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ARE HIGH-PERFORMANCE HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES
IN ORGANIZATIONS CREATIVE OR NONCREATIVE?
YU HOU, BEI HU, AND MATTIULLAH BUTT
Huazhong University of Science and Technology
Researchers have found that high-performance human resource practices (HPHRP) are
positively related to good firm performance and sustainable competitive advantage; however,
there is not substantial evidence about their effect on individual creativity. We examined
the relationship between HPHRP and individual creativity with a sample of 466 employees
of high-tech industries in China. Findings showed that HPHRP had an inverse U-shaped
relationship with individual creativity, which was positively moderated by proactive
personality. When the employee had a very proactive personality, the positive relationship
between human resource practices that were not high performance and individual creativity,
and the negative relationship between HPHRP and individual creativity escalated. Evidence
also supported a mediation effect of intrinsic motivation on the interaction effect of HPHRP,
proactive personality, and individual creativity.
Keywords: high performance human resource practice, individual creativity, intrinsic
motivation, proactive personality.
During the past 20 years, the notion of best practice in human resource
management has received a lot of attention (Jiang & Liu, 2015). High-
performance human resource practices (HPHRP) comprise best practices,
such as selective staffing, extensive training, internal mobility, employment
security, clear job description, result-oriented appraisal, incentive reward, and
participation (Sun et al., 2007), all of which result in good firm performance and
sustainable competitive advantage, through enhancing the skills of the workforce
and increasing employees’ participation in decision making and their motivation
SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND PERSONALITY, 2017, 45(2), 243–252
© 2017 Scientific Journal Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.
Yu Hou, Bei Hu, and Mattiullah Butt, School of Management, Huazhong University of Science and
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Yu Hou, School of Management,
Huazhong University of Science and Technology, No. 1037 Luoyu Road, Wuhan 430074, People’s
Republic of China. Email: email@example.com
HIGH-PERFORMANCE HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES
to put forth discretionary effort (Appelbaum, Bailey, Berg, & Kalleberg, 2000;
Mitchell, Obeidat, & Bray, 2013; Sun, Aryee, & Law, 2007).
HPHRP is positively related to organizational performance (Combs, Liu,
Hall, & Ketchen, 2006; Mitchell et al., 2013; Sun et al., 2007), and employee
performance has also been posited as an important mediator in this relationship
(Lepak, Liao, Chung, & Harden, 2006). Some scholars have emphasized the
positive impact of HPHRP on performance (Zhong, 2013), organizational
citizenship behavior (Wei, Han, & Hsu, 2010), and job satisfaction (Takeuchi,
Chen, & Lepak, 2009). However, there have been few studies conducted on this
topic (Chiang et al., 2015). Individual creativity refers to the generation of new
and useful ideas by individual workers and has been suggested as a precursor of
organizational innovations (Amabile, 1988; Woodman, Sawyer, & Griffin, 1993).
It remains to be explored whether there is a positive influence of HPHRP on
individual creativity, and through what mechanism HPHRP enhances employees’
Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses
High-Performance Human Resource Practices and Individual Creativity
In early creativity models, relevant skills and motivation were set forth as
major components necessary for individual creativity (Amabile, 1988; Woodman
et al., 1993). When employees are experienced, they are capable of using their
knowledge and capability to engage in innovation (Branzei & Vertinsky, 2006).
Thus, employees who experience HPHRP may perform with greater creativity
(Binyamin & Carmeli, 2010; Chiang et al., 2015; Ehrnrooth & Björkman, 2012).
However HPHRP does not always have positive outcomes. In motivation
crowding theory, it is proposed that a performance-dependent compensation
scheme may diminish intrinsic motivation (Frey & Jegen, 2001). The effects of
performance- or completion-contingent rewards on creative performance tend to
be negative to a small degree (Byron & Khazanchi, 2012). Topcic, Baum, and
Kabst (2016) suggested that the relationship between challenge demand work
practice (e.g., performance evaluation systems) and individual perceived stress
was positive, which indicated a potential downside of HPHRP.
These conflicting findings indicate that the relationship between HPHRP and
individual creativity may not be simply linear. In addition, incentive intensity
may fail to induce employees to provide more effort beyond reference income
(Pokorny, 2008), that is, beyond the point from which incomes are evaluated,
such as the income the employee expects or perceives to be appropriate. Beyond
this reference point the slope of the utility function flattens. There is also evidence
to suggest that, although moderate job insecurity can make work interesting,
excessive job insecurity may lead to employee stress and may impede innovation
(Yang & Zhang, 2012). We therefore formed the following hypothesis:
HIGH-PERFORMANCE HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES 245
Hypothesis 1: High-performance human resource practices will have an inverse
U-shaped relationship with individual creativity.
