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Exploring the HRM performance link: Are we on a road to nowhere?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Steve VincentORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of a book chapter that has been published in its final definitive form by CIPD, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Whilst researchers often find evidence about a positive relationship between HRM and organisational performance, it remains weak and patchy, and there is little consensus about what HRM should ‘look like’ in different contexts. In this chapter, we highlight that there is considerable variation between studies in terms of what, whether and how HRM practices ‘work’. Consequentially, Guest (2011: 8) argues that the question of the link between HRM and organisational performance may be ‘unanswerable’. In this chapter, we consider why the link between HR practices and organisational performance remains unclear by re-reading existing research. Our review emphasises HR practices, in-situ, by considering the question: what gests in the way of HR practices positively affecting organisational performance? We highlight problems with HR theory, cultural factors and social structures, which, we argue, interact to undermine the HRM-performance link. We conclude that, whilst HR theory suggests its practitioners are key custodians of organisational performance, the theory is often difficult to realise or translate into practice. Consequentially, many practitioners remain ‘big hat, no cattle’ (Skinner, 1981) or ‘on a road to nowhere’, 40 years after the HRM project emerged in the USA.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Vincent S, Hurrell S

Editor(s): Ian Roper, Rea Prouska and Uracha Chatrakul Ayudhya

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Critical Issues in Human Resource Management

Year: 2019

Print publication date: 02/10/2019

Online publication date: 21/09/2019

Acceptance date: 12/01/2018

Edition: 2nd

Publisher: CIPD


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781137605412