Human Resource Management Systems and the Performance of U.S. Manufacturing Businesses

42 Pages Posted: 26 May 2004 Last revised: 6 Jun 2021

See all articles by Casey Ichniowski

Casey Ichniowski

Columbia Business School - Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 1990


This paper estimates the effects of systems of human resource management policies on the performance of U.S. manufacturing businesses. OLS results for labor productivity and Tobin's q models both reveal that nonunion businesses that employ a human resource management system with flexible job design, formal training, and workplace communication mechanisms have the highest levels of economic performance. Nonunion businesses with ''Union-style" human resource management systems involving grievance procedures, seniority-based promotions, and no flexible job design exhibit significantly lower levels of performance statistical models are unable to determine whether the more "progressive" human resource management system stimulates economic performance or whether this system is the appropriate choice for better performing businesses. Still, the positive :relationship between performance and this human resource management system suggests that this system will be more common in the future. In contrast, the "union-style" system appears to be a thing of the past. It is confined to unionized businesses in declining industries and very old nonunion businesses with low levels of economic performance.

Suggested Citation

Ichniowski, Bernard E. (Casey), Human Resource Management Systems and the Performance of U.S. Manufacturing Businesses (September 1990). Available at SSRN:

Bernard E. (Casey) Ichniowski (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Management ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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