The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Management Capability, Innovations in Work Practices and Performance: Multilevel Research in Science and Technology Based Firms

Marc Thompson

Doctoral dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the School of Science for public examination and debate in Auditorium TU1 at the Aalto University School of Science (Espoo, Finland) on the 28th of June 2011 at 12 noon.

Overview in PDF format (ISBN 978-952-60-4174-2)   [362 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-952-60-4173-5)


These five published papers focus primarily on the role of managerial resources (the knowledge, skills and abilities of managers) in the use of innovations in work practices and their performance consequences. The papers together take a multilevel approach exploring the role of management capability at individual, organizational and industry level with a particular focus on science and technology firms. The first research paper uses individual level data from R&D scientists in six organizations to understand how managerial capability shapes non-imitable resources such as commitment. Interactional justice, or the perceived fairness of the manager, is identified as a critical moderating factor that can support higher levels of knowledge generation.

The second paper builds on this relational perspective and explores the role of the employment relationship, operationalised though the psychological contract, on knowledge sharing behaviours amongst R&D staff. The job design dimension of the contract is found to have a positive impact on innovative behaviours while performance pay is negative.

The third paper takes an establishment-level focus and differentiates between 'HR-specific' and 'general' management capability. Based on cross-section and panel data from establishment-level survey conducted three times in 7 years in the UK Aerospace industry, the paper finds positive associations in the cross-section data for management capability and innovations in work practices. Tests for the moderation effects of management capability on innovations in work practices and performance using the panel data were contrary to expectations.

The fourth paper uses detailed case study evidence from seven establishments to explore constraints on the adoption of innovations in work practices. Three themes were identified which may shape managerial capability to innovate: industry and production context; the distributed nature of management activity, and social embeddedness.

The fifth and final paper, explores the links between the production context and the use of innovative work practices. It finds that with increasing levels of product and service complexity, the nature and scope of innovative work practices also increases. At low levels of product and service complexity incentives are the primary HR practice deployed whereas at higher levels of product and service complexity establishments use teamwork, employee surveys and a positive approach to trade union relations.

This thesis consists of an overview and of the following 5 publications:

  1. Marc Thompson and Paul Heron. 2005. The difference a manager can make: organizational justice and knowledge worker commitment. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, volume 16, number 3, pages 383-404.
  2. Marc Thompson and Paul Heron. 2006. Relational quality and innovative performance in R&D based science and technology firms. Human Resource Management Journal, volume 16, number 1, pages 28-47.
  3. Marc Thompson and Paul Heron. 2005. Management capability and high performance work organization. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, volume 16, number 6, pages 1029-1048.
  4. Marc Thompson. 2007. Innovation in work practices: a practice perspective. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, volume 18, number 7, pages 1298-1317.
  5. Jannis Jan Angelis and Marc Thompson. 2007. Product and service complexity and high performance work practices in the aerospace industry. The Journal of Industrial Relations, volume 49, number 5, pages 775-781.

Keywords: innovation, work practices, high performance work systems, high commitment work practices, high involvement management

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© 2011 Aalto University

Last update 2011-11-02