The Moderation Effect of Proactive Personality
Proactive personality is a stable personality trait related to taking personal
initiative and behaving proactively (Bergeron, Schroeder, & Martinez, 2014).
People with a proactive personality identify opportunities and act on them, and
persevere until meaningful change occurs (Crant, 2000). Proactive employees
are more motivated to engage in idea generation than are reactive employees
because they constantly look for better (i.e., novel and/or useful) solutions to
improve their current circumstances (Ng & Feldman, 2013). Therefore, proactive
personality may positively relate to individual creativity (Jiang & Gu, 2015).
According to the interactionist model of creative behavior proposed by
Woodman et al. (1993), both contextual influences and personality factors are
related to individual creativity, which implies an interaction effect between
HPHRP and proactive personality on individual creativity. We suggested a
moderation effect of proactive personality on the relationship between HPHRP
and individual creativity. Especially among proactive employees, in contrast
to those whose personality is less proactive, there may be a more positive
relationship between human resource practices with a lower performance level
and individual creativity, and a more negative relationship between HPHRP and
individual creativity. Thus we proposed the following:
Hypothesis 2: Proactive personality will positively influence individual creativity.
Hypothesis 3: Proactive personality will moderate the relationship between
high-performance human resource practices and individual creativity such that
individual creativity will be more sensitive to high-performance human resource
practices among employees with a proactive personality compared to employees
whose personality is less proactive.
The Mediation Effect of Intrinsic Motivation
Based on cognitive evaluation theory, social-contextual events (e.g., feedback,
communications, rewards) that are conducive toward feelings of competence
and autonomy during action can enhance intrinsic motivation for that action
(Ryan & Deci, 2000). This implies that HPHRP impacts employees’ intrinsic
motivation either directly (Appelbaum et al., 2000; Sun et al., 2007) or through
practices that enhance the skills of the workforce and increase their participation
in decision making. In addition, in early creativity models, intrinsic motivation
was identified as an important driver of individual creativity (Amabile, 1988;
Grant & Berry, 2011). Thus we considered intrinsic motivation to be a mediator
between HPHRP and individual creativity.
In cognitive evaluation theory, it is also suggested that either immediate
contextual supports for autonomy and competence, or abiding inner resources
HIGH-PERFORMANCE HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES
are required for intrinsic motivation to be evident (Ryan & Deci, 2000). This
indicates that the interaction effect between HPHRP and proactive personality
may fuel intrinsic motivation, thus affecting individual creativity. A mediation
role of intrinsic motivation was also suggested in a recent study by Zhang, Long,
Wu, and Huang (2015), in which the results showed that intrinsic motivation
mediated the moderating effects among pay for performance, the ties and trust
inherent in social interaction (guanxi) in human resource management practice,
trust in management, and creativity. We therefore proposed the following
Hypothesis 4: Intrinsic motivation will mediate the relationship between high-
performance human resource practices and individual creativity.
Hypothesis 5: The interaction effect of high-performance human resource
practices and proactive personality of the employees will influence individual
creativity through the mediation effect of intrinsic motivation.
Participants and Procedures
In order to ensure that HPHRP was in place and was a reality for the
individuals who took part in our study, we asked employees in high-tech
industries to participate voluntarily in a self-rating survey, which we conducted
in the provinces of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Hubei, Jiangsu, Zhejiang,
Liaoning, and Henan in China. For the survey, we combined convenience and
snowball sampling methods. We selected the first group of participants from
individuals in the social network of the researchers, after which, the people in this
group recommended more candidates who would fit the criteria.
Of the 750 survey forms we distributed, 466 were returned (response rate
= 62.1%). Of the 466 respondents, 50.2% were women and 49.8% were men.
Regarding their level of education, 20 (4.29%) were junior high school graduates
or below, 46 (9.87%) were senior high school graduates, 285 (61.16%) held a
senior college or bachelor degree, and 115 (24.68%) held a master’s degree or
higher academic qualification. In terms of employment tenure, 31.5% had been
employed in their current position for less than 3 years, 30.3% had tenure of
between 3 and 7 years, 23.6%, for between 7 and 15 years, and 14.6% had been
working in their current position for more than 15 years. Of the respondents,
8.4% were aged younger than 25 years, 45.3% from 25 to 29 years, 22.1% from
30 to 39 years, 15.5% from 40 to 49 years, and 8.8% were 50 years or older.
Drawing on previously validated measures, all instruments used in this study
were developed in English and translated into Chinese. To assure linguistic
HIGH-PERFORMANCE HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES 247
equivalence between the English and Chinese versions, two experienced
bilingual researchers performed a back-translation procedure (Brislin, 1980). We
used 5-point Likert scales to measure HPHRP, intrinsic motivation, proactive
personality, and individual creativity, with response options ranging from 1 =
strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree.
