University of Lethbridge Knowledge Translation Discussion

JOMXXX10.1177/0149206318816179Journal of ManagementSteffensen et al. / Managers and Human Resource Management
Journal of Management
Vol. 45 No. 6, July 2019 2387­–2418
© The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
Putting the “Management” Back in
Human Resource Management: A Review
and Agenda for Future Research
David S. Steffensen, Jr.
Middle Tennessee State University
B. Parker Ellen III
Northeastern University
Gang Wang
Gerald R. Ferris
Florida State University
Although much research has examined human resource management (HRM), managers’ roles
in HRM seem to have been ancillary to this area of research. That is, HRM theory and research
largely has advanced with a focus on policies, practices, systems, and their implementation and
effectiveness, with less attention focused on the managers responsible for the design, adoption,
enactment, and implementation of HRM strategy and practice. The purpose of this review is to
examine extant research to determine the state of knowledge of the role of managers across
organizational hierarchy in HRM. Thus, we review empirical literature for studies that include
aspects of the impact lower-to-middle managers, human resource managers, top management
teams, CEOs, and boards of directors have on HRM content, process, and outcomes. On the
basis of the findings of this systematic, multilevel review, we discuss avenues for future research
at each specific manager’s level, as well as general opportunities and challenges for research
on managers’ roles in HRM across all hierarchical levels.
human resource management; strategic human resource management; HRM
content; HRM process; HRM outcomes
Acknowledgments: We would like to acknowledge the support and guidance of our action editor, Brian Hoffman,
and two anonymous reviewers. We would also like to thank Jeffrey Ling and Jennifer Sexton for their comments on
previous versions of this manuscript. Finally, we wish to acknowledge the research assistance we received from
Marcus Atherholt, Marly Bressler, Serena LeMand, and Pam Weir.
Supplemental material for this article is available with the manuscript on the JOM website.
Corresponding author: David S. Steffensen, Jr., Department of Management, Jones College of Business, Middle
Tennessee State University, Box 75, Murfreesboro, TN 37132-0001, USA.
2388   Journal of Management / July 2019
As organizational decision makers, managers at all hierarchical levels can influence
human resource management (HRM; Guest, 1997; Lado & Wilson, 1994; Lepak & Snell,
1999; Ostroff & Bowen, 2016). For example, CEOs might outline strategic principles, and
other members of the top management team (TMT) might make decisions about HRM policies on the basis of these principles and then delegate the responsibility for implementation
of specific practices to human resource (HR) or lower-level managers (Russell, Steffensen,
Ellen, Zhang, Ferris, & Bishoff, 2018). Indeed, managers’ roles across the organizational
hierarchy make them responsible for much of the observed variability in the adoption, implementation, and effectiveness of HRM practices (Nishii & Wright, 2008).
However, research on managers’ roles in HRM has been unsystematic. Although several
reviews and agendas for future research have been conducted for elements of HRM (strategic
HRM, or SHRM, Becker & Huselid, 2006; high-performance work practices, Posthuma,
Campion, Masimova, & Campion, 2013; governing employees, Su, Wright, & Ulrich, 2018),
the field lacks holistic knowledge regarding managers’ roles in HRM. As a result, despite the
many studies that have documented the variability in how HRM practices and policies are
adopted and implemented—as well as in the individual- (e.g., turnover), unit- (e.g., climate),
and organizational-level (e.g., firm performance) outcomes that result from HRM initiatives
(Becker & Huselid, 2006; Bowen & Ostroff, 2004; Sikora, Ferris, & Van Iddekinge, 2015)—
little is known about the extent to which managers at different organizational levels contribute to this variability. This has limited our knowledge of managers’ impact in HRM, despite
general consensus that they are critical to the success of HRM initiatives. Given the significant influence managers can have, it is necessary to understand what we know about their
effects on the adoption, implementation, and effectiveness of HRM practices and systems to
advance knowledge of effective HRM in organizations.
The purpose of this article is to conduct a multilevel, systematic review of the HRM literature to determine the state of knowledge regarding managers’ roles in HRM. Our review is
multilevel because we consider the following roles of managers throughout the organizational
hierarchy: lower-to-middle managers (LTMMs), HR managers, TMTs, CEOs, and boards of
directors (BODs). Our review is systematic in that we examine the existing literature using an
organizing framework that includes the adoption of HRM policies and practices, the enactment
or implementation of these policies/practices, and the resultant organizational outcomes.
We contribute to the HRM literature by synthesizing knowledge about managers’ impact
on HRM content (i.e., what policies and practices are adopted), HRM process (i.e., the manner
and activities through which HRM content is enacted), and HRM outcomes (i.e., what aspects
the policies and practices affect and whether they are effective). Furthermore, the multilevel
approach of our review enables identification of the focus and volume of extant research at
each manager level, which will facilitate the development of specific and valuable avenues for
future research on managers and HRM. Therefore, we provide directions for future research
specific to each manager level, as well as more general future research directions that should
occur across multiple levels to advance knowledge of managers’ roles in HRM.
An Organizing Framework for the Roles of Managers in HRM
To examine the roles that managers play in HRM, we conducted our review using what
we refer to as the HRM content, process, and outcomes (HRM-CPO) framework. This
framework, presented in Figure 1, draws from what Ostroff and Bowen (2016) identified as
Note: The letters in parentheses in the human resource management outcomes portion of the framework refer to the level(s) at which the outcomes have been examined
in empirical research. O = organizational level; U = unit level; I = individual level.
Figure 1
Organizing Framework for Literature on Role of Managers in Human Resource Management Content, Process, and
2390   Journal of Management / July 2019
three key areas of HRM research: (1) the policies, practices, and systems (i.e., HRM content); (2) the implementation of these practices, policies, and systems (i.e., HRM process);
and (3) the subsequent results influenced by HRM content, HRM process, or both (i.e.,
HRM outcomes). It long has been acknowledged that HRM content should not be considered in isolation but in conjunction with the processes by which the policies, practices, and
systems are implemented (Becker & Huselid, 2006). Indeed, for practices to be more than
just “isolated acts,” managers, HR professionals, and (as Ostroff & Bowen, 2016, added)
scholars “need to be able to explain conceptually how and why HR practices lead to their
outcomes” (Ulrich, 1997: 238).
Therefore, the HRM-CPO framework provides an organized way in which we can consider the impact of managers (i.e., LTMMs, HR managers, TMTs, CEOs, and BODs) on
HRM content, process, outcomes, and the relationships between them. However, beyond
providing a discussion of HRM research that has been conducted at each manager level, we
identify the specific manager factors (e.g., characteristics, expertise, and behaviors; also
displayed in Figure 1) that influence the different portions of our framework. As we organize the knowledge of managers’ roles in HRM, we intend to provide the type of focus that
is needed “to further our understanding of HR content, process, and outcomes” (Ostroff &
Bowen, 2016: 207).
HRM content comprises the “what” of HRM (Ostroff & Bowen, 2016), and includes the
organizational practices, policies, and systems related to the management of employees
(Lengnick-Hall & Lengnick-Hall, 1988). These include high-performance work practices
(Posthuma et al., 2013), systems (Lado & Wilson, 1994), or bundles of HRM content
(Lepak & Snell, 2002). Our review of the literature seeks to identify what HRM content
has been considered in research that pertains to managers. To expressly address our objective of understanding the roles played by managers in relation to HRM content, we are
most interested in identifying manager factors that are related to organizations’ adoption of
specific HRM content.
HRM process pertains to how HRM content is implemented by organizations (e.g.,
Sikora et al., 2015). A prevalent conceptualization of HRM process is that of Bowen and
Ostroff (2004), who outline several mechanisms hypothesized to yield unambiguous
HRM systems. Although these mechanisms have become a meaningful area of HRM
research (see Ostroff & Bowen, 2016, for a review), we take a broader view of HRM
process. That is, we consider HRM process to be the general manner and activities
through which HRM content is implemented and leads to HRM outcomes, including “the
way HR policies and practices are communicated to employees” (Li, Frenkel, & Sanders,
2011: 1826).
We identify HRM process as an essential category of our organizing framework for two
reasons. First, although it is strategically—and, often, legally—important for organizations
to have HRM content “on the books” (Sikora et al., 2015: 1909), it cannot complement
organizational strategy and demonstrate meaningful effects if it is not applied throughout
the organization (Becker & Huselid, 2006). Second, there is general agreement by researchers that managers across all organizational levels have the potential to play at least some
role in HRM process and, therefore, stand as a meaningful context researchers and practitioners can use to better understand the variability that exists in the HRM process (Nishii
& Wright, 2008).
Steffensen et al. / Managers and Human Resource Management   2391
Finally, because the general goal of HRM research concerns the effective and efficient
management of people in efforts to achieve organizational goals (Hogan & Martínez Lucio,
2007), we review the effect of managers on HRM outcomes. This category relates to any
individual-, unit-, or organizational-level outcome of HRM content and/or HRM process.
Again, our review is specifically interested in identifying the roles that managers play in
influencing these outcomes. Per our framework, we note that HRM outcomes are often,
though not always, a function of either HRM content and/or HRM process. However, due in
part to the unsystematic way in which managers’ roles in HRM have been examined, it is
often difficult to determine how HRM content and HRM process affect HRM outcomes.
Thus, we hope to provide meaningful discussions about these roles in what has been referred
to as the “black box” (Becker & Huselid, 2006; Messersmith, Patel, Lepak, & GouldWilliams, 2011) that accounts for the translation of HRM content to HRM outcomes.
We took a multistep and iterative approach for our review, in efforts to be both thorough
and systematic (Aguinis, Ramani, & Alabduljader, 2018). First, we developed search terms
related to both HRM and managers. For HRM, we searched the following 21 terms: human
resource*, HR, human resource management, HRM, high commitment work practice*,
HCWP*, high commitment work system*, HCWS*, high investment work practice*, high
investment work system*, high involvement work practice*, high involvement work system*,
HIWP*, HIWS*, high performance work practice*, HPWP*, high performance work system*, HPWS*, strategic human resource*, strategic human resource management, and
SHRM. For managers, we searched for the following 28 terms, which span the five categories
of managers included in our review: leader*, team leader*, line manager*, middle manager*, LTMM*, human resource manager*, HR manager*, chief human resource manager*,
chief HR manager*, CHRO*, top management team*, TMT*, senior vice president*, SVP*,
chief information officer*, CIO*, chief technology officer*, CTO*, chief marketing officer*,
CMO*, chief operating officer*, COO*, chief strategy officer*, CSO*, chief executive officer*, CEO*, board* of director*, and BOD*.
We performed searches for the above terms using the Web of Science and Business
Source Complete databases. Additionally, we performed manual searches of several journals in efforts to identify relevant articles that might have been made available online prior
to formal publication and that were not identified by the database searches. More specifically, we manually searched the in-press articles for journals considered outlets for top
management publications or specialty outlets germane to the scope of our review. This set
of journals included Academy of Management Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly,
British Journal of Management, Group & Organization Management, Human Relations,
Human Resource Management, Human Resource Management Journal, Journal of Applied
Psychology, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Management, Journal of
Management Studies, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Journal of
Organizational Behavior, Management Science, Organization Science, Organization
Studies, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Personnel Psychology,
Research in Organizational Behavior, Strategic Management Journal, and The Leadership
Quarterly. Our approach was to search each manager term with each HR term in each of
2392   Journal of Management / July 2019
these databases and journals. After an initial screening of articles that were clearly extraneous to our review (e.g., research from unrelated disciplines, such as medicine, that used the
same or similar acronyms but were not related to HRM or managers), approximately 500
articles remained for possible inclusion.
Next, we reviewed the title, abstract, and full text of each article. For an article to be
included, it had to meet the following criteria, which reinforce the overarching objective
of this review (i.e., to examine the roles that managers play in HRM content, HRM process, and HRM outcomes): (1) it had to represent at least one of the manager levels we
previously identified (i.e., LTMMs, HR managers, TMTs, CEOs, and BODs), (2) it had to
include a manager factor (e.g., behaviors, traits, relationships), and (3) it had to focus on
managers as actors, rather than as targets, of HRM. Regarding this last criterion, we
excluded articles that involved HRM content designed for managers, such as succession
plans for CEOs (Gangloff, Connelly, & Shook, 2016), compensation packages for TMTs
(Carpenter & Sanders, 2002), or leadership-enhancing HRM content for LTMMs (Han,
Liao, Taylor, & Kim, 2018).
This process yielded 72 empirical articles, published between 1995 and 2018, for inclusion in our review. Each article was then independently coded by two coauthors according
to our HRM-CPO framework. After the initial coding, interrater agreement was high (r =
.92). Discrepancies between coders primarily involved the HRM process category. After
discussing the definition and understanding of HRM process, the coders reviewed all discrepancies together to resolve any disagreements, involving the two other coauthors to
adjudicate a few disagreements regarding interpretation of variables. All discrepancies and
disagreements were resolved, resulting in complete interrater agreement. We present the
findings of our review in Table 1 and provide more detailed discussions of these findings
in the sections that follow.1
The Roles of LTMMs in HRM Research
We begin our review by examining research that has considered the roles played by
LTMMs, considered “the first level of management” (Hales, 2005: 473). These managers not
only connect frontline workers with upper-level managers but also often are responsible for
executing HRM strategies, policies, and practices (Nishii & Wright, 2008). Given this vital
position, it was not surprising that most of the research that exists on managers’ roles in
HRM-CPO is at the LTMM level (i.e., 39 of the 72 articles included in our review).
HRM Content
Research at the LTMM level has considered various types of HRM content, from individual high-performance HRM practices (e.g., Han, Bartol, & Kim, 2015; Pak & Kim, 2018;
Vermeeren, 2014) to systems or bundles of HRM content (e.g., Chuang, Jackson, & Jiang,
2016; Do, Budhwar, & Patel, 2018; Jiang, Chuang, & Chiao, 2015; Neves, Almeida, & Velez,
2018; Sikora et al., 2015). However, despite the considerable breadth of HRM content considered, our review suggests that little research has been done on the roles that LTMMs play
in an organization’s adoption of this content. Instead, most attention has been paid to the
roles that LTMMs play in HRM process.
Managerial discretion,
commitment, education,
Compensation, recruitment and
Devolution of HRM
selection, training and development,
industrial relations, workforce
Training, hiring, firing
LTMM discretion over
HRM decisions
Caza (2011)
Brandl, Madsen, and
Madsen (2009)
Bos-Nehles, Van
Riemsdijk, and
Looise (2013)
Bennington (2006)
Azmi and Mushtaq
Ali and Konrad
Responsibility for HRM

