High-involvement HRM practices and innovative work behavior among production-line workers: mediating role of employee's functional flexibility

Publication Date30 Mar 2020
AuthorMuhammad Yasir,Abdul Majid
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Industrial/labour relations,Employment law
High-involvement HRM practices
and innovative work behavior
among production-line workers:
mediating role of employees
functional flexibility
Muhammad Yasir and Abdul Majid
Department of Management Sciences, Hazara University, Mansehra, Pakistan
Purpose Following AMOframework and resource-based theory (RBT), the current study empirically
examines the relationships between high-involvement human resource management (HI HRM) practices,
employee functional flexibility (FF) and innovative work behavior (IWB). Furthermore, the mediating effect of
FF has also been tested.
Design/methodology/approach Descriptive statistics, correlation, hierarchical regression analysis, baron
and Kenny, PROCESS Macro and Sobel Test approach were used on a sample of 894 employees of
manufacturing concerns.
Findings Findings revealed a direct effect of HI HRM practices on FF and IWB. In addition, the results
confirm that FF positively mediates between HI HRM practices and IWB. Furthermore, three dimensions of HI
HRM practices, i.e. ability-enhancing (AE), motivation-enhancing (ME) and opportunity-enhancing (OE) HRM
practices also predicted FF and IWB.
Practical implications This study not only offers the empirical evidence to validate the findings of past
researchers, but also provide insight how HI HRM practices flourish the mechanism of FF in manufacturing
concerns. Furthermore, this study highlighted some interesting facts that should be meaningful options for HR
managers to enhance the level of employeesFF and IWB.
Originality/value Although the empirical evidence is well established that HI HRM practices have a
substantial contribution for organizational performance, however, there is lack of studies that empirically
examine the associations among HI HRM practices, employees competencies and behaviors, as well as the
mechanism through which HI HRM practices affect work related innovative behavior. Finally, in
distinguishing from the past studies, this study explores HI HRM practices as an important predictor of FF
in addressing the IWB.
Keywords High involvement HRM practices, Functional flexibility, Innovative work behavior
Paper type Research paper
Innovation plays a strategic role for organizations in todays highly competitive business
world (Janssen et al., 2006;Waleed Omri, 2015). In order to cope with emerging competitive
challenges, organizations are intensely dependent on their innovation processes
(Martinez-Conesa et al., 2017;Pham, 2020). In competitive business world, competencies
and resources are significant factors that empower organizations for successful innovation
processes (Subramaniam and Youndt, 2005;Javed et al., 2019). The intellectual capital-based
view (Reed et al., 2006) propounded that innovative capabilities of an organization largely
depend on the competencies of its members (Subramaniam and Youndt, 2005), along with
organizations ability to develop and promote them effectively (Martin- de Castro, 2015).
There are various HR practices that have constructive role for the development of individual
competencies and are essential for innovative behavior. Previous studies considerably
highlighted and discussed IWB; however, the question still exists about its pre-conditions
and determinants. HI HRM practices emerged as a major HRM strategy for the development
practices and
work behavior
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 22 February 2018
Revised 21 November 2018
13 March 2019
19 May 2019
26 February 2020
Accepted 26 February 2020
Employee Relations: The
International Journal
Vol. 42 No. 4, 2020
pp. 883-902
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/ER-02-2018-0061
of human resource competencies and promotion of IWB. Resource-based theory (RBT)
proposed by Barney (1991) explained firm as a bundle of unique resources. According to this
theory, individual competencies are the unique resources that induce individuals to think out
of the box and perform extra-role behavior (Yousaf et al., 2019). The AMO model suggested
by Appelbaum et al. (2000) highlighted the significance of HR practices (Guthrie, 2001;Lepak
et al., 2006). According to this model, there are three HI HRM practices that encourage
individual to behave in a certain way. These practices include: AE-HR practices, ME-HR
practices and OE-HR practices. These HI HRM practices are fundamental practices to develop
employees competencies and improve their innovative behavior (Preenen et al., 2017). The
direct link between HI HRM practices and IWB is rarely discussed in existing body of
knowledge; therefore, this is one of the key areas that claim an in-depth inquiry to recognize
the clear association between these two variables, and the purpose of this research is to
address this gap.
Although HI HRM practices have critical role for IWB of an individual (Shin et al., 2016),
however, this does not mean that employees demonstrate IWB without the required
competencies. HI HRM practices are crucial but not sufficient to affect IWB directly. There is
a need to understand the internal mechanism that might be involved in this relationship.
Therefore, we contended that inclusion of FF of employees as a mediator may provide an
explanatory power to this relationship. However, in the existing literature, availability of an
applied framework for IWB via FF is still missing. Acknowledging this gap, we make efforts
to empirically examine how and when HI HRM practices have an optimistic effect on
employee FF. To achieve this task, we focus on the procedure by which HI HRM practices
promote employee FF.
HI HRM practices consist of HR practices employed by organizations that view human
resources as a strategic asset and have a strong effect on shaping the skills and behavior of
human resources for better performance at the workplace (Guthrie, 2001;Vazquez-Bustelo,
Avella, 2019). HI HRM practices are a key mechanism for the development of employees
abilities and motivation to perform multiple and diverse tasks. The primary approach
adopted by the management practitioners for the development of the workforce to perform
multiple and diverse tasks in a dynamic environment is termed as FF (Jiron and Imilan, 2015;
Atkinson, 1984).
Surprisingly, only few studies especially in manufacturing concerns empirically validated
the role of individual level competencies for the enhancement of innovation process (Dul et al.,
2011;Veenendaal and Bondarouk, 2015). In manufacturing businesses, innovation is not the
sole responsibility of managerial staff (Shin et al., 2016). Operational-level workers/employees
are equally important for initiating and implementing new ideas for innovation (Raymond
and St-Pierre, 2010). Recent deliberation on the involvement of employees in innovation
activities, known as employee-driven innovation (Kesting and Ulhoi, 2010) and suggested
that, if properly developed, workers can display innovative behavior (Evans and Waite,
2010). Moreover, according to Hoyrup (2010), employee-driven innovation is important for
manufacturing businesses where production workers are required to involve in the process of
innovation. Therefore, the current study focuses on the domain of workerscapabilities to
explain the link between HI HRM practices and IWB. The conceptual model centered on logic
that links how competencies of employees are developed (HI HRM practices), to what extent
employees should do (FF),what employees can do (IWB). IWBswhat employees can dois
based on HR practices that promote employees competencies and make them able to go
beyond the work-role. Therefore, the aims of the current study are to empirically explain: to
what extent HI HRM practices predict IWB. How HI HRM practices shape employees FF? To
what extent dimensions of HI HRM practices predict FF and IWB? To what extent FF
mediates between HI HRM practices and IWB?

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