A high performance strategy sets out the aspirations and intentions of the organization on how it can achieve competitive advantage by improving performance through people, and spells out how those aspirations and intentions will be attained. The aim is to support the achievement of the organization’s strategic objectives by means of high performance work systems (HPWS) as described in this chapter. Becker et al (2001: 13) stated that: ‘In an HPWS, each element of the HR system is designed to maximize the overall quality of the human capital throughout the organization’. They also claimed that: ‘An HPWS is a strategy implementation system embedded with the firm’s larger strategy implementation system’ (ibid: 18).
High performance work systems are also known as high performance work practices (Sung and Ashton, 2005). Thompson and Heron (2005: 1029–30) refer to them as high performance work organizations, which ‘invest in the skills and abilities of employees, design work in ways that enable employee collaboration in problem-solving, and provide incentives to motivate workers to use their discretionary effort’.
There is much common ground between the practices included in high performance, high commitment and high involvement work systems as described in Chapter 8. Sung and Ashton (2005: 8) noted that:
In some cases high performance work practices are called ‘high commitment practices’ (Walton, 1985) or ‘high involvement management’ (Lawler, 1986). More recently they have been termed ‘high performance organizations’ (Lawler et al, 1998, Ashton and Sung, 2002) or ‘high involvement’ work practices (Wood et al, 2001). Whilst these studies are referring to the same general phenomena the use of different ‘labels’ has undoubtedly added to the confusion.