HRM Process
Brewster, Brookes,
and Gollan (2015)
Selection, training, reward systems,
career management, development
opportunities, feedback mechanism
HRM Content
Selection, opportunities, reward

systems, career management,
development opportunities, feedback
Gender diversity
Diversity and equality management

(DEM) systems (gender diversity,
diversity leadership, work-life
Involvement in HRM
HRM planning, recruitment and
decision-making, process/
selection, training and development,
activities, budgeting
pay management, performance
appraisal, industrial relations
Manager type, gender
Asking and making
decisions on the basis
of unlawful questions
Ability, motivation
Personnel administration, recruitment Opportunities from
and selection, career development,
organization, HRM
evaluation and rewarding, people
Human resource (HR) duties,

Priority given to HRM
gender, hierarchical level
Effectiveness, equity, and
integrity behaviors
Leader-member exchange
Manager Factors
Alfes, Truss, Soane,
Rees, and Gatenby
Managers (LTMMs)
Alfes, Shantz, Truss,
and Soane (2013)
Key Findings
Motivation is most important HR duty among
LTMMs; female LTMMs give greatest priority
to HRM
Strategically positioned HR departments are
least likely to devolve HRM responsibility to
Opportunity strengthens the relationship between
LTMMs’ ability and HRM implementation
LTMM involvement in HRM decision-making,
process/activities, and budgeting predicts
HRM status, HRM effectiveness, and
organizational performance
Female LTMMs discriminate less frequently than
male LTMMs
LTMM gender diversity strengthens the
relationship between DEM systems and firm
Unit performance (innovation, Manager experience strengthens the relationship
quality, goal success, R&D
between discretion over HRM decisions and
unit performance

Equal employment
Firm performance (net
profit margin, return on
assets, corporate social
HRM effectiveness, HRM
status, organizational
Employee engagement,
LMX strengthens the relationship between HRM
organizational citizenship
content, employee engagement, OCBs, and
behaviors (OCBs), turnover
turnover intentions
Employee engagement, task Perceived LTMM behavior and HRM content
performance, innovative
predict task performance and innovative work
work behavior
behavior via employee engagement
HRM Outcomes
Table 1
Summary of Research on Human Resource Management (HRM) at Various Manager Levels
Manager Factors
HRM Content
HRM Process
Table 1 (continued)
HRM Outcomes
Gilbert, De Winne,
and Sels (2011b)
Gilbert, De Winne,
and Sels (2011a)
Dysvik and Kuvaas
Recruitment and selection, training and HRM integration with
development, industrial relations,
strategy, LTMM HR
workforce management
specialist distribution
of influence

Devolution of HRM,
HR manager strategic
People flow, appraisal and reward,
Communication of
employment relation
HRM content,
Performance management
enactment, span of
Innovation-led strategy and HRM
Servant leadership
Satisfaction, perceived unit
Employee turnover, financial
Organizational performance
Empowering leadership and HRM content have
substitutive effects on team outcomes
Attachment-avoidant followers perceive/
participate in less HRM content; trust buffers
the relationship between HRM content
perceptions and turnover intentions
LTMM HR specialist shared influence over
HRM decisions strengthens the relationship
between HRM integration and organizational
HR manager strategic involvement relates to
employee turnover and financial performance
LTMM involvement and consensus with HR
manager predicts firm performance
Key Findings
LTMM communication strengthens the
relationship between HRM perceptions,
implementation, and outcomes
Employee engagement, job
Span of control strengthens the relationship
between LTMM attitude and enactment of
performance manager, leading to increased
employee engagement and job satisfaction
Employee creativity, firm
LTMM servant leadership mediates the
innovation, and firm market relationship between HRM initiatives and
employee creativity, which predicts innovation
and market performance
Perceived supervisor support Employee development
Perceived investment in Business-unit performance
PSS climate is related to PIED climate, but PIED
(PSS) climate
employee development
climate does not mediate PSS climate and unit
(PIED) climate
HR competencies, role
26 HRM tasks, formal incentives to
HRM devolution, HR
LTMM role ambiguity and
HR department support and LTMMs’ HR
ambiguity, role overload
department support
role overload
competencies decrease their role ambiguity
and role overload
Enactment of HRM
Personnel planning, recruitment,
HR department service
Employee effective
LTMMs’ HRM enactment, relationship-oriented
practices, relationship
selection, well-being and security,
leadership behaviors, and HR departments’
training, career management,
service quality predict employee affective
performance appraisal, compensation
Responsibility for HRM
Darwish and Singh
Den Hartog, Boon,
Verburg, and Croon
Dewettinck and
Implicit person theory, span
Vroonen (2017)
of control, performance
management attitude and
Do, Budhwar, and
Servant leadership
Patel (2018)
Influence over HRM
Dany, Guedri, and
Hatt (2008)
Involvement in strategic

