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The Influence of Human Resource

Practices on Empowerment and


Employee Perceptions of Management
Commitment to Quality
Larry W. Howard
Middle Tennessee State University

S. Thomas Foster
Boise State University

We hypothesized that certain human resource (HR) management prac-


tices establish a plaOrorm for basing employee empowerment, and that
increasing empowerment would be positively related to perceptions of
leadership commitment to quality. Using multi-stage structural equation
modeling, we tested these hypotheses on data collected internally from
529 employees in a high-technology manufacturer well known for its
quality initiatives. Results supported these predictions, and point to ways
to further integrate HR management and quality management practices.

According to Crosby (1980), employee attitudes toward quality represent the


essence of quality management. Deming (1982) likewise argued that without
employee commitment to quality, quality efforts cannot succeed. A necessary pre-
condition for gaining employee commitment to quality, however, might be leader-
ship commitment to quality, or at least the perception of leadership commitment to
quality (Fields & Thacker, 1992). When employees perceive that management is
committed to quality, they tend to be more committed to quality (Jones, Glaman, &
Johnson, 1993). When employees perceive strong organizational commitment to
quality, employee work quality improves (Gorden, Infante, & Graham, 1988), and
customer satisfaction increases (Reeves & Hoy, 1993; Schneider & Bowen, 1993).
Therefore, gaining employee commitment to quality is critical, and that commit-
ment might be gained by developing positive attitudes about management's com-
mitment to quality.

Direct all correspondence to: Larry W. Howard, Middle Tennessee State University, Dept. of Management, Mur-
freesboro, TN 37132.
Journal of Quality IVIanagement, Vol. 4, No. l, pp. 5-22 ISSN: 1084-8586
Copyright 1999 by Elsevier Science Inc. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
6 HOWARD&FOSTER
Traditionally, responsibility for monitoring and influencing employee attitudes
has fallen to human resource (HR) managers. Although various models of quality
management processes include aspects of HR (e.g., Anderson, Rungtusanatham, &
Schroeder, 1994; Flynn, Schroeder, & Sakakibara, 1996), surprisingly little research
has been conducted to examine the impact of human resource practices (HRP) on
quality management (Riordan & Gatewood, 1996). We propose a conceptual model,
presented in Figure 1, relating HRP with employee perceptions of top management
commitment to quality.
This model implies that certain HRP help to establish a platform from which to
launch initiatives to develop positive employee attitudes. This foundation consists of
traditional HRP involving such issues as job security, performance feedback, and
equal opportunity. These are strategically oriented to reduce employee concerns for
contextual issues and to enable them to concentrate on quality issues. Building on
this foundation, the model then suggests thatwe provide the technical information
and the sociopolitical support necessary for employees to feel confident in their
abilities to influence organizational outcomes. Thus, employees will feel empow-
ered to affect improved quality in their work. Acting in a workplace climate that
reflects concern for the quality of their work lives, they will be more likely to per-
ceive that the organization and its leaders are committed to quality. Although no
overarching theoretical basis for the overall model has yet been proposed, as we
explore in the next section, there are several theoretical and empirical sources for
proposing the structural relationships.

