CAN WE SPEAK OF A HIGH COMMITMENT MANAGEMENT ON THE SHOP FLOOR?*

Authors


Address for reprints: Stephen Wood, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK.

ABSTRACT

The Commitment model à la Walton has been a key element in conceptions of human resource management (HRM). Is there though any evidence of its application to production workers? Drawing on the HRM literature the authors first develop some measures of practices which might be thought to contribute to high commitment management (HCM). Having acquired data on the extent to which organizations adopt these practices the authors then, using latent variable analysis, assess whether there is a common structure underlying it which represents some kind of HCM-type approach to labour. In so doing they develop a construct to measure HCM relevant to manual workers. Basing the analysis on data from a representative sample of manufacturing plants in the UK, they conclude that HCM is being practised, albeit to a very varying degree.

The research also reveals a growth in the use of HCM practices between 1986 and 1990, and that this has been mainly in practices already popular in 1986; hence the increased use of HCM has been more in plants for whom it was relatively insignificant in 1986, rather than a further heightening of its significance in plants for which it was important before. Using multiple regression analysis, the authors are also able to show that organizational factors rather than factors exogenous to the organization are significantly related to both the level of HCM, and its rate of change between 1986 and 1990. of overwhelming importance is the extent of the strategic integration of personnel management. the authors draw out the relevance of the study for the wider debate about HRM. In particular the results add some support for Walton's and Guest's universalistic theories of HCM, as opposed to what have been called matching or contingency theories of HCM, according to which it is only likely to be found in specific contexts where, for example, high quality is important for competitive advantage.

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