Horizontal collaboration, Perceived future firm
planning, consensus and
involvement in
horizontal collaboration
strategic planning
with HR manager
Chuang, Jackson, and Empowering leadership
HRM systems for knowledge-intensive

Team knowledge acquisition
Jiang (2016)
and sharing
Crawshaw and Game Attachment relationship with Career growth opportunities, career
Employee participation Trust in organization,
development activities
in HRM practices
turnover intentions
Y. Chen, Hsu, and
Yip (2011)
Manager Factors
PSS, partnership with HR
HRM tools and systems
department, HRM training
Ability and willingness
to coach older workers,
stereotypes about older
Ethical leadership
Kuvaas and Dysvik
Kuvaas, Dysvik, and
Buch (2014)
Leisink and Knies
Op de Beeck, Wynen, HRM competency and
and Hondeghem
willingness, HR
department support
Pak and Kim (2018) Implementation behaviors
Neves, Almeida, and
Velez (2018)
Service-oriented HRM systems
(staffing, training, performance
appraisal, compensation and
rewards, involvement and
Employee development
Service leadership
Jiang, Chuang, and
Chiao (2015)
Selection, training, performance
appraisals, compensation, decisionmaking
HRM instruments and information
Commitment-based HRM content
(selection, incentive, training and
Career development, age-related
Initiative-enhancing HRM systems
(selection, training, performance
evaluation, rewards)
Empowering leadership
Personnel red tape, HR
department support,
Intensity of
of espoused HRM
Support from HR
specialists and
LTMMs, support of
career development
Ethical leadership
reinforcing HRM
Partnership with HR,
high-quality HRM
training, enabling

HRM system strength,
HRM implementation
HRM Process
Table 1 (continued)
Individual pay for performance (PFP),
profit sharing

HRM Content
Hong, Liao, Raub,
and Han (2016)
Perceptions of HRM
system strength, ability,
motivation, opportunity
Han, Bartol, and Kim Contingent-reward
Gilbert, De Winne,
and Sels (2015)
HRM-induced psychological
contract fulfillment
(HPCF), employee and
team performance

Employee affective
commitment to change,
intention to resist change

Employee affective
commitment, turnover
intentions, work effort and
quality, OCB
Employee affective
commitment, turnover
intention, intrinsic
Initiative climate, selfefficacy, motivation,
positive affect, personal
Customer knowledge,
service climate, service
performance, and financial
Employee job performance
HRM implementation
HRM Outcomes
LTMM ethical leadership strengthens the
mediating effects of affective commitment to
change on commitment-based HRM content
and intentions to resist future change
LTMM perceptions of devolution are affected
by HR department support, personnel red tape,
and LTMMs’ competency and willingness
LTMM implementation behaviors relate to
employee and team performance via HRM
content implementation and HPCF
High-quality training predicts LTMMs’
perceptions of enabling HRM; PSS mediates
the relationships between LTMMs’
perceptions of enabling HRM and intrinsic
motivation, affective commitment, and
turnover intentions
LTMMs’ ability and willingness to coach older
workers increases the support they provide to
older workers
PIED mediates the relationships between PSS
and HRM outcomes
Positive effects of service-oriented HRM content
(service leadership) were stronger when
service leadership (HRM content) was lower
LTMM contingent reward and firm profit
sharing strengthen the relationship between
PFP, performance-reward expectancy, and
employee job performance
Empowering leadership positively relates
to initiative climate only when initiativeenhancing HRM systems are low
HRM system strength predicts implementation
effectiveness via LTMM ability
Key Findings
Support (accessibility,
assistance, and providing
Prieto-Pastor and
Vermeeren (2014)
Stirpe, Trullen, and
Bonache (2013)
Sikora, Ferris, and
Van Iddekinge
HR role
Shipton, Sanders,
Atkinson, and
Frenkel (2016)
Sikora and Ferris
Transformational leadership
HR capacity and
competency, relationship
with HR department,
accountability, perceived
appropriateness and
effectiveness of HRM
HR competency,
political skill, highperformance work
practice implementation
Support for HR innovations
HRM involvement, HR
knowledge transfer
Ryu and Kim (2013)
Reichel and Lazarova Responsibility for HRM
Involvement in people
management activities
Manager Factors
Perry and Kulik
Devolution, support
given to LTMMs
HRM Process
Table 1 (continued)

HRM content
implementation level,
organizational culture
supportive of HR
HR role prioritization
Strategic position of HR department is negatively
influenced by devolvement to LTMM but
positively influenced by outsourcing
LTMMs’ people management effectiveness
is predicted by devolution and support for
LTMM support strengthens the relationship
between high-involvement HRM content,
employee behavioral ambidexterity, and firm
ambidextrous learning
Key Findings
Employee turnover intention, LTMM HR competency and political skill
job performance,
predict HRM outcomes via LTMM
participative decisionimplementation perceptions
LTMM HR knowledge provides a buffer to
institutionally emerging HRM systems that
weaken the relationship between LTMM HR
involvement and HRM effectiveness
Employee affective
LTMMs’ prioritization of employee commitment
and strategic partner role predict employee
affective commitment
HRM content implementation LTMM HR competency and accountability to
HRM content predict implementation levels
HRM effectiveness
Strategic position of HR
Employee behavioral
ambidexterity and firm
ambidextrous learning
Perceived people
management effectiveness
HRM Outcomes
HRIs championed by
Employee acceptance of HRIs LTMM support for HRIs strengthens the
HR departments and
relationship between championed HRIs and
supported by LTMMs
employee acceptance; acceptance decreases
and top management
when LTMM support decreases despite TMT
teams (TMTs)
Recruitment and selection, training and LTMM implemented
Work-unit performance
HRM implementation unit performance via
development, performance appraisal,
HR, employeeperceived HRM; transformational LTMMs
rewards, autonomy, employee
perceived LTMM
implement more commitment-oriented HRM
participation in decision-making
implementation of HR
Staffing, training, performance
appraisal, compensation, employee
communications, employee
Staffing, training, performance
appraisal, compensation, employee
communications, employee
participation, LTMM performance

High-involvement systems

(recruitment and selection, training,
compensation and incentives,
performance appraisal, job design,
Recruitment and selection, training
Outsourcing of HRM
and development, compensation,
content, devolution
industrial relations, workforce
Institutionally emerging HRM systems HRM involvement, HR
knowledge transfer
to line
People management
HRM Content
Manager Factors
Devolution of HRM,
HR manager strategic
Consensus between HR
manager and CEO

Gender diversity
Continuance and affective
Involvement in strategic
Arthur, Herdman, and HR cause-effect beliefs,
Yang (2016)
high-performance work
system (HPWS) values
Ali and Konrad
Lievens and Corte
Sheehan, Cooper,
Holland, and Cieri
HR manager emotional
exhaustion, HRM

Net profit margin, return on
assets, corporate social
Perceived HPWS practices
Outsourcing of HRM
HRM policy
Perceived organizational
connectedness, HRM
involvement in
strategic decisions,
organizational support
for HRM
DEM systems (gender diversity,

diversity leadership, work-life
Job design, promotions, performance
Intensity (number and
appraisals, information sharing,
breadth) of HRM
compensation, participation, training
and development, job security
Recruitment and selection, learning
and development, compensation,
performance management
Recruiting, staffing, search
Toxin handling
Quality and commitment,
labor turnover, financial
performance, labor
productivity, quality of
Effective delivery of
Employee productivity, cash
technical and strategic
flow, and market value
HRM (SHRM) content
Employee turnover, financial
Horizontal collaboration, Perceived future firm
HR involvement in
strategic planning

