High Involvement Management

High involvement management, one of several terms to describe the organisational methods frequently seen as most appropriate for modern conditions, has been at the centre of much recent discussion, academic and practitioner. This project tests theoretical assumptions underlying the model and its advocates’ claims.


The research questions being addressed include:-

  • What is the extent and nature of high involvement management (HIM) in the United Kingdom?
  • What are main determinants of the usage of HIM?
  • Does HIM outperform other types of management in general, or is its value contingent on features of the organisation or its environment?
  • Does HIM have beneficial effects for employees, such as enhanced job satisfaction, safer working environments or fairer management?
  • Is HIM most likely to be found in non-union workplaces or in settings of co-operative trade unions or weak bargaining relations?
  • What pay systems are used with HIM?
  • Does performance-related pay enhance or depress the effect of HIM?
  • What is the relationship between HIM and equal opportunity policies and family-friendly management?
  • How does HIM fit in with flexible labour market processes?

Research Strategy

Research thus far has used the 1998 UK Workplace Employee Relations Survey (WERS98) to address these questions. This survey is the fourth in a series of representative surveys of the UK economy. It has a greater coverage of human resource management issues than past surveys. The analysis of it was financed by the ESRC.

The research has built on analyses by Wood and de Menezes (1998) of data from the third (1990) survey. Past work in latent variable modelling is being extended to compare different modelling approaches (e.g., Lisrel with Bartholomew and Knott’s Two-Miss).

Research Results

The result of the WERS98 analysis by Stephen Wood, Lilian de Menezes and Ana Lasaosa show that:-

  • Of the core task high involvement practices, team working is the most widespread in British workplaces (75%), while quality circles and continuous improvement teams are found in 50% and job flexibility in 42%, with suggestion schemes the least used (37%).
  • Core high involvement practices are no more likely to be used in the private sector.
  • Core high involvement practices are systematically used together and with supporting practices that equip employees to work in a participative and involving way – measured in WERS98 by induction, team briefing, information disclosure, appraisal and training in group and interpersonal skills.
  • High involvement management is not necessarily complemented by employment practices such as job security guarantees, internal recruitment, and single status, these being not as common as high involvement management.
  • Employee share ownership and profit sharing, in the private sector, are not necessarily associated with high involvement management.
  • High involvement practices are used in conjunction with total quality or lean production practices, the measurement and monitoring of quality and customer requirements and complaints, training of employees in problem-solving, and self-inspection.
Wood, de Menezes and Lasaosa, through advanced statistical methods, reveal:-
  • Managements that use core high involvement practices in a concerted way are concerned to enhance the involvement, development and contribution of employees.
  • The estimated proportion of workplaces across the whole economy where management have this high involvement orientation is 26%, with 24% having no such an orientation, the remainder are only partially concerned with involvement.
  • Most, if not all, managements with a high involvement orientation are also geared towards the achievement of high quality.
  • Such high involvement quality management is no more or less likely to be in the private than in the public sector.
  • High involvement quality management is prevalent in large workplaces and allied to a personnel management that is integrated into the strategic planning processes and objectives of the organisation.
The effects of high involvement management are:-
  • High involvement management has strong positive effects on the rate of reported productivity change (but not level of productivity, quality or financial performance).
  • High involvement management when allied with Total quality management (High involvement Quality Management) strengthens the relationship between quality and the level of productivity.
  • The effects of High Involvement and Total Quality Management are not contingent on whether the product market is unstable, personnel management is strategically integrated, or there is a recognised trade union.

Who to Contact

Professor Stephen Wood S.J.Wood@Sheffield.ac.uk Telephone: (44) (0) 114 222 23230

Key References

Wood, S. & de Menezes, L. (1998). High commitment management in the UK: Evidence from the Workplace Industrial Relations Survey and Employers’ Manpower and Skills Practices Survey, Human Relations, 51, 485-517.

Wood, S. (1999). Getting the measure of the transformed high-performance organization. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 37, 3, 391-417.

Wood, S, de Menezes, L. & Lasaosa , A. Family-Friendly Management In Great Britain: Testing Various Perspectives. Industrial Relations, (Symposium: The Effect of Work-Family Policies on Employees and Employers), 2003, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 221-250.

de Menezes, L., Wood, S, (2003).The Reality of Flexible Work Systems in Britain. mimeo, Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield.

de Menezes, and Lasaosa , A., Wood, S.,(2003), Comparing Model Fits when Data are Sparse: an illustration with human resource management data, mimeo, Cass Business School, City University, London.

ESRC Centre for Organisation and Innovation, Institute of Work Psychology,
University of Sheffield, Mushroom Lane, Sheffield, S10 2LT
Administrator : Mark Steele 0114 255 3271 m.steele@sheffield.ac.uk