How do human resource management practices affect employee well-being? A mediated moderation model

Publication Date04 Apr 2020
AuthorXinggui Zhang,Zhibin Lin,Yizhu Liu,Xiao Chen,David Ming Liu
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Industrial/labour relations,Employment law
How do human resource
management practices affect
employee well-being? A mediated
moderation model
Xinggui Zhang
School of Business, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou, China
Zhibin Lin
Durham University Business School, Durham, UK
Yizhu Liu and Xiao Chen
School of Business, Guangdong University of ForeignStudies, Guangzhou, China,and
David Ming Liu
George Fox University, Newberg, Oregon, USA
Purpose The study examines how human resource management practices (HRMPs) including ability
practice, motivation practice and opportunity practice affect employee well-being (EWB) including life well-
being, job well-being and psychological well-being in the Chinese cultural context.
Design/methodology/approach A sample of 529 employees from various industries in China participated
in the survey for this study. Data were analyzed using structural equation modeling.
FindingsThe findings indicate that HRMPs have a significant positive effect on EWB. Specifically, practices
based on ability, motivation and opportunity have a significant positive effect on job well-being, life well-being
and psychological well-being, respectively. Integrity leadership moderates the impact of HRMPs on EWB.
Organizational justice has a partial mediating effect on the relationship between HRMPs and EWB. Integrity
leadership moderates the mediation effect of organizational justice in the relationship between HRMPs
and EWB.
Practical implications Human resource policies and practices need to create a fair organizational
atmosphere, and managers implementing them must have integrity leadership. When selecting and promoting
managers, organizations should pay attention to not only a candidates ability but also his or her integrity.
Originality/value This study uncovers how the important roles of organizational justice and integrity
leadership act on the relationship between HRMPs and EWB, thus advancing our understanding of how
HRMPs can effectively increase EWB.
Keywords Human resource management practices, Employee well-being, Organizational justice, Integrity
leadership, Signaling theory
Paper type Research paper
Improving employee well-being (EWB) is an important human resource management issue
(Pawar, 2016;Huang et al., 2019). EWB is an essential part of employeesoverall life
satisfaction (Jaiswal and Dyaram, 2019). Employees who have high levels of well-being tend
to be more creative and highly engaged and achieve greater performance at work than those
who have low-level well-being (Khoreva and Wechtler, 2018). Consequently, EWB can
influence many organizational outcomes, such as productivity and profitability (Jaiswal and
Dyaram, 2019), and organizational resilience when encountering adversity (Huang et al.,
Effect of HRM
practices on
employee well-
This study was supported by grants from China National Social Science Fund (14BGL076) and the State
Key Program of National Natural Science of China (71832003).
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 9 August 2019
Revised 3 January 2020
25 February 2020
Accepted 4 March 2020
Employee Relations: The
International Journal
Vol. 42 No. 4, 2020
pp. 903-919
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/ER-08-2019-0320
2019). Surprisingly, organizations have traditionally focused on a high-performance work
system (HPWS), treating EWB as a supplementary factor in the organizational output
(Inceoglu et al., 2018) rather than part of the organizations mission. As a result, employees
may suffer from work overload and psychological anxiety, which is detrimental to
organizational performance (Peccei, 2004).
Scholars have examined the effect of human resource management practices (HRMPs) on
EWB to find a balance between organizational performance and EWB (Pecci, 2004;Van de
Voorde, 2009), but the results are conflicting. For example, Kooij et al. (2013) show that
HRMPs have a positive impact on EWB, while Peccei (2004) and Van de Voorde (2009) find
that HRMPs have a negative impact on EWB and Meyer and Smith (2000) report that there is
no significant relationship between HRMPs and EWB. Furthermore, there is no commonly
accepted conceptual framework that systematically explains the relationships between
HRMPs and EWB. Researchers have attempted to introduce some mediation variables to
explain the relationships between HRMPs and EWB, such as job requirements (Pecci, 2004),
job involvement (Huang et al., 2016) and organizational justice (Heffernan and Dundon, 2016).
Additionally, researchers have also introduced some moderator variables, such as employees
age (Kooij et al., 2013), employeestrust toward employer (Alfes et al., 2012) and perceived
superior and organizational support (Kuvaas and Dysvik, 2010).
This study aims to advance our understanding of the effects of HRMPs on EWB by
further examining the mediating and moderating variables. The mediating variable in our
conceptual model is organizational justice, which is a key benchmark for organizational
climate. Heffernan and Dundon (2016) suggest that organizational justice might alleviate the
tension between job satisfaction and organizational promise and provide a buffer zone
between HPWS and EWB. The moderating variable in our conceptual model is integrity
leadership (IL). Based on signaling theory (Connelly et al., 2011), we propose that HRMPs
serve as signals from the organization while leaders act as the transmitters of the signals.
Previous researchers studying the relationship between leadership behavior and EWB have
focused on change-oriented style (e.g. transaction and transformation styles) and relationship
style (e.g. empowerment and leader and member exchange styles), with little attention given
to task-oriented leadership style such as IL (Inceoglu et al., 2018).
In this study, we draw upon previous literature and two major theories, the signaling
theory (Connelly et al., 2011) and ability, motivation and opportunity (AMO) theory (Paauwe,
2009), to develop a conceptual framework for empirical testing. Data were collected from a
sample of employees from various industries in China. The study contributes to the literature
in four ways. First, the study examines HRMPs from three dimensions, that is, ability-,
motivation- and opportunity-enhancing practices. Second, the study adopts an integrative
approach to studying EWB, combining hedonic with eudaimonic approaches to investigate
EWB. Third, our study highlights the role leaders can play in fostering the positive outcomes
of HRMPs, specifically, we reveal the moderation effect of IL. Finally, the study uncovers the
role of organizational justice in mediating the impact of HRMPs on EWB. The findings of the
study have important implications for HR managers.
Theoretical framework and hypotheses
HRMPs refers to a chain of activities in acquiring, allocating and utilizing organizational
resources to improve the value of human capital and its value in use (Budhwar et al., 2007).
One of the predominant definitions of HRMPs applies a strategic perspective and emphasizes
the synergetic effect among single HR practices, which is also termed as a high-performance
work system (HPWS) (Wright and McMahan, 1992). Consequently, most scholars tend to use
a composite score to represent HRMPs as a unidimensional construct (Wall and Wood, 2005).

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