HRM Outcomes

LTMM internalization of
HRM content
HRM Process
Table 1 (continued)
Performance management,
compensation and rewards, training
and development
HRM Content
Consensus with CEO ratings Recruitment and selection, training
of HRM effectiveness
and development, appraisal,
compensation, job design,
communication, internal labor
Technical (e.g., recruitment, selection,
Huselid, Jackson, and HRM and business-related
Schuler (1997)
training) and strategic (e.g.,
teamwork, workforce planning,
leader development)
Kulik, Cregan, Metz, Toxin handling, emotional
Complaint/grievance procedures
and Brown (2009)
Guest and Conway
HR Managers
Bjorkman, Ehrnrooth, Relationship quality with
Smale, and John
LTMM, experience (HR/
non-HR, education,
tenure), networking
Y. Chen et al. (2011) Involvement in strategic
planning, consensus with
LTMM ratings of HR
Darwish and Singh
Involvement in strategic
TMT HPWS values strengthen the relationships
between HR cause-effect beliefs, intensity of
HRM content, and perceived HRM content
TMT gender diversity predicts firm performance
via DEM systems
Formalized toxin handling procedures reduced
emotional exhaustion and increased HRM
HR managers’ affective commitment was related
to the depth and frequency of outsourcing
CEO and organizational support for HRM
and HRM policy connectedness predict
organizational performance
HR manager capabilities predicted HRM
outcomes via effectiveness of HRM content
HRM effectiveness predicts HRM outcomes, but
HR manager/CEO consensus does not
HR involvement predicts firm performance; HR
manager/LTMMs’ perceived HR effectiveness
discrepancy negatively associated with firm
HR manager strategic involvement relates to
employee turnover and financial performance
HR managers’ professional experience predicts
LTMMs’ internalization of HRM content
Key Findings
Percentage of TMT with
Intellectual skills, HR skills
Performance appraisal
Work-life support (WLS) practices

Team compensation and performance
Justice in performance

TMT strategic
HRM Process
Table 1 (continued)
Job security, performance
management, incentives, rewards,
compensation, promotions
HRM Content
Konrad and Linnehan TMT commitment to
Identity-blind and identity-conscious

employment opportunity–
formalized HRM structures
affirmative action values
Milliken, Martins,
Representation of women
Work-family HRM content (leave,

and Morgan (1998)
on TMT; work-family
flexible work, dependent care,
salience for executives;
financial benefits, and miscellaneous
beliefs regarding bottombenefits)
line effects of work-family
Ordiz-Fuertes and
Flexible leadership style
Training, promotion, job security,

self-managed teams, reduction
in status differences, contingent
remuneration, shared information
Snell and Youndt
Administrative information/ HRM control (behavior, input, output)

knowledge (complete vs.
Stirpe et al. (2013)
Support for HRIs
HRIs championed by
HR departments and
supported by TMT and
Welbourne and Cyr
HR representation on TMT

Farndale and Kelliher Trust in senior management
Carmeli and Tishler
Cogin, Sanders, and
Williamson (2018)
Shared innovative strategic
and Valle-Cabrera
Carmeli (2008)
Behavioral integration
Strategic implementation
Manager Factors
Barrick, Thurgood,
Smith, and
Courtright (2015)
TMT strategic implementation strengthens
the relationship between HRM content,
collective organizational engagement, and firm
TMT shared vision strengthens the relationship
between team compensation and organization
Key Findings
Firms with flexible leadership are more likely to
adopt HRM content
Percentage of TMT with children strengthens
relationship between work-life support
practices and customer satisfaction
Trust in senior management strengthens the
relationship between performance appraisal
justice and commitment
TMT values are positively related to identityconscious and identity-blind HRM structures
and to HRM outcomes
Organizations are more likely to offer worklife HRM content when these issues are
salient to executives and believed to affect
organizational performance
Behavior (input) control HRM and complete
(ambiguous) executive knowledge relate to
higher firm performance
Employee acceptance of HRIs TMT support for HRIs strengthens the
relationship between championed HRIs and
employee acceptance; TMT support loses its
effects when LTMM support decreases
Stock price growth
Smaller, fast-growing firms benefit most from
having HR representation on TMT
Firm performance (return on
assets and sales growth)

Women and people of color
employment status
Organizational commitment
Customer satisfaction
Service quality/development, TMT behavioral integration predicts HRM and
HRM and economic
economic performance and marginally relates
to service quality/development
Firm financial performance
TMT HR skills predict firm performance
Collective organizational
engagement, firm
HRM Outcomes
Manager Factors
Consensus with HR
manager ratings of HRM
General management and
international experience
Guest and Conway
Khavul, Benson, and
Datta (2010)
Xi, Zhao, and Xu
Formal compensation practices
Family vs. nonfamily
Employee relations
Recruitment and selection, learning
and development, compensation,
performance management
Diversity practices
Telecommuting, variable pay
HRM Process
Table 1 (continued)
HRM Outcomes

HRM policy
Perceived organizational
connectedness, HRM
involvement in
strategic decisions,
organizational support
for HRM
Employee relations
Firm performance, employee

Commitment-based HR system

Employee productivity,
(staffing, training, performance
return on equity, perceived
appraisal, PFP, job design,
communication and participation)
Western-style HRM content (staffing,

compensation, training and
development, employee involvement
Recruitment and selection, training
Consensus between CEO Quality and commitment,
and development, appraisal,
and HR manager
labor turnover, financial
compensation, job design,
performance, labor
communication, and internal labor
productivity, quality of
HRM investment (recruitment,

hiring, training, development,
compensation, motivation)
Skill-, job-, function-based HR system

Dynamic capabilities
(sensing, seizing, and
HRM Content
Transformational and
transactional leadership,
social values, and age
Sheehan et al. (2007) Support for HRM
Ng and Sears (2012)
Mayo, Pastor,
Gomez-Mejia, and
Cruz (2009)
Michiels (2017)
Transformational and
transactional strategic
and Diaz-Fernandez leadership
Educational background
Frear, Cao, and Zhao
Chadwick, Super, and Emphasis on SHRM
Kwon (2015)
CEO relationship-focused behaviors predict
firm performance via employee relations
climate and employee attitudes, moderated by
organizational structure
Firms led by CEOs with general management
and international experience more likely to
invest in HRM
Transformational (transactional) CEOs are more
likely to adopt skill-based (job/function-based)
HR systems; this further predicts their firms’
sensing and seizing (reconfiguration) dynamic
CEO contingent-reward leadership predicts the
adoption of HRM content in younger and
international-oriented companies
In family firms, nonfamily CEOs adopt more
formal compensation practices
Transformational CEOs and older transactional
CEOs with high social values are more likely
to implement diversity practices
CEO and organizational support for HR
and HRM policy connectedness predict
organizational performance
In China, college-educated CEOs, especially
those with degrees in management/social
science, are more likely to adopt Western-style
HR practices
HRM effectiveness predicts HRM outcomes, but
HR manager/CEO consensus does not
CEO emphasis on SHRM predicts firm
performance via commitment-based HR
Key Findings
Diversity management activities
HR expertise
Tsao, Chen, and
Wang (2016)
Mullins and Holmes
Concentration of family
Staffing, compensation, job
ownership, family member
security, flexible job assignments,
on BOD, independent
self-directed teams, training,
director participation
CEO-chairperson duality,
Work-family benefits (dependent care
outsider representation,
services, work schedule flexibility)
women director
representation, chief
financial officer presence,
multiple directorships
Sheehan et al. (2007) HRM representation on BOD Recruitment and selection, learning
and development, compensation,
performance management
Inclusive selection
LGBT-friendly policies
Human-capital enhancing HRM
(performance appraisal, staffing,
training, compensation, absenteeism)
HRM Content
Percentage women
Tenure, age, percentage
Boards of Directors
Everly and Schwarz
Gould, Kulik, and
Mullins (2018)
Transformational and
transactional leadership
Manager Factors
Zhu, Chew, and
Spangler (2005)

Perceived organizational
outcomes, sales,
HRM Outcomes
HRM policy
Perceived organizational
connectedness, HRM
involvement in
strategic decisions,
organizational support
for HRM

