Antecedents and consequences of human resource differentiation
AffiliationManagement and Marketing
Document TypePhD thesis
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© 2018 Dr. Samuel Eyamu
Strategic Human Resource Management (HRM) scholars have increasingly acknowledged that firm-level HR systems typically consist of differentiated approaches to managing different types of workers, ranging from arm’s length, highly transactional approaches (such as sub-contracting) to highly customised, relationship-based approaches (such as high-commitment HR strategies). To date, the most prominent approach to understanding human resource (HR) differentiation is the HR architecture framework. This framework, first proposed and tested by Lepak and Snell (2002), predicts that firms will use differentiated HR systems to reflect the strategic value and uniqueness of human capital associated with jobs. Although this framework provides an important foundation for understanding HR differentiation, there is a theoretical and empirical limitation within this research space. First, few studies have sought to demonstrate, or empirically test how the HR architecture framework aligns or integrates with contextual factors, which may also shape the tendency of a firm to differentiate its HR practices across different jobs. For example, other research in industrial relations suggests that contextual factors, constraints or conditions have the propensity to influence the extent to which firms employ differentiated HR systems. Second, and perhaps more importantly, employee agency and equity concerns associated with the use of differentiated HR systems has largely been ignored in previous research. To address these issues, this thesis addresses two primary research questions, each of which provides the rationale for an empirical study. First, when/under what conditions are firms likely to use differentiated HR systems to manage employees (Study 1)? Second, what does differentiation mean for employees and their experience of work (Study 2)? In Study 1, I develop and test a conceptual model of the antecedents of differentiation by extending the HR architecture model. Using data from 200 medium and large establishments within the Australian manufacturing sector, I test a range of contextual factors that are likely to predict intraorganisational variability in employment arrangements. The results from this study offer some support to the HR architecture framework by showing that the strategic value and uniqueness of human capital associated with jobs differs across some employment arrangements. A firm’s competitive strategy was found to predict the strategic value and uniqueness of human capital associated with jobs, while union density was found to interact with human capital strategic value to predict job-based employment arrangement. In Study 2, I develop and test a companion model that examines employee responses to HR differentiation. Results of a study from 733 respondents across several industry sectors in Australia support my hypotheses that perceived favourability of HR practices (which has emerged as a key indicator of employee responses to HR differentiation) is positively associated with job satisfaction, affective organisational commitment, job engagement and lower turnover intentions. The study also showed that perceived organisational support, perceived distributive justice and perceived procedural justice partially mediate the relationship between perceived favourability of HR practices and work-related outcomes examined in the study. Nevertheless, interestingly, the study found that leader-member exchange accentuates perceptions of distributive and procedural justice, but not organisational support. Implications of the study for theory and practice are discussed.
Keywordshuman resource differentiation
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