Selection of 'High Performance Work Systems' in U.S. Manufacturing

FTC Bureau of Economics Working Paper No. 247

29 Pages Posted: 5 May 2003

Date Written: March 2002


This paper analyzes the use of two important human resource practices self-managed work teams and formal training programs) in U.S. manufacturing. These practices are often used in conjunction with each other and their use is associated with improved firm performance, thus the term "high performance work systems." The results of this paper raise concerns about the interpretation of studies that show a relationship between the use of particular systems of practices and higher performance but do not account for selection of practices by the firm. The paper uses a theoretical model to analyze the mechanism via which these practices improve firm performance. The results of the theoretical model are tested using an empirical model that allows practices to be chosen simultaneously, allows for the choice of practices to interact, and allows for this interaction to vary based on observable characteristics of the firm. The paper shows that the value of individual practices to a firm depends on characteristics of the firm's product market, and on the choice of other practices by the firm.

JEL Classification: L23, J24, M54

Suggested Citation

Adams, Christopher, Selection of 'High Performance Work Systems' in U.S. Manufacturing (March 2002). FTC Bureau of Economics Working Paper No. 247, Available at SSRN: or

Christopher Adams (Contact Author)

CBO ( email )

Ford House Office Building
2nd & D Streets, SW
Washington, DC 20515-6925
United States

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