Concepts associated with the resource‐based view of the firm are increasingly finding their way into the strategic HRM debate. Drawing on this literature, this paper reports one of the first industry‐based, longitudinal investigations into the relationship between human resource strategy and competitive advantage. Set in New Zealand, but in an internationally oriented sector, the study examines one of the more neglected spheres of professional services: engineering consultancies. The results indicate that the consultancy firms that survived the major business traumas of the late 1980s and early 1990s adopted similar structural, competitive, operational and HR responses associated with their evolving ‘industry recipe’. In interpreting the relationship between HRM and firm performance, then, it is important to distinguish those features of a firm's HRM which are strategic to ongoing viability from those that might form the basis of a relatively enduring form of competitive advantage. While there is insufficient evidence to conclude that any of the primary subjects in this study have established an enviable form of superiority, the study suggests that opportunities do exist for professional service firms to develop industry leadership through superior HRM. The analysis has implications for the wider work of theory‐building in strategic HRM.
Journal of Management Studies – Wiley
Published: Jul 1, 1999
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