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High involvement work systems, happiness at work (HAW) and absorptive capacity: a bathtub study

Andrés Salas-Vallina (Department of Business Management, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain)
Manoli Pozo-Hidalgo (Department of Social Psychology, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain)
Pedro-Gil Monte (Department of Social Psychology, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 9 May 2020

Issue publication date: 22 May 2020




The purpose of this research is to examine the impact of high-involvement work systems (HIWS) on absorptive capacity. In addition, the mediating effect of happiness at work in the relationship between high-involvement work practices and absorptive capacity is analyzed.


A 2-1-2 bathtub multilevel mediation model was used to analyze a sample of 783 employees from 111 bank branches, gathering data at three different times.


The results reveal that HIWS positively affect absorptive capacity. In addition, they show that happiness at work partially mediates the relationship between HIWS and absorptive capacity.


Happiness at work is a fundamental element for knowledge absorption. The findings support the basic assumptions of the job demands-resources model, and demonstrate how HIWS, acting as a job resource, lead to positive attitudes (happiness at work) and, in turn, to positive outcomes (absorptive capacity). The proposed HIWS, based on the assumptions of the mutual gains model, reveal a positive employment relationship with effects on both HAW and organizational outcomes. If organizations expose their employees to management practices that have specific benefits for their HAW, employees are more likely to perform their jobs in ways that will promote their absorptive capacity.



We would like to thank reviewers for their enriching and appropriate comments, which clearly contributed to the improvement of this paper.This study was funded by the research project GV/2019/159 of the Generalitat Valenciana, Conselleria d'Innovació, Universitats, Ciéncia i Societat Digital. The authors appreciate the work and assessment of the editor and the anonymous reviewers.


Salas-Vallina, A., Pozo-Hidalgo, M. and Monte, P.-G. (2020), "High involvement work systems, happiness at work (HAW) and absorptive capacity: a bathtub study", Employee Relations, Vol. 42 No. 4, pp. 949-970.



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