While taking its cue from studies of high‐performance work systems in manufacturing, this article examines theory and research on the potential for HR advantage in the service sector, building directly on recent studies of market segmentation and HR strategy in the sector. The article uses these studies, along with strategic management theory, to put forward a new typology of market characteristics, competitive dynamics and HR strategy in services. Three broad types of competition, ranging from mass market to knowledge‐intensive services, are identified. This framework helps the article to explore the issue of whether competitive differentiation through human resources is possible only in high‐skill areas such as professional services. It argues that opportunities for HR advantage are broader; they exist where quality and/or knowledge are important in competitive strategy. However, seeing the opportunity is not the same as achieving the result. Service firms that identify and pursue these opportunities face the problems of building and maintaining barriers to imitation, and of managing the ‘politics of appropriation’.
Human Resource Management Journal – Wiley
Published: Jul 1, 2003
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