I MANAGEMENT
PERCEIVED I
COMMITMENT
TO QUALITY
/ "-,.
EMVLOYEE [ I REsPEcTFR
PSYCHOLOGICAL I I EMPLOYEE

l-<..I I

SOCIO-POLITICAL cc .ss o
SUPPORT

FEEDBACK/ [ CAREER
EEO
COMPLIANCE RECOGNITION SECURITY

Figure 1. Conceptual Model Relating Human Resource Practices, Psychological


Empowerment, and Perceived Management Commitment to Quality

JOURNALOFQUALITYMANAGEMENT,Vol.4, No. 1, 1999


INFLUENCE ON HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES 7

CONCEPTUAL BACKGROUND AND HYPOTHESES

The Human Resource Empowerment Structure

Recently, researchers have examined several innovations in HR management,


variously labeled "High Performance Work Practices" (US Department of Labor,
1993), "Progressive Human Resource Practices" (Pfeffer, 1994), "Strategic Human
Resource Practices" (Delery & Doty, 1996), or HRP for "enhancing human capital"
(Youndt, Snell, Dean, & Lepak, 1996). Table 1 summarizes the elements of these
HR management subsystems. In the last column of Table 1, we also identify activi-
ties associated with the traditional HR management function (Schuler, 1995).
Although overlap and redundancies are obvious across these models, researchers
have thus far not yet identified those bundles of HRP that translate into effective
quality management (cf., Delaney & Huselid, 1996; Gerhart, Trevor, & Graham,
1996; MacDuffie, 1995; Snell, Youndt, & Wright, 1996; US Department of Labor,
1993; Youndt et al., 1996).
In spite of the similarities among sets of HRP, Huselid (1995) suggested that
specific HRP differ in terms of their objectives. Some influence development of
employee skills, others target employee motivation, and others establish organiza-
tional subsystem structures. Recruiting, selecting, and training, for example, repre-
sent traditional HR management activities designed specifically to affect acquisition
and development of knowledge, skills, and abilities in the HR pool (Rynes & Trank,
1996). Incentive pay and some other forms of compensation are specifically
designed to motivate behaviors (Blackburn & Rosen, 1996). Some practices, includ-
ing internal career planning and recognition programs, create structure in the HR
management system, providing a foundation for shaping employee attitudes (Rior-
dan & Gatewood, 1996). We propose that some of these HRP targeting employee
attitudes establish an infrastructure of HR management practices supporting quality
programs, generally considered a prerequisite for success (Flynn et al., 1996; Ittner
& Larcker, 1996; Riordan & Gatewood, 1996).
This HRP infrastructure is illustrated in Figure 1 and includes at least three
components. First, career planning and internal career management establish a basis
for employment security, because employees are not likely to take initiative on
behalf of the organization unless their future with the organization is at least some-
what secure (cf., London, 1993). Second, compliance with equal employment
opportunity mandates and valuing diversity establish a basis for procedural fairness,
because employees will not take initiative if they suspect that arbitrary or discrimi-
natory actions will undermine their efforts (cf., Efraty, Sirgy, & Claiborne, 1991;
Ichniowski, Shaw, & Prennushi, 1994; Levine, 1995). Third, practices that provide
performance feedback and recognition establish a basis for communicating values,
and are critical because employees will not maintain initiatives that are not rein-
forced (cf., Banker, Lee, Potter, & Srinivasan, 1996; Gerhart et al., 1996).

1t1: The HR management practices of (1) equal employment opportunity


compliance, (2) career planning, and (3) performance feedback/recognition
will collectively contribute to an understanding of an HRP structure.

JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1999


>

Table 1. Human Resource Practices


"High performance
HRPfor "enhancing work practices"
human capital" (US Department of "Progressive HRP" "Strategic HRP" Traditional HR activities
(Youndt et al., 1996) Labor, 1993) (Pfeffer, 1994) (Delery and Dory, 1996) (Schuler, 1995)
>
Selective staffing Recruitment, selection Selective recruiting Staffing
Training Training Skill training Formal training Training
Job rotation Job design Job redesign Nonroutine job definitions Designing jobs
< Promotion for merit Promotion from within Internal career opportunities Career planning
o
Employment security Employment security m

Participative decision making Participation Participation >
Empowerment Empowerment
Information sharing Information sharing L~
Attitude assessment HRP measurement
o~
Feedback/recognition Behavior vs. outcome appraisals Appraising performance ,-4
Grievance procedures Voice mechanisms
Cross-utilization Cross-utilization
Employee ownership Profit sharing Compensating
Salaries vs. wages High wages
Group incentives Incentive pay
Teams
Long-term philosophy Monitoring safety and health
Symbolic egalitarianism Equal employment opportunity
compliance
INFLUENCE ON HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES 9