High-performance human resource practices. To measure HPHRP we used
27 items developed by Sun et al. (2007) in the Chinese context ( = .97). The
HPHRP Scale consists of eight subscales: selective staffing, extensive training,
internal mobility, employment security, clear job description, result-oriented
appraisal, incentive reward, and participation. A sample item is “Great effort is
taken to select the right person.” Drawing on the study by Sun et al. (2007), the
average value of the total 27 items was used to represent the level of performance
in human resource practices.
Individual creativity. We used four items from Baer and Oldham (2006) to
measure individual creativity ( = .91). A sample item is “I often come up with
creative solutions to problems at work.”
Intrinsic motivation. Four items from Grant (2008) were used to measure
intrinsic motivation ( = .93). A sample item is “I enjoy the work itself.”
Proactive personality. Proactive personality was assessed with a 10-item scale
( = .95) developed by Seibert, Crant, and Kraimer (1999). A sample item is
“Wherever I have been, I have been a powerful force for change.”
Control variables. To reduce the likelihood that employees’ demographic
characteristics would confound the relationships examined, four demographic
characteristics were measured and controlled in this study, gender (1 = male, 2
= female), education (1 = junior high school and below, 2 = senior high school,
3 = senior college or bachelor degree, 4 = master’s degree or above), tenure (1 =
under 3 years, 2 = 3–7 years, 3 = 7–15 years, 4 = more than 15 years), and age
(1 = 24 years or younger, 2 = 25–29 years, 3 = 30–39 years, 4 = 40–49 years,
5 = 50 years or older).
To test our hypotheses, data were analyzed using multiple regression analysis.
The mediation effect of intrinsic motivation was tested in three steps, (1) a
significant relationship between independent variable and dependent variable,
(2) a significant relationship between independent variable and mediator
(intrinsic motivation), and (3) the relationship between independent variable
and dependent variable decreasing or losing significance when the mediator is
added to the equation (Baron & Kenny, 1986). To control the effects of multicol-
linearity, the independent variables in the regression equation were standardized
(Chen, Tsui, & Farh, 2012).
HIGH-PERFORMANCE HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES
The results of confirmatory factor analysis showed that the hypothesized
11-factor model yielded a good fit according to normed fit index (NFI),
comparative fit index (CFI), and root mean square residual (RMR), where 2/
df = 1.60, NFI = .93, CFI = .97, RMR = .03, and that this model was a better fit
than the one-factor model where 2/df = 11.80, NFI = .45, CFI = .47, RMR =
.12. This suggested a good discriminant validity of the scales and hence common
method bias was not a serious threat (Harris & Mossholder, 1996). The means,
standard deviations, and Pearson correlations of all variables are presented in
Table 1, where the results show that HPHRP, intrinsic motivation, and individual
creativity were moderately correlated to one another.
Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations of Study Variables
Variable M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1. Gender 1.50 0.50
2. Education 3.06 0.72 -0.05
3. Tenure 2.21 1.05 -0.02 -0.48***
4. Age 2.71 1.10 -0.02 -0.51*** 0.78***
5. HPHRP 3.22 0.72 -0.05 0.09* 0.01 -0.01
motivation 3.07 0.91 0.09* 0.04 0.11* 0.11* 0.40***
personality 3.46 0.72 -0.08 0.07 0.05 -0.01 0.48*** 0.20***
creativity 3.23 0.85 0.04 0.02 0.06 0.05 0.42*** 0.58*** 0.17***
Note. HPHRP = high-performance human resource practices; N = 466; * p ≤ .05, ** p ≤ .01, *** p ≤
Table 2 shows the results of multiple regression analysis. In Model 6, HPHRP2
( = -.26, p ≤ .001) had a negative impact on individual creativity, but in Model
5, the effect of proactive personality on individual creativity was not significant.
Thus Hypothesis 1 was supported whereas Hypothesis 2 was not supported.
In Model 8 the interaction effect of HPHRP2 and proactive personality
( = -.11, p ≤ .001) was found to have a significant negative effect on individual
creativity (ΔR2 = .04, p ≤ .001), supporting Hypothesis 3.
After controlling intrinsic motivation in Model 9 (ΔR2 = .11, p ≤ .001) and
Model 10 (ΔR2 = .08, p ≤ .001), the effect of HPHRP2 ( = -.14, p ≤ .001) in
Model 9 and the interaction effect of HPHRP2 and proactive personality ( =
-.08, p ≤ .001) in Model 10 on individual creativity decreased, compared with
values from Models 6 and 8, respectively, which supported the mediation effect
proposed in Hypotheses 4 and 5.
