[Excerpt] For decades, human resource strategists have relied on HR theorists and researchers to generate insights to help them hone their craft. For much of this time the focus has been on defining and refining an HR strategy – a bundle of integrated HR activities – that would help firms attain their business goals. The product of these efforts, often referred to as a high commitment human resource (HCHR) system (or sometimes a high performance work system), contains the following elements: the careful selection of employees, well-developed internal labor markets, high levels of workforce autonomy and participation, significant investments in training and development, and financial (often teambased) incentives. Research has shown that the power of HCHR systems lies in their capacity to create and enhance employee-based resources (attributes and behaviors) that contribute to the attainment of competitive advantage in the marketplace and, thus, to superior financial returns.
Recently, HR theorists have come to recognize that while the path from HCHR system to employee-based resources to firm performance is important, there might be ways to enhance its effects even further. One approach, they suggest, is to assure that line managers have the capabilities they need to properly deploy and utilize the carefully crafted configurations of employee-based resources that a well-designed HCHR system delivers. Studies focusing on financial and physical resources suggest that this may be the case. Thus far, though, this notion has not been tested using employee-based resources.