Some people have defined "empowerment" in terms of such structural condi-


tions (e.g., Liden & Arad, 1996; Robbins & Fredendall, 1995). Consequently, we
call this set of HRP the "HR empowerment structure" In effect, the HR empower-
ment structure reduces the need for employees to be concerned with fundamental
issues surrounding their employment situation. These kinds of concerns distract
employees and tend to reduce their job satisfaction, motivation, and commitment
(Herzberg, 1966). Consequently, they are better able to focus their attention on
achieving meaningful task objectives. Further, through feedback and recognition
programs, the HR empowerment structure identifies those task objectives most val-
ued by the organization's leadership, including quality management. Therefore,
although the HR empowerment structure is not necessarily linked to quality com-
mitment, it establishes a platform from which employees can launch quality initia-
tives by helping to create a sense of empowerment.

Psychological Empowerment
Most definitions of empowerment refer to some aspect of control---control over
decision making (Parker & Price, 1994), control over work processes (Pfeffer,
1994), control over performance goals and measurement (Beer, 1991), and/or con-
trol over other people (Fulford & Enz, 1995; Keller & Dansereau, 1995). Recent
research supports the notion of empowerment as a psychological construct, such
that empowerment exists when people feel that they exercise some control over their
work lives (Spreitzer, 1995, 1996). According to Thomas & Velthouse (1990), psy-
chological empowerment includes four elements: (1) a sense of self-determination,
(2) personal meaning, (3) a sense of competence, and (4) perceived impact. Each of
these elements, of course, could affect an individual's experience of control over some-
thing. We propose that the HR empowerment structure enables self-determination by
reducing threats of capricious external control, and provides personal meaning
by helping to align personal and organizational values. Thus, the HR empowerment
structure establishes the first two elements of psychological empowerment.

1t2: The extent to which employees perceive the existence o f a HR empower-


ment structure will be directly related to the extent that they feel empowered.

Providing technical information and access to technical experts should facili-


tate a sense of competence, the third element of psychological empowerment. The
more that employees feel capable of solving technical problems they encounter,
the more competent they feel to do their jobs and to make decisions about how their
jobs should be done (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990). The fourth element of psycholog-
ical empowerment, perceived impact, can be affected by providing sociopolitical
support (Spreitzer, 1996). Sociopolitical support includes open communications and
opportunities to speak one's opinions without fear of reprisal, being integrally con-
nected with a network of communications, and having access to influential people
throughout the organization. It also means minimizing ambiguity in responsibilities
and maximizing collaborative teamwork. Consequently, as illustrated in Figure 1,

JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1999


10 HOWARD & FOSTER

access to technical information and sociopolitical support combine with the HRP
empowerment structure to affect employee perceptions of empowerment.

1-13: The extent to which employees perceive (a) access to technical informa-
tion and (b) sociopolitical support will be directly related to the extent they
feel empowered.

Sociopolitical support brings decentralized decision making to the individual


level, implying significant employee discretion (Blackburn & Rosen, 1996). Prior
studies show that management-led empowerment is an important antecedent to the
adoption of a quality culture (Anderson et al., 1994). Research has also affirmed
the importance of leadership in achieving world-class levels of quality (Benson,
Saraph, & Schroeder, 1991). As employees gain an understanding of the variables
that relate to a quality culture through education or study, they create expectations for
increased autonomy concerning decisions relating to their own work and increased
employee empowerment (Shipper & Manz, 1992). Thus, employee empowerment
provides an important queue to employees that management is leading the adoption
of modern quality management approaches (Chiles & Zorn, 1995; Fulford & Enz,
1995; Parker & Price, 1994; Shipper & Manz, 1992). Also, it seems likely that the
actual transfer of authority to employees through sociopolitical support would most
effectively communicate management's commitment to a quality initiative requiring
individual development and accountability. Consequently, as illustrated in Figure 1,
sociopolitical support makes a direct connection between employee empowerment
and employee perceptions of management attitudes, including commitment to quality.

