Proponents of the resource-based view (RBV) of the firm have identified human resource management (HRM) and human capital as organizational resources that can contribute to sustainable competitive success. A number of empirical studies have documented the relationship between systems of human resource policies and practices and firm performance. The mechanisms by which HRM leads to firm performance, however, remain largely unexplored. In this study, we explore the pathways leading from HRM to firm performance. Specifically, we use structural equation modeling to test a model positing a set of causal relationships between high performance work systems (HPWS), employee retention, workforce productivity and firm market value. Within a set of manufacturing firms, results indicate the primary impact of HPWS on productivity and market value is through its influence on employee retention.