Sales growth, subjective

HRM Process
Table 1 (continued)
Family governance oversight affects firm
performance via HPWSs
CEO and organizational support for HR
and HRM policy connectedness predict
organizational performance
Firms with higher percentage of women on
BODs are more likely to adopt LGBT-friendly
Female BOD representation has a positive
trickle-down effect to the executive
management level
Firms with BOD HR expertise have stronger
diversity management, especially in younger
firms with low capital intensity
BOD members who are outsiders, women,
and have multiple directorships increase the
likelihood that firms adopt work-family HRM
CEO transformational leadership predicts
organizational performance and absenteeism
via HRM content
Key Findings
Steffensen et al. / Managers and Human Resource Management   2401
HRM Process
Given our conceptualization of HRM process as the “how” of HR, research in this category addresses the means by which organizations use LTMMs to deliver HRM content to
employees. Because LTMMs play a central role in the implementation of HRM content at the
individual and unit level, they have considerable influence over the HRM process. For example, LTMMs have the potential to influence employee attitudes and perceptions of HRM
content “through their leadership styles, personalities, and behaviors” (Nishii & Wright,
2008: 235).
One focus of LTMM research regarding HRM process is devolution, which occurs when
the responsibility to enact HRM content or be involved in HR-related decisions is conferred
to lower-level managers (Brewster, Brookes, & Gollan, 2015; Gilbert, De Winne, & Sels,
2011a; Op de Beeck, Wynen, & Hondeghem, 2016). Previous research has suggested that
devolution is positively related to HRM effectiveness (Perry & Kulik, 2008; Ryu & Kim,
2013). Additionally, LTMMs’ involvement in the HRM process increases their opportunities
to collaborate with upper-level managers or the HR department, helping build relationships
that may play a vital role in effective HRM process (Alfes, Shantz, Truss, & Soane, 2013;
Crawshaw & Game, 2015) or lead to meaningful horizontal collaboration (Y. Chen, Hsu, &
Yip, 2011). LTMMs’ involvement, and the meaningful relationships it yields, helps LTMMs
to internalize HRM content and process.
However, not all research on HR devolution indicates beneficial effects. For example,
devolution has been found to hinder the strategic positioning of HR departments (Reichel &
Lazarova, 2013) such that HR departments that rely heavily on devolution to LTMMs run the
risk of delegitimizing themselves. That said, the causal nature of this relationship is unsettled, as Brewster et al. (2015) noted that strategically positioned HR departments are less
likely to devolve responsibility to line managers. Devolution also introduces a new demand
on LTMMs, complicating their jobs as their roles in HRM process increase. This can introduce stressors such as role ambiguity and role overload (Gilbert et al., 2011a). Interestingly,
LTMMs’ HR competency (or their HR-related skills/experiences) has been found to provide
a buffer against some of the demands LTMMs face with increased HRM responsibility
(Gilbert, De Winne, & Sels, 2011b).
Existing research also provides several other insights regarding the roles of LTMMs in
HRM process. Constructs related to LTMMs’ HR knowledge (Ryu & Kim, 2013), social
influence effectiveness (Sikora et al., 2015), and communication behaviors (Den Hartog,
Boon, Verburg, & Croon, 2013) all affect HRM process. The examination of these factors in
previous research reinforces the idea that all HRM content “communicate[s] messages constantly” (Bowen & Ostroff, 2004: 206). LTMMs who can receive HR knowledge via training,
who can combine that knowledge with their social influence effectiveness (i.e., political
skill) to create shared perceptions among followers of HRM content, and who can deliver
consistent messages with effective communication behaviors are well equipped to successfully navigate the HRM process.
HRM Outcomes
Most HRM outcomes examined at the LTMM level have been individual-level outcomes. For example, research suggests that LTMM support for HRM content is a stronger
2402   Journal of Management / July 2019
predictor of employees’ acceptance of that content when compared to TMT support
(Stirpe, Trullen, & Bonache, 2013). Furthermore, implementation behaviors (broadly
conceptualized as the enactment of HRM content) have been found to influence employee
affective commitment (Gilbert et al., 2011b; Shipton, Sanders, Atkinson, & Frenkel,
2016) and the development of psychological contracts (Pak & Kim, 2018). Similarly,
perceived supervisor support predicts key HRM outcomes such as affective commitment,
turnover intentions, and work quality, as Kuvaas and Dysvik (2010) found that perceptions of investment in employee development mediated the relationship between perceived supervisor support and the previously mentioned outcomes. This seems to suggest
that when carefully chosen, HRM content can help explain why and how manager factors
affect various work-related outcomes.
A few studies have examined how LTMM factors affect HRM outcomes at higher levels
of analysis. For instance, Den Hartog et al. (2013) found that LTMMs’ communication abilities predict unit performance, as they lower the discrepancy between LTMM and employee
perceptions of HRM effectiveness. Additionally, LTMMs’ HRM role-related behaviors (e.g.,
HRM decision-making; Azmi & Mushtaq, 2015), LTMM gender diversity (Ali & Konrad,
2017), and the level of involvement of LTMMs in HRM process (Caza, 2011; Dany, Guedri,
& Hatt, 2008; Dewettinck & Vroonen, 2017) have been connected to organizational-level
performance (Darwish & Singh, 2013).
Summary and Future Research at the LTMM Level
Although LTMMs play an integral role in HRM, our review indicates their roles have
less to do with strategy and decision-making and more to do with implementation. Thus,
we know much more about LTMMs regarding HRM process and outcomes than on the
adoption of HRM content. In particular, our review suggests that LTMMs’ competency
and behaviors related to HRM play an important role in implementation, especially in
terms of how employees perceive the HRM content they experience and how they evaluate its effectiveness. However, we also note that in some instances there appears to be
both substitutive and masking effects in research that examined HRM content and manager factors. For example, LTMMs’ empowering leadership behaviors appeared to be a
substitute for the effect of knowledge-intensive HRM content on team knowledge outcomes (Chuang et al., 2016). Alternately, empowering leadership behaviors’ effects on
unit climate were masked in the presence of high initiative-enhancing HRM content
(Hong, Liao, Raub, & Han, 2016).
Regarding future research at this level, one of the biggest opportunities relates to the roles
LTMMs play in the adoption of HRM content. In particular, it would be interesting to understand how an organization might adopt HRM content that “plays to the strengths” of LTMMs.
For example, the ability-motivation-opportunity framework suggests that LTMMs’ abilities,
motivations, and opportunities predict their effectiveness in HRM (Bos-Nehles, Van
Riemsdijk, & Looise, 2013; Gilbert, De Winne, & Sels, 2015; Leisink & Knies, 2011). These
findings may not teach us exactly how these LTMM factors affect HRM content, but they do
suggest that LTMMs bring something to the table for which organizations should account in
determining what HRM content should be adopted. Therefore, we encourage future research
that considers the “bottom-up” influence of LTMM factors on organizational decision-making regarding HRM content.
Steffensen et al. / Managers and Human Resource Management   2403
Additionally, future research should continue to explore the devolvement of HRM to
LTMMs. Given that research suggests devolution increases HRM effectiveness (Perry &
Kulik, 2008; Ryu & Kim, 2013), but at a potential cost to the strategic legitimacy of HR
departments (Reichel & Lazarova, 2013) or to LTMMs who face extra job demand (Gilbert
et al., 2011b), future research needs to consider its implications more thoroughly. Furthermore,
data presented by Brewster and colleagues suggest that devolution may not occur as frequently as researchers have previously thought, “raising questions about the value” (2015:
593) of this practice. Thus, it is important to examine how, when, and under what circumstances devolution is best used.
Finally, much of the previous research at the LTMM level has considered bundles of HR
practices. This is intuitive, as LTMMs are responsible for more than one HR practice.
However, because explaining the variability in effective implementation is a central concern
of this area of research, we agree with Kuvaas, Dysvik, and Buch’s (2014) contention that
future research should examine LTMMs’ roles in the implementation of individual HR practices, as being responsible for one type of HRM content may require a different set of competencies than others (e.g., selection vs. training). Although this approach might be more
laborious, the precision of studying LTMMs’ responsibility for single HR practices allows
for a more accurate understanding of the LTMM factors (e.g., styles or behaviors) related to
the effectiveness of these practices.
The Roles of HR Managers in HRM Research
Despite their potential roles in both HRM content (e.g., in creating and designing HR
practices) and HRM process (e.g., in developing activities to help HR practices get implemented), we found limited research that has examined the roles that HR managers play in the
HRM-CPO framework. In fact, only eight articles involving HR managers met our inclusion
criteria. Although HR managers were referenced in many of the articles we examined, their
involvement most often was in a capacity of reporting on the nature or status of their organizations’ HRM-CPO (e.g., Perry & Kulik, 2008), rather than as the focal subjects of research.
Despite this, we identified several interesting findings related to HR managers’ roles in
Several articles examined HR manager factors related to interpersonal processes, such
as shared views and collaboration. For example, although consensus regarding HRM effectiveness between HR managers and LTMMs was related to firm performance (Y. Chen
et al., 2011), consensus between HR managers and CEOs was not (Guest & Conway, 2011),
suggesting that these shared views are more important the closer they occur to where HRM
content is implemented. Relatedly, the collaboration that occurs as HR managers are
involved in strategic decision-making affects HRM outcomes such as turnover and financial performance, indicating that organizations should consider involving HR managers in
the HRM process (Y. Chen et al., 2011; Darwish & Singh, 2013; Sheehan, Cooper, Holland,
& Cieri, 2007).
Other research has examined individual-level characteristics of HR managers, such as
business-related capabilities and commitment. HR managers whose capabilities extended
beyond HRM-related skills (Bjorkman, Ehrnrooth, Smale, & John, 2011; Huselid, Jackson,
& Schuler, 1997) and who had affective commitment for specific HRM content (Lievens &
2404   Journal of Management / July 2019
Corte, 2008) influenced the effectiveness or approach to HRM process. Finally, Kulik,
Cregan, Metz, and Brown (2009) found that in the case of complaint and grievance HRM
content, HR managers whose formalized roles included the handling of such events experienced less emotional exhaustion, which then increased perceptions of HRM effectiveness.
