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HPWS and climate for inclusion: a moral legitimacy lens

Jennifer A. Harrison (Department of People and Organisations, NEOMA Business School, Mont-Saint-Aignan, France)
Janet A. Boekhorst (Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Centre, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada)
Yin Yu (Department of People and Organisations, NEOMA Business School, Mont-Saint-Aignan, France)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 18 June 2018




The purpose of this paper is to apply insights from the moral legitimacy theory to understand how climate for inclusion (CFI) is cultivated at the individual and collective levels, thereby highlighting the influence of employee perceptions of inclusion-oriented high-performance work systems (HPWS) on CFI.


A multi-level conceptual framework is introduced to explain how employee perceptions develop about the moral legitimacy of inclusion-oriented HPWS and the subsequent influence on CFI.


CFI is theorized to manifest when employees perceive inclusion-oriented HPWS as morally legitimate according to four unit-level features. Employees with a strong moral identity will be particularly attuned to the moral legitimacy of each of the unit-level HPWS features, thereby strengthening the perceived HPWS and CFI relationship at the individual level. The convergence of individual-level perceptions of CFI to the collective level will be strongest when climate variability is low for majority and minority groups.

Practical implications

Organizations seeking to develop CFI should consider the role of HPWS and the perceived moral legitimacy of such systems. This consideration may involve policy amendments to include a broadened scope of HPWS.


This paper explores how employee perceptions of the moral legitimacy of HPWS can help or hinder CFI, thereby offering a novel framework for future inclusion and human resource management research.



Harrison, J.A., Boekhorst, J.A. and Yu, Y. (2018), "HPWS and climate for inclusion: a moral legitimacy lens", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 37 No. 5, pp. 491-505.



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Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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