1t4: The extent to which employees feel empowered will "be directly related
to the extent they perceive top management is committed to quality.

In summary, psychological empowerment is enabled by structural elements,


enacted by technical elements, and encouraged by social and political elements.
Although not all of these elements of empowerment are necessarily related to per-
ceived quality commitment, they interact to enhance that perception. Some people
have argued that a workplace climate which communicates respect for employee
rights and needs will also have an impact on workers' commitment to the organiza-
tion and its mission (Gorden, Anderson, & Bruning, 1992). Although this contextual
variable has not been directly related to either HRP or quality management, per se,
it may play a role in the nomological network surrounding these two constructs.
Showing respect for employee rights and offering opportunities to fulfill employee
needs through workplace arrangements are fundamental components of what has
been referred to as "quality of work life" (Pasmore, 1985). Although theorists have
yet to specify relationships between the concepts of quality of work life and total
quality management, the intuitive affinity between them is too great to ignore.
Therefore, we include employee respect as a covariate with employee empower-
ment in predicting levels of perceived management commitment to quality. Struc-
tural equation modeling and regression analyses were used to test our hypotheses.

JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1999


INFLUENCE ON HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES 11

METHODS

Sample

Employees in one of America's foremost high-technology companies provided


survey data for this study. For purposes of confidentiality, we do not divulge the
name of the company. However, it is widely known and held as an example of a
mature quality adopter. This firm has a tradition and culture that emphasizes quality
products and processes.
All 529 employees working in a single product-engineering facility answered
questionnaires, designed and administered internally. The survey instrument had
undergone several iterations and modifications over recent years, and the items had
been previously validated. Sixty-six percent of the respondents were male and 88%
were white. Seventy-three percent had been with the company for more than 3
years, while 18% had less than 1 year's tenure. Twenty-six percent of our sample
indicated that they were "exempt" (i.e., salaried) employees, while 9% self-
described as managers.

Measures

The measures we used were developed post-hoc. Based on the content of com-
munications with company executives regarding previous validation, we first devel-
oped a group of relevant concepts tapped by the survey. Then, we conducted
exploratory factor analyses. The eigenvalue criterion and screen plot indicated that
between 5 and 10 factors were associated with the items. We selected those factors
consisting of survey items most consistent with definitions of the concepts identified
previously, and repeated the factor analysis specifying eight factors, which
explained more than 70% of the variance in the item scores. We then eliminated
some items that either loaded highly on more than one factor or failed to load sub-
stantially on any factor, thus, also failing to either converge on or discriminate
among the concepts. Finally, we used structural equation modeling to confirm the
latent factor structures of selected items, and conducted reliability analyses for
the various scales.
Rather than conducting exploratory analyses on a subset of the data and con-
firming scales with the rest, we used the entire data set for scale development for
two reasons. First, several observations with missing data on some items would
have compromised our confidence in analyses from smaller subsets. Second,
because all items were self-reported, Likert-scaled 1 = "strongly agree" to 5 =
"strongly disagree," we wanted to ensure that the data were not biased by common
method variance. Results of the exploratory factor analysis provided this assurance.
We derived eight scales for this study: (1) EEO/compliance, (2) career security,
(3) feedback/recognition, (4) psychological empowerment, (5) sociopolitical sup-
port, (6) access to technical information, (7) respect for employee rights and needs,
and (8) perceived management commitment to quality. Confirmatory factor analysis
fit indices and Cronbach's coefficient a indices of internal consistency are reported