This study has implications for HRM process and suggests that organizations can play a role
in easing the HRM process of HR managers through the formalization of procedures.
Summary and Future Research at the HR Manager Level
We found it surprising that only eight articles involving HR managers examined their role
in HRM-CPO. Of these articles, three (i.e., Huselid et al., 1997; Kulik et al., 2009; Lievens
& Corte, 2008) focused solely on HR managers. The remaining five studied HR managers in
conjunction with other managers, including LTMMs (Bjorkman et al., 2011; Y. Chen et al.,
2011; Darwish & Singh, 2013), CEOs (Guest & Conway, 2011; Sheehan et al., 2007), and
BODs (Sheehan et al., 2007). Given their function within organizations, we suggest that
increased research attention be given to HR managers. For example, future research could
follow what has been done at the LTMM level by considering HR manager factors, such as
communication behaviors (Den Hartog et al., 2013) or relationships with other managers
(Alfes, Shantz, et al., 2013). Future research should also extend the work of Kulik et al.
(2009) by considering how the formalized HRM procedures of HR managers play a role in
HRM process.
The Roles of TMTs in HRM Research
Firms’ TMTs are charged with making strategic decisions, which are influenced by their
personalized interpretations, experiences, values, and personalities (Hambrick, 2007). Given
this, TMTs should have significant influence on the type of HRM content firms adopt, the
manner in which it is implemented, and its impact on outcomes. However, our review found
limited empirical research related to TMTs and HRM. Additionally, many of these studies
considered TMTs as the targets of HRM (e.g., with executive-focused HRM systems), rather
than the roles they played in HRM. Thus, 14 studies met our inclusion criteria of examining
the impact of the TMT on the HRM content adopted by the firm, on the processes through
which content is implemented, or on the outcomes of the HRM initiatives.2
HRM Content
Five studies have examined TMT effects on HRM content. The evidence, although limited, indicates that TMT composition, beliefs about the value of HRM content, and flexible
leadership affect the type and volume of HRM content adopted. More specifically, research
has found that firm adoption of HRM content is related to TMT commitment to equal employment opportunity–affirmative action values (Konrad & Linnehan, 1995) and TMT valuebased beliefs (Arthur, Herdman, & Yang, 2016), as well as their beliefs about the economic
benefit of HRM investments (Arthur et al., 2016; Milliken, Martins, & Morgan, 1998). Ali
and Konrad (2017) found a positive relationship between TMT gender diversity and the
adoption of gender-diversity policies, diversity leadership practices, and work-life programs.
Steffensen et al. / Managers and Human Resource Management   2405
Similarly, Milliken et al. (1998) found that gender diversity among the TMT was positively
related to work-family HRM content (e.g., leave programs, flexible work options, dependent
care programs, financial benefits). Finally, flexible leadership styles of TMT members were
positively related to the adoption of high-involvement work practices (Ordiz-Fuertes &
Fernández-Sánchez, 2003).
HRM Process
Although TMTs’ positions distance them from direct implementation of HRM content
(i.e., relative to HR managers and LTMMs), four of the TMT studies we reviewed examined the effect of TMTs on the process of translating HRM content into a beneficial outcome. However, consistent with expectations about the role of the TMT, these studies
primarily explored how TMTs affect the translation of content into outcomes due to the
“big picture” they provide for the organization through values, beliefs, trust, and support
(Arthur et al., 2016; Farndale & Kelliher, 2013; Stirpe et al., 2013). More specifically,
previous research found that firms’ ability to effectively implement HRM content was
affected by things such as value-based HRM beliefs held by TMTs (Arthur et al., 2016) or
trust in senior management (Farndale & Kelliher, 2013). Similarly, Stirpe and colleagues
(2013) found that TMT support for HRM strengthened employee acceptance of HRM
content that is championed by HR departments. Thus, extant literature generally lacks
information about any direct TMT involvement in implementation. In one exception,
Barrick, Thurgood, Smith, and Courtright (2015) found that TMT strategic implementation—which they conceptualize as TMTs’ willingness to define, pursue, and measure strategic objectives—strengthens the positive relationship between HRM practices and
collective organizational engagement.
HRM Outcomes
Finally, several studies have examined direct relationships between TMTs and HRM
outcomes. In one study, TMT support of HR innovations was positively related to
employee acceptance of these HR innovations; however, these effects were not as strong
as those of LTMM support (Stirpe et al., 2013). In another study, Konrad and Linnehan
(1995) found that TMT values were positively related to the employment status of people
of color. Research has also found that TMT behavioral integration (i.e., “a meta-construct
that refers to the interactions within the TMT and encompasses elements of information
sharing, collaboration, and decision-making”; Carmeli, 2008: 713) and HRM-related
capabilities (Carmeli & Tishler, 2006) were positively related to both firm and HRM
Finally, there is evidence of a relationship between HR representation on TMTs and firm
performance for fast-growing and smaller firms (Welbourne & Cyr, 1999). However, Ali and
Konrad’s (2017) findings indicated the presence of a positive indirect effect from TMT gender diversity to corporate social responsibility, but not return on assets or net profit margin,
via work-life programs and gender-diversity policies. In sum, although there are some
encouraging results for HRM research at this manager level, a lack of overlap across the studies in this area make it difficult to reach any general conclusions about the effects of TMTs
on HRM Outcomes.
2406   Journal of Management / July 2019
Summary and Future Research at the TMT Level
Overall, most knowledge regarding TMTs’ involvement in HRM addresses their effects
on the process of translating HRM content into outcomes. This primarily has taken the
form of examining the big picture items of TMT values and visions. However, it appears
that investigations of the effect of TMT behaviors (e.g., Carmeli, 2008) and characteristics (e.g., Cogin, Sanders, & Williamson, 2018) also hold promise for informing HRM
We echo the assertion by Boada-Cuerva, Trullen, and Valverde (in press) that HRM
research at the TMT level is ripe for advancement in several directions and following such
lines of inquiry, is needed to advance our knowledge in this area. First, given that TMTs are
responsible for setting organizational policy, it is surprising that more research has not examined their roles in the selection and adoption of HRM practices and systems. Although some
recent research (i.e., Ali & Konrad, 2017) explored a link between TMT gender diversity and
the adoption of diversity and inclusion-related systems, more work is needed that extends
beyond diversity-related HRM content.
In addition, it would be interesting to explore whether the above (and other) relationships are nonlinear. That is, as diversity increases, is there an increasingly strong relationship between TMT diversity and the adoption of diversity policies and practices? If
not (i.e., the relationship is nonlinear and the slope flattens or turns negative), this could
suggest that token status TMT members (Kanter, 1977) lack the sufficient power to facilitate the adoption of policies to encourage more diversity. Alternatively, a moral licensing perspective (Miller & Effron, 2010) might suggest that this occurs as a result of
majority TMT members “cashing in” moral credits accrued from adding a minority TMT
member, such that they feel justified blocking diversity policies. Finally, very diverse
TMTs might view the firm as diverse and not see policies designed to increase diversity
as a need.
Interestingly, research that found support for TMTs’ roles in HRM outcomes tended
to overlook mechanisms that would address how and why TMTs affect HRM outcomes.
Therefore, research is needed in this area. For example, although research suggests that
TMT composition (e.g., HR representation) affects firms’ long-term financial performance (Welbourne & Cyr, 1999), the mechanisms explaining these effects remain unexamined. Similarly, Cogin and colleagues (2018) recently found that the relationship
between work-life support practices and customer satisfaction was stronger when higher
proportions of TMT members had children. Although they argued that this signaled the
importance of family and helped create a culture where employees felt more comfortable
taking advantage of the practices, they did not measure culture in this study.
The Roles of CEOs in HRM Research
CEOs play a prominent role in organizational strategy, decision-making, and multilevel
organizational outcomes (Busenbark, Krause, Boivie, & Graffin, 2016; Hambrick, 2007).
Given this, it might be assumed that CEOs have a substantial impact on HRM. However, the
roles of CEOs in the HRM-CPO framework have not been a prominent focus of research. In
total, we found 11 empirical studies that met our inclusion criteria.
Steffensen et al. / Managers and Human Resource Management   2407
HRM Content
Most of the studies examining CEO impact on HRM have addressed the degree and type
of HRM content that organizations adopt. For example, research has found that CEOs with
more general and international management experience are more likely to make HRM investments (Khavul, Benson, & Datta, 2010). In a Chinese context, college-educated CEOs were
more likely to adopt Western-style HRM content to encourage employee participation and
empowerment (Frear, Cao, & Zhao, 2012: 4011). Additionally, Chadwick, Super, and Kwon
(2015) found support for a relationship between CEO emphasis on SHRM and firm use of
commitment-based HR systems. Finally, Michiels (2017) found that family-owned firms
with nonfamily CEOs tended to adopt more formal compensation practices.
Some research has examined how CEO leadership styles and behaviors (e.g., transformational vs. transactional) affect the adoption of HRM content. Interestingly, evidence indicates
the effects of these behaviors are relatively balanced, and it appears that using CEO behaviors to predict adoption of HRM content depends on the types of content considered.
Transformational CEOs, for instance, are likely to adopt HRM content that is skill based
(Lopez-Cabrales, Bornay-Barrachina, & Diaz-Fernandez, 2017) and human-capital enhancing (Zhu, Chew, & Spangler, 2005) in nature. On the other hand, transactional CEO behaviors are more likely to adopt function-based HRM content (Lopez-Cabrales et al., 2017).
Additionally, research suggests that firms led by CEOs who engage in contingent-reward
behaviors (a dimension of transactional behaviors) are more likely to adopt telecommuting
HRM content (Mayo, Pastor, Gomez-Mejia, & Cruz, 2009). Finally, whereas Ng and Sears
(2012) found that transformational CEOs were more likely to adopt diversity-related HRM
content, transactional CEOs who were older and who had higher social values also adopted
them (albeit to a lesser degree).
HRM Process
