Shore, L. M., Coyle-Shapiro, J. A-M., Chen, X. P., & Tetrick, L. E. 2009. Social exchange theory in work settings: Content, process, and mixed models. Management and Organization Review, 5(3): 289302.
Sun, L., Aryee, S., & Law, K. S. 2007. High-performance human resource practices, citizenship behavior, and organizational performance: A relational perspective. Academy of Management Journal, 50(3): 558577.
Thomas, G. F., Zolin, R., & Hartman, J. 2009. The central role of communication in developing trust and its effect on employee involvement. Journal of Business Communication, 46(3): 287310.
Tolbcrt, P. S., & Zucker, L. G. 1983. Institutional sources of change in the formal structure of organizations: The diffusion of civil service reform, 1880-1935. Administrative Science Quarterly, 28(1): 2239.
Tsui, A. S., Pearce, J. L., Porter, L. W., & Tripoli, A. M. 1997. Alternative approaches to the employee-organization relationship: Does investment in employees pay off? Academy of Management Journal, 40(5): 10891121.
Tsui, A. S., Nifadkar, S., & Ou, A. 2007. Cross-national, cross-cultural organizational behavior research: Advances gaps, and recommendations. Journal of Management, 33(3): 426478.
Wagner, J. A. III 1995. Studies of individualism-collectivism: Effects on cooperation in groups. Academy of Management Journal, 38(3): 152172.
Walton, R. E. 1985. From control to commitment in the workplace. Harvard Business Review, 63(2): 7784.
Wang, D., Tsui, A. S., Zhang, Y., & Ma, L. 2003. Employment relationships and firm performance: Evidence from an emerging economy. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 24(5): 511535.
Weber, M., Malhotra, D., & Murnighan, J. 2005. Normal acts of irrational trust: Motivated attributions and the trust development process. In Kramer, R. M. & Staw, B. M. (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior: 75101. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Wei, L. Q., & Lau, C. M. 2008. The impact of market orientation and strategic HRM on firm performance: The case of Chinese enterprises. Journal of International Business Studies, 39(6): 980995.
Welbourne, T. M., & Cyr, L. A. 1999. The human resource executive effect in initial public offering firms. Academy of Management Journal, 42(6): 616629.
Whetten, D. 2009. An examination of the interface between context and theory applied to the study of Chinese organizations. Management and Organization Review, 5(1): 2955.
Whitley, R. 1999. Divergent capitalisms: The social structuring and change of business systems. NY: Oxford University Press.
Womack, J., Jones, D., & Roos, D. 1990. The machine that changed the world. New York: Rawson Associates.
Wright, P. M., & McMahan, G. C. 1992. Theoretical perspectives for strategic human resource management. Journal of Management, 18(2): 295320.
Xiao, Z., & Björkman, I. 2006. High commitment work systems in Chinese organizations: A preliminary measure. Management and Organization Review, 2(3): 403422.
Xiao, Z. X., & Tsui, A. S. 2007. Where brokers may not work: The culture contingency of social capital. Administrative Science Quarterly, 51(1): 131.
Youndt, M. A., Snell, S. A., Dean, J. W., & Lepak, D. P. 1996. Human resource management, manufacturing strategy, and firm performance. Academy of Management Journal, 39(4): 836866.
Zhu, C. J., Thomson, B., & De Cieri, H. 2008. A retrospective and prospective analysis of HRM research in Chinese firms: Implications and directions for future study. Human Resource Management, 47(1): 133156.
Zucker, L. G. 1986. Production of trust: Institutional sources of economic structure, 1840-1920. In Staw, B. M. & Cummings, L. L. (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior: 53111. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Putting Strategic Human Resource Management in Context: A Contextualized Model of High Commitment Work Systems and Its Implications in China

  • Sunghoon Kim (a1) and Patrick M. Wright (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.