High performance work systems provide the means for creating a performance culture. They embody ways of thinking about performance in organizations and how it can be improved. They are concerned with developing and implementing bundles of complementary practices, which as an integrated whole will make a much more powerful impact on performance than if they were dealt with as separate entities. Becker et al (2001: 19) pointed out that: ‘In an HPWS a firm’s HR policies and practices show a strong alignment with the firm’s competitive strategy and operational goals’.
As defined by Appelbaum et al (2000), high performance work systems are comprised of practices that can facilitate employee involvement, skill enhancement and motivation. Research conducted by Armitage and Keble- Allen (2007) indicated that people management basics formed the foundation of high performance working. They identified three themes underpinning the HPWS concept:
- An open and creative culture that is people-centred and inclusive, where decision-taking is communicated and shared through the
- Investment in people through education and training, loyalty, inclusiveness and flexible working.
- Measurable performance outcomes such as benchmarking and setting targets, as well as innovation through processes and best practice.
Sung and Ashton (2005) defined what they call high performance work practices as a set of 35 complementary work practices covering three broad areas: high employee involvement work practices; human resource practices; and reward and commitment practices. They refer to them as ‘bundles’ of practices.