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12 HOWARD & FOSTER

Table 2. Fit Indices from First-order Confirmatory Factor Analyses and


Reliability Estimates for All Scales
Scale Items a GFI NFI CFI RMSR Xe Null
Access to technical 6 .81 0.90 0.84 0.85 .073 93.68** 582.09
information (df= 9) (df= 15)
Sociopolitical support 8 .82 0.92 0.86 0.87 .065 165.24"* 1145.12
(df = 20) (df = 28)
Feedback/recognition 4 .82 0.99 0.99 0.99 .020 7.98* 739.98
(df = 2) (df = 6)
Psychological empowerment 8 .81 0.95 0.90 0.92 .052 109.76"* 1097.57
(df= 20) (df=28)
EEO/legal compliance 7 .94 0.96 0.98 0.98 .025 70.01"* 2963.57
(df = 14) (df= 21)
Respect for employee 8 .82 0.91 0.83 0.84 .066 201.99"* 1167.95
rights/needs (df = 20) (df = 28)
Perceived management 3 .77 0.96 0.91 0.91 .253 34.62** 398.95
commitment to quality (df = 1) (df = 3)
Career security 4 .78 1.0 1.0 1.0 .008 1.22 563.46
(df = 2) (df = 6)
*p < 0.05; **p < 0.0001. N = 529.

in Table 2. These indices provide support for both the validity and reliability of the
scales (Nunnally, 1978). All items used are listed in the appendix.

Analyses

Sample size affects certain indices of fit in structural equation modeling. Some
people recommend at least 10 observations per item (Bentler & Chou, 1987), imply-
ing about 480 observations for the present study. Others, however, argue that sam-
ples in excess of 200 make maximum likelihood estimation "too sensitive," thereby,
making all goodness-of-fit measures indicate poor fit (Hoelter, 1983). We conducted
two separate analyses, one employing the full sample of 529, and the other reduced
by listwise deletion for missing data on key variables to a sample of 214. Results
were virtually identical, so, we report the analyses from the full sample.
We used multi-stage analyses of structural equation models in SAS-Calis (SAS
Institute, 1990), analyzing covariance matrices as done in LISREL and EQS. When
measures are of uncertain validity and theory is tentative, multi-stage analyses are
recommended in structural equation modeling to avoid confounding the measure-
ment and structural models (Anderson & Gerbing, 1988, 1990). Although our mea-
sures demonstrated acceptable reliabilities and convergent validities, they are
nonetheless exploratory and lack a body of validation evidence. Similarly, while the
empirical evidence we base our model on is reasonably strong, the theoretical ratio-
nale is not. Indeed, we are building theory more than testing it. Although we are
interested in the measurement models--i.e., the degree of accuracy in capturing the
variable constructs--our primary concern is with the structural models, the relation-
ships among constructs. Therefore, we first fit the data to our lower-order factor

JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1999


INFLUENCE ON HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES 13

models and, subsequently, fixed those parameters derived for estimating the fit to
higher-order factor models. Likewise, we used summated scale scores as opposed
to item scores for estimating the fit to path models, as in previous research (e.g.,
Spreitzer, 1996).

RESULTS

Table 3 presents descriptive statistics and intercorrelations for all variables. As


expected, and consistent with other research involving many of these variables (e.g.,
Delaney & Huselid, 1996; Huselid, 1995), we experienced substantial multi-col-
linearity. Such collinearity is generally not a serious problem in structural equation
modeling, so long as the associations are r < .75 (Ashford & Tsui, 1992; Spreitzer,
1996).

Hypothesis 1

After fitting the data to the separate first-order factors, as reported in Table 2,
Stage 1 of our analyses examined the viability of the construct, "HR empowerment
structure." First, we fixed indicator variable parameters to the values derived in their
respective factor analyses for the "EEO/legal compliance," "feedback/recognition,"
and "career planning/security" scales. Then, we conducted a second-order factor
analysis, the latent second-order factor representing the HR empowerment structure.
The data fit the model acceptably (GFI = 0.89, NFI = 0.90, CFI = 0.92). Figure 2
contains the standardized maximum likelihood parameter estimates. In additional
analyses, we included other first-order factors, but the fit of the model was consis-
tently reduced, indicating that the second-order factor was not solely the result of
common method variance. Hypothesis l was supported.

