High Performance Work Practices

Tamkin P | HR Network Paper MP36 | Institute for Employment Studies | Sep 2004

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The question of whether the way people are managed and treated at work contributes to the overall performance of the enterprise has been much debated.

The focus of this debate has tended to be on formal processes and procedures within organisations. These high performance working practices (HPWPs) have been the subject of a wide range of studies designed to test their impact.

The literature has shown that such practices tend to be part of an approach that emphasises high quality goods and services, and engaged and empowered workforces. Practices studied include those related to training and skills, participation, empowerment, and communication and compensation.

Some see these combinations as grouped into coherent ‘bundles’ of practices, eg practices that act together to enhance employee skills or involvement, and others have suggested that practices need to ‘fit’ with the business strategy of the firm, eg skill enhancement practices are best considered in an environment with high skill demands.