IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

HRM and Small-Firm Employee Motivation: Before and after the Recession


  • Bryson, Alex

    () (University College London)

  • White, Michael

    () (Policy Studies Institute)


A long-running debate in the small firms' literature questions the value of formal 'human resource management' (HRM) practices which have been linked to high performance in larger firms. We contribute to this literature by exploiting linked employer-employee surveys for 2004 and 2011. Using employees' intrinsic job satisfaction and organizational commitment as measures of motivation we find the returns to small firm investments in HRM are u-shaped. Small firms benefit from intrinsically motivating work situations in the absence of HRM practices, find this advantage disturbed when formal HRM practices are initially introduced, but can restore positive motivation when they invest intensively in HRM practices in a way that characterizes 'high performance work systems' (HWPS) and 'strategic human resource management' (SHRM). Although the HPWS effect on employee motivation is modified somewhat by the recessionary transition, it remains rather robust and continues to have positive promise for small firms.

Suggested Citation

  • Bryson, Alex & White, Michael, 2017. "HRM and Small-Firm Employee Motivation: Before and after the Recession," IZA Discussion Papers 10737, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10737

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Frölich, Markus & Huber, Martin & Wiesenfarth, Manuel, 2017. "The finite sample performance of semi- and non-parametric estimators for treatment effects and policy evaluation," Computational Statistics & Data Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 91-102.
    2. Aysit Tansel & Saziye Gazîoglu, 2014. "Management-employee relations, firm size and job satisfaction," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 35(8), pages 1260-1275, October.
    3. Alexander Hijzen & Richard Upward & Peter W. Wright, 2010. "Job Creation, Job Destruction and the Role of Small Firms: Firm-Level Evidence for the UK," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 72(5), pages 621-647, October.
    4. Hainmueller, Jens & Xu, Yiqing, 2013. "ebalance: A Stata Package for Entropy Balancing," Journal of Statistical Software, Foundation for Open Access Statistics, vol. 54(i07).
    5. Chris Moule, 1998. "Regulation of Work in Small Firms: A View from the Inside," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 12(4), pages 635-653, December.
    6. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
    7. Harvie Ramsay & Dora Scholarios & Bill Harley, 2000. "Employees and High-Performance Work Systems: Testing inside the Black Box," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 38(4), pages 501-531, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    small firms; human resource management; high performance work system; workplace motivation; intrinsic job satisfaction; organizational commitment;

    JEL classification:

    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • M50 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - General
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10737. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.