High Performance Work Systems( HPWS) are organizations that adopt a radically different approach to management. The fundamental of this approach is drastically changed employer-employee relationship. Theoretically speaking, these systems are guided by motivated and competent workforce that is committed towards organizational growth and development. At the same time, organization should provide required opportunities to the staff so that they contribute as per the requirement. It includes exploring their true potential and put it to the optimum use. In that sense, HPWS is the effort on both ends, employers as well as employees.
Given the high rate of dynamism and stiff competition in present day business environment, the need of HPWS is quite obvious. The research has stated that there is a clear association between organizational performance and high performance working. This is the reason HR managers are innovating different ways of better employees' engagement, one of the fundamentals behind the success of HPWS.
However, the implementation of HPWS involved plethora of challenges. First of all, HPWS requires measuring the performance but it was a big challenge for managers to measure it in quantitative terms. Especially with the expansion and joining of more employees into the system, performance measurement became tedious.
Secondly, it becomes difficult for leaders to maintain a focus in a fast growing organization. This was experienced in Macphie of Glenbervie Ltd., another organization in UK, engaged in manufacturing food ingredients. As the company hired more employees, leaders lost the focus because new employees were unknown to the organization's culture. In addition, supervising more people minutely in terms of performance was a challenge in itself. To counter it, Macphie introduced 'self-service' approach to training that helped overcome the problem to an extent.
The next problem faced by both companies, Content & Code and Macphie , was linking performance management to the job description. For instance, Macphie, in an attempt to maintain the quality of products , reduced the volume that resulted in lesser supplies compared to the market demand. To keep that up, more employees were hired leading to higher costs for the company.
Other than the specific issues that vary organization to organization, implementing HPWS involves general problems, as well. It is a complete model whose key components are, employees' competence, motivation, commitment, and opportunity to contribute. It is of no use to offer opportunities to the de-motivated workforce. At the same time, it is not advantageous to have the competent and motivated staff that is not being utilized to the optimum. Having all these components in place is itself a major challenge. As per the research from Talent and Career Management Company, the biggest HR problem in UK in 2013 was the lack of employees' engagement. Given this scenario, organizations opting for High Performance Work Systems must have a set of strategies aimed at motivating and retaining employees. At the same time, they need to have required monitoring and regulation system to avoid a conflict between job description and performance management.
Flood, Patrick C. New Models of High Performance Work Systems: The Business Case for Strategic HRM. Dublin: Equality Authority and National Centre for Performance and Partnership, 2008.
Murray, Gregor. Work and Employment Relations in High Performance Workplace. New York: Psychology Press, 2002.
Sung, J. and D. Ashton. High Performance Work Practices: Linking Strategy and Skills to Perfromance Outcomes. London: Department of Trade and Industry, 2013.