HIGH-PERFORMANCE HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES 249
Table 2. Results of Regression Analysis
Intrinsic motivation Individual creativity
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4 Model 5 Model 6 Model 7 Model 8 Model 9 Model 10
Gender 0.12** 0.04 0.06 0.05 0.07 -0.00 0.01 -0.01 -0.02 -0.02
Education 0.09 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.02 -0.02 -0.02 -0.03 -0.04 -0.04
Tenure 0.06 0.10 0.10 0.11 0.05 0.08 0.08 0.10 0.04 0.06
Age 0.12 0.00 -0.01 -0.02 0.02 -0.07 -0.08 -0.09 -0.08 -0.09
PP 0.01 0.06 0.10* 0.22*** -0.04 0.00 0.02 0.18** -0.02 0.10*
HPHRP 0.39*** 0.23*** 0.18*** 0.26*** 0.44*** 0.31*** 0.28*** 0.38*** 0.21*** 0.28***
HPHRP2 -0.31*** -0.41*** -0.40*** -0.26*** -0.32*** -0.30*** -0.14*** -0.16***
HPHRP*PP 0.16*** 0.07 0.08* -0.03 -0.06
HPHRP2*PP -0.08*** -0.11*** -0.08***
IM 0.41*** 0.37***
R2 0.19 0.35 0.37 0.40 0.19 0.30 0.31 0.35 0.41 0.43
Adjusted R2 0.18 0.34 0.36 0.38 0.18 0.29 0.30 0.34 0.40 0.42
ΔR2 0.16*** 0.15*** 0.03*** 0.03*** 0.18*** 0.11*** 0.01* 0.04*** 0.11*** 0.08***
Note. HPHRP = high-performance human resource practices, PP = proactive personality, IM = intrinsic motivation. N = 466; * p ≤ .05, ** p ≤ .01,
*** p ≤ .001.
HIGH-PERFORMANCE HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES
Focusing on the impact of HPHRP on individual creativity, we found that there
was an inverse U-shaped relationship between HPHRP and individual creativity,
which was moderated by proactive personality and mediated by intrinsic
motivation. Additionally, intrinsic motivation also mediated the impact of the
interaction of HPHRP and proactive personality on individual creativity.
Our findings in this study contribute to the literature in several ways. First,
our findings indicate that HPHRP does not always fuel individual creativity. On
one hand, even though human resource practices may have a positive impact
on individual creativity when the level of performance is lower, HPHRP may
even diminish intrinsic motivation and may negatively affect creativity, which
is similar to Frey and Jegen’s (2001) statement that a performance-dependent
compensation scheme may diminish intrinsic motivation. On the other hand, in
previous studies, researchers have claimed that the relationship between HPHRP
and individual creativity was positive (Binyamin & Carmeli, 2010; Chiang et al.,
2015; Ehrnrooth & Björkman, 2012). However, the results in the present study
provide empirical evidence that excessively high performance human resource
practices may even have a negative effect on individual creativity.
Second, these findings show that intrinsic motivation is the core mechanism
bridging HPHRP and individual creativity. Intrinsic motivation has long been
considered an important antecedent of individual creativity (Amabile, 1988;
Grant & Berry, 2011; Woodman et al., 1993). However, this view has been
challenged by an increasing number of researchers (de Jesus, Rus, Lens, &
Imaginário, 2013; Dewett, 2007). Our results showed that intrinsic motivation
significantly mediated the positive influence of HPHRP on individual creativity,
which supported the view that intrinsic motivation benefits individual creativity.
Third, our findings indicate an interaction effect of HPHRP, proactive
personality, and intrinsic motivation. As is suggested in cognitive evaluation
theory, either immediate contextual supports for autonomy and competence or
abiding inner resources are required for intrinsic motivation to be evident (Ryan
& Deci, 2000). In the current study, we developed cognitive evaluation theory
by examining the impact of the interaction effect of HPHRP and proactive
personality on intrinsic motivation in the Chinese context.
In regard to practical implications, as creativity may decrease with the
enhancement of HPHRP, there is no point in setting excessively high performance
goals in human resource practices. Personality factors should be taken into
consideration when these practices are adopted, in order to foster employees’
intrinsic motivation to innovate and contribute creative ideas.
There are limitations in the current study that suggest some worthwhile
directions for future research. First, the possibility of self-report bias cannot be
absolutely excluded in a self-rating survey, so future researchers could focus
HIGH-PERFORMANCE HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES 251
on objective measurement of HPHRP. Second, when a cross-sectional research
design is used, the possibility cannot be ruled out that causality operates in
the opposite direction, which points to a need for longitudinal design in future
studies. Third, the data were all collected in China, so replication of this study
should be conducted in other cultures.
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