The influence of human resource management practices on employees’ attitudes and behaviour

by Dr. Lew Tek Yew

Organisations are increasingly interested to develop committed workforces to reduce employee turnover and absenteeism by improving employee performance and job-related attitudes.

There is growing evidence that employees’ positive attitudes and discretionary behaviour are important factors affecting organisational performance. Hence, gaining a better understanding of the motivational basis for such work attitudes and behaviour is regarded as an important component of research agendas relating to management practice.

One of the dominant theories in the employer-employee relations area of study is the Organisational Support Theory. Rhoades and Eisenberger (2002) developed the theory that positive employees’ attitudes and behavioural intentions such as affective organisational commitment and turnover intention depend on the employees’ perceptions of how committed their employers are to them.

In other words, the employees are likely to reciprocate the organisation with a higher level of affective commitment and lesser intention to leave when they believe the organisation cares for their well-being and recognises their contributions.

Consistent with the arguments of these scholars, this article adopts the perspective of the theory to describe the process of developing a committed workforce of high performers that will have less intention to leave an organisation.

The Organisational Support Theory suggests that the exchange relationship between two parties often goes beyond economic exchange and includes social exchange. Hence, organisational studies argue that employers and employees exchange not only impersonal resources such as money, but also socio-emotional resources such as approval, respect, recognition and support.

The concept of perceived organisational support (POS), which postulates the extent to which an organisation values its employees’ contributions and cares about their well-being, has been used to describe the social exchange relationship between employers and employees.

Based on the norm of reciprocity, employees who perceive high levels of POS are more likely to develop the belief of felt obligation to reciprocate the organisation with positive attitudes such as higher levels of affective commitment to the organisation and the profession, as well as develop trust in the management to take care of their well-being in the future.

The theory also suggests that the resources received from the organisation are more highly valued if they are based on discretionary choice versus a requirement. Discretionary choice implies an investment, whereas legislated or required actions are considered purely costs rather than investments.

Thus, human resource practices which are intended to enhance the organisation’s human capital, such as career development opportunities and providing good supervision, are an optional investment and discretionary, and should contribute to POS.

In human resource management literature, researchers argue that the implementation of progressive human resource practices that affect employees’ skills and motivation can create strategic advantage for the organisation. This is mainly due to the strategic value of human resources to create organisational culture and social relationships that cannot be readily replicated by other organisations.

Favourable human resource practices that signify an investment in human capital and demonstrate recognition of employee contributions have been suggested to promote POS. Indeed, POS has been found to be related to human resource practices such as job security, autonomy, training, participation in decision-making, and opportunities for rewards and promotions.

Past studies have investigated the relationships between selected human resource practices and POS. The respective human resource practices which have been found to be related to POS are pay level satisfaction, career development opportunities, work/family support, internal promotion, performance appraisal and participation in decision-making.

In sum, organisations need to manage talent effectively by developing appropriate human resource management practices to recognise the contributions of their employees and also take care of their well-being.

Dr Lew Tek Yew is a senior lecturer in management at the School of Business at Curtin Sarawak. He teaches management related units and has published many articles in international journals and conferences. His research interests include human resource management practices, perceived organisational support, employee commitment and turnover.  He can be contacted by e-mail to