Hypotheses 2 and 3

In Stage 2, we examined the psychological empowerment construct. Psycho-


logical empowerment was proposed as the product of three contributing factors: the
HR empowerment structure, access to technical information, and sociopolitical sup-
port. In order to simplify the structural model, scale scores (computed as the mean
of the scale item scores) were used for the various factors. The data fit the model
well (GFI = 0.97, NFI = 0.98, CFI = 0.98). As reported in Figure 3, the standard-
ized path coefficient for the relationships between the HR empowerment structure
and psychological empowerment was 0.40, significant at p < .01. Hypothesis 2 was
supported. Path coefficients between psychological empowerment and both access
to technical information and sociopolitical support were both .30, significant at p <
.01. Both parts of Hypothesis 3, therefore, were supported also.

Hypothesis 4

Finally, in Stage 3, we added the propositions that perceived leadership com-


mitment to quality was driven by employee psychological commitment, operating in

JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1999


>

>
t"

>
Z
>
m
T a b l e 3. Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations for all variables
Z
Variable Mean a S.D. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
<
1. Access to technical information 2.35 0.73 (.81)
2. Sociopolitical support 2.27 0.64 .46 (.82)
Z 3. Feedback and recognition 2.42 0.78 .39 .73 (.82)
.Q >
4. Psychological empowerment 2.25 0.62 .54 .79 .71 (.81)
5. Equal employment opportunity 1.92 0.70 .37 .45 .39 .48 (.94)
6. Respect for employee rights and needs 2.60 0.66 .49 .71 .64 .74 .45 (.82)
7. Management commitment to quality 2.41 0.78 .50 .75 .61 .76 .44 .71 (.77)
8. Career planning and security 2.40 0.77 .43 .56 .56 .60 .31 .51 m
.46 (.78)
Note: Coefficient ot's are in parentheses on the diagonal. All correlations are significant a t p < .001. N = 529.
aLow scores indicate high levels of the variable, scaled 1-5.
INFLUENCE ON H U M A N RESOURCE PRACTICES 15

HUMAN RESOURCE
EMPOWERMENT
STRUCTURE

Y .75 .54
.52
.66 CAREER
FEEDBACK/ SECURITY

EEO

.63 .77

.78

.69/ .87 I .93 [ .92

Figure 2. Second-Order Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the


Human Resource Management Empowerment Structure

a workplace climate reflecting respect for employee rights and needs. We tested the
hypothesis with structural equations for all variables as illustrated in the conceptual
model of Figure 1, and fitting the data to this model. None of the fit indices indi-
cated that this model accurately represented the empirical relationships. We then
conducted a simple regression of perceived leadership commitment over psycholog-
ical empowerment and employee respect, which explained nearly 69% of the vari-
ance in leadership commitment to quality (F = 232.14, p < .0001). The
standardized regression coefficients for empowerment and respect were [3 = .69 and
[3 = .38, respectively. These results seemed contradictory to the lack of fit.
In order to examine alternative explanations, we then transformed our mea-
sures of the variables comprising the HR empowerment structure to a single scale
score, thereby eliminating the latent factor. Then, we repeated regressions of the
dependent variable over all other variables, and compared direct and indirect path
coefficients. These results suggested that the conceptual model fit the data poorly
because of multi-collinearity. This analysis included significant relationships that
existed but were not specified in the structural equation model. In particular, socio-
political support had both direct and indirect effects on respect for employees. Sim-

J O U R N A L OF QUALITY M A N A G E M E N T , Vol. 4, No. 1, 1999


16 HOWARD & FOSTER

PERCEIVED
MANAGEMENT
COMMITMENT
TO QUALITY

EMPLOYEE RESPECT FOR I


PSYCHOLOGICAL EMPLOYEE
EMPOWERMENT RIGHTS/NEEDS

soc,o_ i i
POLITICAL
SUPPORT
INFORMATION i EMPOWE1LMENT
STRUCTURE

-....+.. ~~,-l ', ~ / .86


m',/_..7 5_ . _-~-__-~ --.. . . . .84
---.