Three studies have examined CEOs and HRM process; however, only one found significant effects. Xi, Zhao, and Xu (2017) found that CEO relationship-focused behaviors were
positively related to employee relations climate, which has been conceptualized as the overall agreement among organizational members of the “practices that deal with the governance
of the relationship between employees and the employer” (Posthuma et al., 2013: 1195).
Employee relations climate subsequently predicted firm performance via employee attitudes.
The Guest and Conway (2011) hypothesis that consensus between CEOs and HR managers
would strengthen the relationship between HRM content and HRM outcomes was not supported. Likewise, CEO support did not strengthen the HRM process as was predicted by
Sheehan and colleagues (2007).
HRM Outcomes
Research involving CEOs and HRM has focused on firm-level HRM outcomes. These
articles examined different aspects of firm performance, including employees’ attitudes
(Xi et al., 2017), productivity (Chadwick et al., 2015), and absenteeism (Zhu et al., 2005),
as well as financial performance (Chadwick et al., 2015; Zhu et al., 2005). Another study
examined firms’ dynamic capabilities, conceptualized as the ability that a firm has to
2408   Journal of Management / July 2019
respond to the inherent volatility of work environments (Lopez-Cabrales et al., 2017).
Interestingly, all four of these articles included CEOs’ behaviors in their examinations of
HRM outcomes. These behaviors included emphasizing and supporting HRM (Chadwick
et al., 2015; Sheehan et al., 2007), transformational and transactional behaviors (LopezCabrales et al., 2017; Zhu et al., 2005), and relationship-focused behaviors (Xi et al.,
2017). Compared to transactional CEOs, transformational CEOs were more likely to
adopt skill-based HRM content, which allowed their firms to have sensing and seizing—
as opposed to reconfiguring—dynamic capabilities (Lopez-Cabrales et al., 2017).
However, there is no indication how this, in turn, might affect performance-related HRM
Summary and Future Research at the CEO Level
Because the amount of research on CEOs and HRM was limited, it is difficult to draw
broad conclusions about their impact. However, given that several studies have found relationships between CEO characteristics and the adoption of HRM content (e.g., Frear et al.,
2012; Khavul et al., 2010; Michiels, 2017), future research should build upon these findings
by considering other CEO characteristics or the boundary conditions of their effects on
HRM-CPO. For example, does CEO experience (e.g., as CEO at a previous firm or in terms
of tenure at the current firm) dictate the adoption of HRM content? It would be interesting
to see whether firms with more experienced CEOs are more likely to adopt HRM systems
or bundles of practices rather than individual practices, as well as whether these bundles are
better matches with firm strategy than those adopted by firms with less experienced CEOs.
Similarly, researchers could examine whether the functional background of a CEO affects
the firm’s choice of HRM practices, as experience in an HR function might better equip the
CEO to recognize appropriate matches between firm strategy and HRM practices.
Although several studies have investigated the effects of CEO leadership behaviors and
HRM (e.g., Lopez-Cabrales et al., 2017; Mayo et al., 2009; Zhu et al., 2005), little attention
has been paid to their effects on HRM process. Findings in the leadership literature regarding
the influences of leadership on followers suggests scholars should investigate the role that
CEOs’ varying leadership styles play on TMT and LTMM implementation of, and employee
attitude towards, HRM content. For example, does CEO transformational leadership make it
more likely that LTMMs will “buy in” to the value of HRM practices and therefore implement them at a higher rate or implement them more effectively? Similarly, does CEO charismatic rhetoric (Baur et al., 2016) make it more likely that employees will view new HRM
practices and policies as viable solutions to firm issues or as benefits to themselves?
Finally, although SHRM and strategic management research tends to focus on the
effects of CEOs on firm performance, it is surprising that more studies have not examined
the effects of CEO characteristics and behaviors on the link between HRM content and
outcomes. Similar to the potential research directions outlined above for CEO effects on
HRM process, it would seem valuable to investigate whether CEO leadership behaviors
or styles enhance the effects of adopted or implemented practices on financial performance outcomes, as well as employee satisfaction and well-being outcomes. Additionally,
future research should examine these effects using objective, rather than subjective, measures of performance.
Steffensen et al. / Managers and Human Resource Management   2409
The Roles of BODs in HRM Research
Only six studies that addressed BODs and HRM met our inclusion criteria. This small
body of work was largely about how BOD factors influence the selection of specific organizational HRM content. At the BOD level, this focus is intuitive. Given BODs’ governance roles, they are less likely to be involved with the implementation of HRM content at
the front line and more likely to influence things such as decision-making or monitoring
decision-making. A common theme from several of these articles was how a BOD factor
affects the adoption and subsequent “trickle down” of related HRM content. For example,
the percentage of women on BODs has been identified as a factor that affects the likelihood
that firms adopt LGBT-friendly (Everly & Schwarz, 2015), gender-inclusive (Gould,
Kulik, & Sardeshmukh, 2018), and work-family friendly (Mullins & Holmes, 2018) HRM
content. Likewise, firms with BOD members who have HR expertise are likely to adopt
diversity management HRM content (Mullins, 2018). Such research is in line with resource
dependence theory and the capital (e.g., expertise, experience) of BOD members (Hillman
& Dalziel, 2003).
However, we know little about how BOD factors might influence HRM outcomes.
Sheehan et al. (2007) explored the link between HR representation on the board and perceived organizational performance, arguing that having an HR presence on the board would
give it legitimate power with which to influence the organization such that HRM receives
greater support. However, Sheehan and colleagues did not find support for this relationship.
Additionally, Tsao, Chen, and Wang (2016) found evidence that the presence of independent
directors in family firms affected HRM content (i.e., high-performance work system adoption). Their findings also suggest that HRM content mediates the relationship between board
independence and subjective performance.
Summary and Future Research at the BOD Level
Although there are a limited number of articles at the BOD level, our review suggests
BOD factors do play a role in HRM-CPO, primarily regarding HRM content. For example,
HR and underrepresented minority representation on BODs both showed some impact on
content adoption. However, we also note that some research found no effects for HR representation on BODs. This could potentially be due to the varying ways in which the concept
of “HR representation” was operationalized. In a study that found this relationship, HR representation was measured as both current and former HR expertise/responsibilities (Mullins,
2018), whereas a study that found no effect operationalized HR representation as only current HR responsibilities being present on BODs (Sheehan et al., 2007). As research in this
area advances, more thought should be given to how HR representation, and other variables,
are operationalized.
Additionally, future research on the intersection of BODs and HRM should focus on
HRM content or HRM outcomes, as they are not likely to be involved with, or in a position
to affect, HRM process. Regarding content, it would be interesting to extend the investigations of HR representation on boards and the adoption of HRM practices. Resource-based
perspectives (Hillman & Dalziel, 2003) would suggest that HR-specific board capital
would be beneficial to organizations attempting to match policy with strategy. While several of our identified articles did examine such representation, future research should move
2410   Journal of Management / July 2019
beyond gender representation. For example, are organizations with racially and ethnically
diverse boards more likely to adopt diversity and inclusion policies? Does the enactment
of such policies mediate the relationship between the respective board characteristics and
firm performance?
Furthermore, researchers could investigate the impact of other BOD characteristics,
including whether BOD ownership relates to HRM policy adoption. Identity theory
(Hillman, Nicholson, & Shropshire, 2008), as applied to BODs, argues that board members
often identify more strongly with either shareholders or with management (i.e., CEOs) on
the basis of their ownership stake in the company. Thus, it would be interesting to see
whether firms with high BOD ownership concentrations are hesitant to spend money on
HRM initiatives as a result of high identification with shareholders. Conversely, boards
with low ownership concentrations (i.e., those that identify more with CEOs) might be
more receptive to the adoption of HRM practices. We argue such examinations can help
address the SHRM “black box” conundrum (Becker & Huselid, 2006; Messersmith et al.,
2011) and may also shed light on how and why BODs influence firm outcomes (e.g.,
through the effects on HRM content and process).
Challenges and Opportunities for Future Research
From strategic decision-making to implementation at the front line, managers have considerable (if not ultimate) influence over what HRM content is adopted; the activities, manner, and mechanisms by which the content is implemented; and, subsequently, the individual-,
unit-, and organizational-level HRM outcomes. Given their crucial roles in each aspect of the
HRM-CPO framework, we made recommendations for how research at each manager level
should advance to continue this important work. We close our review by considering more
generalized challenges and opportunities for future research to include how the roles of managers in HRM-CPO can help advance HRM theory and be more carefully integrated with
theory related to HRM and leadership, how research can span multiple hierarchical levels,
and the refinement of the HRM process construct.
Advancement of HRM Theory
Our systematic review has clear implications for HRM theory, and we implore researchers to carefully consider and integrate the roles of managers to further advance such theory. For instance, Wright and McMahan’s early theorizing conceptualized SHRM as “the
pattern of planned human resource deployments and activities intended to enable an organization to achieve its goals” (1992: 298). Per our review, it is easy to see how managers
would play a role throughout this entire definition. For example, organizational decision
makers—such as CEOs or HR managers—are responsible for “planned HR deployments”
(i.e., adopting or developing HRM content), while TMTs and LTMMs are responsible for
the “activities” (i.e., HRM process) that accompany these deployments. By integrating
the roles of managers into this conceptualization of SHRM, it becomes clear that the latter
could easily benefit from and grow because of the former. Furthermore, we suggest
researchers give more attention to the inclusion of managers’ roles as they develop, refine,
