The Future in High-Performance HR

It’s important to think about the future.

No, this isn’t an article about innovative hiring strategies or the best applicant tracking technologies. That article would have been called something like “The Future of High-Performance HR.”


This article is about thinking about the future—more specifically, how thinking about the future determines the success of HR systems.



The impact of HR systems

How do we know if HR systems achieve desired outcomes?

Some core systems are easier to test.

Do they make a process more efficient, cost-effective, or compliant with laws and regulations? The answer is pretty much yes or no.


But what about HR systems that aim to directly influence workers?

Do they increase employee engagement, happiness, or productivity? The answer is a bit more difficult to determine.


Researchers face a number of complex issues. For example, there can be questions of cause and effect. Many of the most successful and well-managed organizations use high-performance HR systems. Is their success a result of using high-performance HR systems, or are successful and well-managed organizations simply more likely to adopt high-performance HR systems in the first place?

Even though we’re pretty sure it’s not just coincidence, HR systems don’t always have the same beneficial effects. Why?


The missing link

Most research tests a very simplistic model:

It’s basically just looking for a link between adopting an HR system and an increase in desired outcomes.

What’s missing?


Recent research may have just uncovered the answer:

Simply putting high-performance HR systems in place isn’t enough to change attitudes.

The benefits come when employees believe that something good can or will happen in the future.


The researchers provided evidence for 3 different examples:

  • KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities)—HR systems designed to enhance KSAs only increase satisfaction and loyalty when employees believe that they will be gaining useful KSAs in the future.
  • Motivation—HR systems designed to enhance motivation only increase satisfaction and loyalty when employees believe that the new system will really motivate people in the future.
  • Promotion and advancement—HR systems for promotion and advancement only increase satisfaction and loyalty when employees believe that they will be promoted or advanced in the future.


Employees really want something to look forward to.

There are benefits to adopting the best HR systems—but there are even greater benefits when employees know that they can expect good things.




Image credits: Steve Johnson, Salvatore Vastano

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