Line management attributions for effective HRM implementation. Towards a valid measurement instrument

Date08 March 2020
Publication Date08 March 2020
AuthorAnna Bos-Nehles,Beatrice Van der Heijden,Maarten Van Riemsdijk,Jan Kees Looise
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Industrial/labour relations,Employment law
Line management attributions for
effective HRM implementation
Towards a valid measurement instrument
Anna Bos-Nehles
Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences, University of Twente,
Enschede, The Netherlands
Beatrice Van der Heijden
Institute for Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen,
Nijmegen, The Netherlands;
Open University of the Netherlands, Nijmegen, The Netherlands;
Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium;
Hubei University, Wuhan, China and
Kingston University, London, UK
Maarten Van Riemsdijk
Saxion University of Applied Sciences, Deventer, The Netherlands, and
Jan Kees Looise
Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences, University of Twente,
Enschede, The Netherlands
Purpose Many HRM practices are never thoroughly implemented, or are implemented ineffectively. To
better understand what line managers need to implement HRM practices effectively, the authors have
developed and validated a psychometrically sound measurement instrument dealing with line managers
attributions for effective HRM implementation. Based on the theory of causal attributions, the authors
distinguish between internal and external attributions that determine how line managers implement HRM
practices on the work floor.
Design/methodology/approach A multidimensional approach has been used, and, after collecting data
from 471 line managers, thorough scale development guidelines and validation procedures have been applied
for instrument development.
Findings The instruments psychometric qualities have been assessed by calculating the reliability and
validity of line managersinternal attributions including its composing dimensions of desire and competences
and their external attributions including the dimensions of support, capacity and policy and procedures. In
particular, both convergent and discriminant validity as wellas intra-class correlations have been established.
The newly developed measures are found to beof good quality. The scales appear to discriminate well between
the distinguished groups and show a good variation within groups.
Practical implications The developed measurement instrument helps HRM professionals to better
understand line managersattributions to effectively implement HRM practices and to provide them with
support and training for effective HRM implementation.
attributions for
© Anna Bos-Nehles, Beatrice Van der Heijden, Maarten Van Riemsdijk and Jan Kees Looise. Published
by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution
(CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article
(for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and
authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at
The authors greatly appreciate the support and feedback on their paper that they have received
from Dr. Peter Geurts.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 8 October 2018
Revised 26 April 2019
7 August 2019
27 October 2019
Accepted 28 October 2019
Employee Relations: The
International Journal
Vol. 42 No. 3, 2020
pp. 735-760
Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/ER-10-2018-0263
Originality/value Previousresearch has already identified weaknesses in HRM implementation, but lacked
addressing the causes of this. The study presents antecedents for HRM implementation effectiveness, based on
the causal attribution theory, and a psychometrically validated instrument to measure these antecedents.
Keywords HRM implementation effectiveness, Line management, HRM practices, Causal attribution theory,
Measurement instrument
Paper type Research paper
In the past years, scholars have dedicated much attention to the process of human resource
management (HRM) (Bowen and Ostroff, 2004) and, in particular, to the process of
implementing HRM practices in the organization (Bondarouk et al., 2018;Guest and Bos-
Nehles, 2013;Vermeeren, 2014). In doing so, they addressed the gap between intended, actual
and perceived HRM practices (Khilji and Wang, 2006;Wright and Nishii, 2013) at the design,
implementation and experience levels (Makhecha et al., 2018). However, recently, authors
have stressed that trying to close the gap between intended and actual HRM practices does
not necessarily lead to effective HRM implementation. Instead, Bondarouk et al. (2018),in
their special issue, called for a process perspective on HRM implementation considering the
engaged usage of HRM practices. More specifically, if organizations want their designed HRM
practices to be implemented effectively, they need their line managers to engage in using
them on a regular basis, since they are the ones who are responsible for implementing them in
the organization (Bos-Nehles, Van Riemsdijk, and Looise, 2013;Gilbert et al., 2015).
Many scholars agree that line managers are crucial for the HRM implementation process
(Bondarouk et al., 2018;Van Waeyenberg and Decramer, 2018), and that the implementation
of HRM practices is as important for HRM effectiveness as the formulation and design of
these practices (Guest and Bos-Nehles, 2013). Not only HRM scholars but also HRM
practitioners understand that HRM implementation is not a theoretical convenience that
follows almost automatically(Barney, 2001, p. 53), but that poor implementation of high-
quality HRM practices can lead to ineffective HRM (Woodrow and Guest, 2014), or, more
positively, that good implementation by line managers can even rescue poor HRM practices
(Purcell and Hutchinson, 2007). Although we have reached a general acceptance that HRM
implementation is key to HRM effectiveness and that line managers need to have abilities,
motivation and opportunities to implement HRM practices effectively (Bos-Nehles et al., 2013;
Kellner et al., 2016;Van Waeyenberg and Decramer, 2018), we still lack a clear measurement
instrument that helps us to measure the reasons of line managers to engage in the HRM
implementation process. To encourage more comparable research about what line managers
need to implement HRM practices effectively, we need valid and validated measures.
Therefore, in this contribution, we aim to develop a theoretically grounded and
psychometrically sound measurement instrument for the identification of line managers
attributions for effective HRM implementation. To address the behaviours of line managers in
the HRM implementation process, we will apply the theory of causal attributions (Heider, 1958;
Kelley, 1967) to understand the causes of effective HRM implementation by line managers.
Knowing that line managersperformance is crucial for effective HRM implementation (Bos-
Nehles et al.,2013;Gilbert et al.,2015), this theory helps us to recognize the causes of line
managersactions that lead to effective HRM implementation. In this paper, we distinguish
between line managersinternal and external attributions for effective HRM implementation. We
do so by unravelling and distinguishing betweenthose effects that can be attributed to factors
that reside within the person of the line manager that is,internal attributions, such as their own
desire or competences to engage in HRM implementation from those that are external to the
line manager, namely, within the environment that is, external attributions suchas support of
HRM professionals or policies and procedures to implement HRM practices effectively.

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