and/or test HRM theory. For instance, if a model does not explicitly examine the role of
Steffensen et al. / Managers and Human Resource Management   2411
managers, we encourage researchers to somehow capture the underlying roles that managers play as part of the mechanisms that affect the adoption and implementation of HRM
content. This should be done either to explicitly measure the effects of managers or to
more precisely isolate the effects of HRM content.
Two recent perspectives have made progress at moving managers to the foreground of
HRM theory. Nishii and Wright (2008) include leaders in their process model as those who
are responsible for executing organizational HRM content, therefore playing a key role in the
implementation of intended HRM practices. Similarly, Jackson, Schuler, and Jiang (2014)
consider the roles of managers in their aspirational framework of SHRM. Jackson et al.
acknowledge that LTMMs, together with HR professionals and target employees, are (or
should be) involved in “formulating, communicating, and responding to elements of the
[HR] systems” (4). Although these are important advancements, we encourage researchers to
move beyond just HRM process as it occurs on the front line, as addressing other manager
levels will extend these theoretical perspectives of HRM in meaningful ways.
Integrations With Leadership Theory
Surprisingly, a relatively small number of studies in our review invoked traditional
leadership theory, such as transformational and transactional leadership (e.g., Han et al.,
2015; Lopez-Cabrales et al., 2017; Vermeeren, 2014; Zhu et al., 2005). Therefore, the
integration of HRM and leadership research represents a prime area for future inquiry, as
leadership theory can be applied to the roles of all managers. In addition to LTMMs’ abilities, motivations, and opportunities and transformational leadership behaviors (Vermeeren,
2014), factors such as LTMMs’ ethical leadership (Brown, Treviño, & Harrison, 2005),
authentic leadership (Gill, Gardner, Claeys, & Vangronsvelt, 2018), or abusive supervision (Tepper, 2000) could affect their adoption and implementation of HRM content,
ultimately resulting in desirable or undesirable HRM outcomes. More specifically,
LTMMs high in ethical leadership (Brown et al., 2005) would be expected to consistently
and indiscriminately implement HRM content toward all followers. In contrast, abusive
supervision research indicates that highly abusive LTMMs may exploit their power when
implementing HRM practices.
Furthermore, we believe the multilevel framework of leadership theories in units (G.
Chen & Kanfer, 2006) may serve as a promising theoretical framework to integrate leadership and HRM and fully reveal the role of leadership in HRM. This framework generally
suggests that leadership behaviors directed toward individual employees are “discretionary”
and can influence individual employees’ experience in a work unit. Moreover, the aggregated
leadership behaviors toward all employees in the work unit are “ambient,” form the work
unit’s social universe, and affect all employees above and beyond “discretionary” leadership
behaviors. It follows that managers signal “what is important and what behaviors are expected
and rewarded” (Bowen & Ostroff, 2004: 204) to not only individual employees but also the
whole work unit.
More specifically, managers’ leadership behaviors (e.g., transformational leadership
behaviors; Vermeeren, 2014) may simultaneously influence individual subordinates’ interpretation and all subordinates’ shared understanding of the availability and reinforcement of
HRM practices and policies. For instance, given that transformational leaders are known for
2412   Journal of Management / July 2019
caring about followers’ career development needs by showing individualized consideration
(e.g., Bass, 1998), it stands to reason that transformational leaders are likely to use training
and development opportunities to help their followers meet their career goals. As such, G.
Chen and Kanfer’s (2006) framework suggests that highly transformational leaders would
not only make training and development programs available to individual followers and
encourage them to take on appropriate training and development opportunities but also form
a shared understanding among all followers that training programs are available for everyone’s development.
Additionally, we identified a pattern from several articles that suggest either substitutive
or compensatory effects between LTMM factors and HRM content. For example, empowering leadership acted as a substitute for the effects of HRM systems on team knowledge
acquisition and sharing (Chuang et al., 2016) and initiative climate (Hong et al., 2016).
Likewise, the positive effects of service leadership on customer knowledge and service climate were stronger when service-oriented HRM content was low (and vice versa; Jiang et al.,
2015). Finally, commitment-based HRM practices were less likely to be resisted by employees when their managers engaged in ethical leadership behaviors (Neves et al., 2018).
Collectively, these points reinforce our argument that it will be important for researchers to
investigate whether, when, and under what circumstances LTMMs’ factors affect the HRMCPO framework.
Multilevel Nature of HRM
There are many opportunities to improve our multilevel knowledge of the overlap
between managers and HRM. For example, we identified no empirical examinations of the
flow of HRM content from where it originates (e.g., top managers or organizational HR
decision makers) to where it is implemented (e.g., with LTMMs and frontline employees).
The concept of devolution seeks to capture this but often is measured at the LTMM level.
Therefore, we reaffirm Ostroff and Bowen’s call that “attention be devoted to a trickledown effect among leaders” (2016: 206) and call for research that captures the entire devolution process.
In terms of other types of multilevel explorations of managers’ roles in HRM-CPO, we
note two specific studies that provide useful templates for conducting such research. Farndale
and Kelliher (2013) found that the equitable use of performance appraisals was related to
higher employee commitment but that this relationship was stronger when employees trusted
senior managers. Thus, employee perceptions of HRM content were affected by the LTMM
level (i.e., via procedural justice) and upper-level managers (i.e., via trust in senior managers). These findings show that the manager factors of two different levels of managers were
relevant to a favorable HRM outcome. This demonstrates the complexity of the HRM process, as factors at multiple levels need to be considered to tell the complete story. It is also a
useful study to model in that it provides a parsimonious look at a multilevel picture.
The second example is Han and colleagues’ (2015) work examining the moderating
effects of LTMMs’ contingent-reward leadership behaviors on the linkages between individual pay for performance, expectancy, and job performance. Their model includes three
levels (i.e., organization, group, and individual) in conjunction with one HRM practice.
We encourage future researchers to consider models like this, as we argue that multilevel
Steffensen et al. / Managers and Human Resource Management   2413
models contribute significantly to our understanding of the overlap between managers
and HRM.
What Do We Mean When We Say “HRM Process”?
In recent years, researchers have placed increasing emphasis on the need to understand
HRM process (Becker & Huselid, 2006; Bowen & Ostroff, 2004; Sikora et al., 2015). They
have suggested that we can develop a better understanding of the variability that is often
found in HRM outcomes by considering concepts such as how HRM content is implemented
(Ostroff & Bowen, 2016), which, in turn, can help address some of the elusive “black box”
questions of SHRM (Becker & Huselid, 2006). Therefore, we believe that a great opportunity
exists for researchers to explicate further the meaning of HRM process.
To do this, we encourage researchers to take a broader view of this concept by considering HRM process in a more general manner by looking at all mechanisms, activities, and
procedures used by organizations to implement HRM content to their employees. A way to
understand the importance of this is to compare HRM process to what we know regarding
HRM content. Research on HRM content has identified different types of content, taxonomies for individual practices (Posthuma et al., 2013), and concepts such as systems and
bundles (Lepak & Snell, 2002). We believe an important next step in fully understanding
HRM, and the role that managers play in it, is for researchers to give HRM process a similar degree of attention.
Some progress has been made at mapping this domain. As previously mentioned,
Bowen and Ostroff’s (2004) HRM system strength construct has played a key role in laying the foundation for what researchers mean by HRM process. They used climate and
attribution theory to argue that the intended messages of HRM content are clearer when
they are distinct, consistent, and agreed upon. However, we argue that the process mechanisms related to HRM system strength are likely one of many parts of what might constitute HRM process and, thus, call for scholars to delineate more fully this area of research.
For instance, researchers could build on the work of Wooldridge, Schmid, and Floyd
(2008) by extrapolating their framework for middle managements’ general strategic roles
to their specific roles in HRM. Wooldridge and colleagues argue for research that examines the subprocesses of idea generation, initiative development, and integration/execution. We encourage researchers to overlay these principles onto facets of the HRM-CPO
framework by considering the roles that managers play in deciding which HRM practices/
strategies get adopted (idea generation), developing the means for how the HRM content
will be executed (initiative development), and contributing to the implementation of the
HRM plan (integration/execution).
Bowen and Ostroff argued that “HR content and process must be integrated effectively in
order for prescriptive models of strategic HR to actually link to firm performance” (2004:
206). As organizational leaders, managers have the ability to determine what type of content
is adopted and considerable say over the process through which it is implemented. Thus,
understanding managers’ roles in HRM is critical to understanding the impact of HRM in and
2414   Journal of Management / July 2019
on organizations. To this end, we have synthesized research on the roles that LTMMs, HR
managers, TMTs, CEOs, and BODs play concerning HRM content, HRM process, and HRM
outcomes. Our hope is that this review of the current state of knowledge and suggestions for
future inquiry will advance HRM research by facilitating increased and specific exploration
of the roles managers play in HRM.
1. Following an anonymous reviewer’s suggestion, we reported effect sizes for the relationships in question
(available online in the supplemental material).
2. We encourage readers to consult a recent, alternate review of literature on TMTs and HRM done by BoadaCuerva, Trullen, and Valverde (in press). Whereas the current review examines empirical studies that look specifically at the primary roles played by TMTs in terms of our HRM-CPO framework, Boada-Cuerva et al. include
articles wherein TMTs play a secondary role.
References marked with an asterisk indicate studies included in the review.
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