I EEo I EDBACI I CAREER


[RECOGNITION[ SECURITY

~_~.', Stage 1: Second-Order Confirmatory Factor Loadings


~...........:::~:
,~
'.t.........g~ Stage 2: Path Coefficients
V = 7 Stage 3: Regression Coefficients

Figure 3. Coefficients Derived From Three-Stage Analyses: Confirmatory Factor


Analysis, Path Analysis, and Multiple Regression Analysis

ilarly, additional effects of feedback/recognition and access to information attenu-


ated the model fit. Consequently, alternative models predicting leader commitment
to quality from these variables are also plausible.
Regression analyses revealed one other finding. In no case did the HR empow-
erment structure demonstrate a significant direct effect on perceived leadership
commitment to quality. All of its effect was indirect, through psychological empow-
erment [([3 = 0.40) ([3 = 0.69)]. This finding suggests that the HRP of providing
feedback and recognition for quality achievements, complying with equal employment
mandates, and ensuring career planning and security are vital to gaining employee
commitment to quality management programs, but are not likely to appear as such
without considering their roles in affecting employee empowerment. These HRP set
the stage for subsequent organizational action, necessary but not sufficient condi-
tions for long-term success. In conclusion, these results tend to support Hypothesis

JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1999


INFLUENCE ON HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES 17

4, even though the data did not fit the structural model specifying constrained,
causal relationships among variables well.

DISCUSSION

This study helps provides insights concerning the leadership role as it relates
to leaders developing employees' commitment to quality by empowering them to
enact quality initiatives. We conclude that certain traditional HRP--complying with
equal employment opportunity principles, providing feedback and recognition for
quality achievements, and providing career planning and security---combine to
establish a foundation for empowering employees by enabling them to focus on
quality initiatives rather than their employment situation. This linkage helps to
bridge the gap between the quality management and HR management domains.
These results also suggest that there may be other processes mediating the
effects of HRP on organizational outcomes. HRP are targeted to directly achieve
acquisition or development of human and social capital, influence motivation of par-
ticular behaviors, or shape employee attitudes. These, then, are the products of HRP.
We are more likely to identify the effects of HRP on organizational outcomes by
examining the direct effects of HRP on these products and the sequential effects of
these products on organizational outcomes, including quality management out-
comes. In this case, particular HRP helped to create higher levels of psychological
empowerment, and those perceptions of empowerment were directly related to
higher levels of perceived management commitment to quality.
This study adds support to the growing body of evidence surrounding the psy-
chological empowerment construct. We found three components combining to en-
hance employees' sense of empowerment: the HR empowerment structure, access to
technical information, and sociopolitical support. The fact that these elements reflect
structural, technical, and social dynamics serves notice that as multi-dimensional
constructs, both empowerment and effective quality management require a compre-
hensive perspective, perhaps only apparent at the highest levels of organization
leadership.
These results also suggest that consideration for employee rights and needs
contributes to the kind of workplace climate that is consistent with garnering
employee commitment. Although we made no specific hypotheses regarding this
concept, its strong relationships with several other variables suggests potential for
future research. Since respect for employee rights is fundamental to what is known
in the HR field as "quality of work life," this issue presents additional opportunities
for empirically linking the HR area with a quality management philosophy.
There are several limitations to this study. First, the survey items were gener-
ated internally without a theoretical grounding, and our post post-hoc construction
of scales from these items is open to questions of validity. Nonetheless, the iterative
process undertaken by diverse focus groups in the company to produce and repeat-
edly refine items supports their face validity, our exploratory factor analyses suggest
scale discriminant validity, and our confirmatory factor analyses suggest convergent
validity for our scale construction. Second, all of our measures were self-reported

JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1999


18 HOWARD & FOSTER

responses to Likert-type survey questions, presenting the possibility for common


method bias. Although results of our factor analyses indicated that this was not a
major problem, subsequent research could be strengthened through the use of addi-
tional measures and additional sources. Third, we experienced substantial multi-
collinearity among our measures, which were all collected at the same point in time,
calling into question any particular specification of their causal relationships. This
multi-collinearity was most likely responsible for the lack of fit to the overall model,
as well, which suggests that additional paths that were not specified might have
been or should have been specified.
Our conceptual model apparently reflects some of the structural relationships
among empowering HRP, and in turn their conjunctive effect with sociopolitical
support and information access on employee perceptions of empowerment. The
model is also apparently useful in illuminating some of the causal factors leading to
employee perceptions of management commitment to quality. These results show
that empowerment, including sociopolitical support, and concern for the quality of
work life directly contribute to such perceptions, while empowering HRP contribute
indirectly. Nonetheless, the exact relationship among these variables remains uncer-
tain. We had neither theoretical nor empirical rationales for testing alternative paths.
As a final limitation, this company was very mature in its quality legacy, suggesting
that what we found here might not generalize to all firms. On the other hand, if what
we found here reflects successful quality management, then perhaps our results help
to describe a benchmark for other firms pursuing improved quality.

APPENDIX

Feedback/recognition
yl My immediate supervisor gives me regular feedback on my performance.
y2 Individual contributions are recognized.
y3 Team contributions receive recognition.
y4 I have received recognition. EEO/compliance
y5 Management actively supports workforce diversity.
y6 Employees in my work group are treated equally regardless of gender.
y7 Employees in my work group are treated equally regardless of race.
y8 Employees in my work group are treated equally regardless of religion.
y9 Employees in my work group are treated equally regardless of age.
yl0 Employees in my work group are treated equally regardless of sexual
orientation.
yll Employees in my work group are treated equally regardless of disability.

Career security
y12 I am aware that development and training classes are available for me to take.
y13 I have the opportunity to be involved in activities that promote my
professional development.
y14 I have access to information for my career planning.

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INFLUENCE ON HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES 19

y 15 My immediate supervisor and I have discussed my ongoing career


development.

Access to technical information


y16 Technical resource people are available to answer my questions.
y17 Technical resource people are knowledgeable enough to assist with my more
difficult questions.
y18 New technical information is shared in a timely manner.
y19 I have a technical forum for exchanging information with engineers, resource
agents, others.
y20 I have access to information I need to do my job.
y21 I have the tools to do my job. (PCs, hardware, software, e-mail, network
access).

Sociopolitical support
y22a My section manager exhibits the kind of leadership I expect and desire.
y22b My immediate supervisor is accessible.
y23 My immediate supervisor is approachable.
y24 I have a clear understanding of what is expected of me on the job.
y25 Employees can express their opinions openly and freely without fear of
reprisal.
y26 My work group has planned team-building activities.
y27 Team-building activities have a beneficial effect.
y28 It is safe to use the Open Door P o l i c y . . .
y29 My input is considered in decision making.

Psychological empowerment
y30 I receive enough information about [the company] vision and objectives.
y31 I feel my immediate supervisor values my contribution to the company.
y32 I feel free to discuss my concerns with someone in management other than
my immediate supervisor.
y33 I feel that management will act on the issues raised by this survey.
y34 I receive the training necessary to do my job.
y35 I feel that I am valued by management.
y36 I am empowered to fulfill reasonable customer expectations.
y37 I feel effective in solving the customer problems.

Respect for employee rights~needs


y38 I am ranked fairly based on my performance.
y39 I am seldom bothered by pressure on the job.
y40 Project assignments are distributed fairly.
y41 I have adequate time to complete my project.
y42 I have adequate time to follow up on commitments to customers.
y43 I would recommend [this organization] as a good place to work.
y44 My work group's morale and enthusiasm is generally high.
y45 Management supports a balance between work and personal life.

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20 HOWARD& FOSTER

Perceived management commitment to quality


y46 I believe what m a n a g e m e n t communicates to us [about quality commitment].
y47 The [quality strategy] is working as intended.
y48 I feel that management is committed to quality.

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