Publication Date

January 2003


[Excerpt] In response to the longstanding and repeated criticisms that HR does not add value to organizations, the past 10 years has seen a burgeoning of research attempting to demonstrate that progressive HR practices result in higher organizational performance. Huselid’s (1995)groundbreaking study demonstrated that a set of HR practices he referred to as High Performance Work Systems (HPWS) were related to accounting profits and market value of firms. Since then, a number of studies have shown similar positive relationships between HR practices and various measures of firm performance.

While the studies comprising what I refer to as “first generation SHRM research” have added to what is becoming a more convincing body of evidence of the positive relationship between HR and performance, this body tends to lack sufficient data to demonstrate that the relationship is actually causal in the sense that HR practices, when instituted, lead to higher performance. This next generation of SHRM research will begin (and, in fact has begun) to focus on designing more rigorous tests of the hypothesis that employing progressive HRM systems actually results in higher organizational performance. This generation of research will focus on two aspects: demonstrating the HRM value chain, and proving causality as opposed to merely covariation.


Suggested Citation
Wright, P. M. (2003). Next generation SHRM research: From covariation to causation (CAHRS Working Paper #03-01). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.