Recent years have witnessed burgeoning interest in the degree to which human resource systems contribute to organizational effectiveness. We argue that extant research has not fully considered important contextual conditions which moderate the efficacy of these practices. Specifically, we invoke a contingency perspective in proposing that industry characteristics affect the relative importance and value of high performance work practices (HPWPs). We test this proposition on a sample of non-diversified manufacturing firms. After controlling for the influence of a number of other factors, study findings support the argument that industry characteristics moderate the influence of HPWPs on firm productivity. Specifically, the impact of a system of HPWPs on firm productivity is significantly influenced by the industry conditions of capital intensity, growth and differentiation.