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Quality certification and firm performance. The mediation of human capital

Juan Miguel Gallego (Facultad de Economía, Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá, Colombia)
Luis H. Gutiérrez Ramírez (Facultad de Economía, Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá, Colombia)

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Article publication date: 16 August 2021

Issue publication date: 14 February 2023




This paper investigates the impact of adopting quality management standards like ISO9001 on a firm's performance and the mediator role of human capabilities within firms in this relationship. The article analyses this mediator effect in the context of an emerging economy that set a policy reform aimed at increase ISO adoption and with a large share of informal labour markets.


This study implements a quantitative approach, applying a Difference in Differences-DiD model with a Propensity Score Matching on fixed effect panel data analysis of a sample of certified and non-certified firms using firm-level data obtained from the national statistics office of Colombia. This methodology allows having comparable groups before the policy implementation. It reduces differences in observable characteristics and controls for parallel trends in primary outcomes before the policy reform.


The research findings suggest that after Colombian policy reform of the quality system (2006), firms that adopted ISO 9001 certification increased innovation (5.2%), labour productivity (4.6%), sales (5.7%) and wages (4.9%). Furthermore, it shows that the share of permanent workers is an essential mediator in adopting quality programs. Adopters firms with a large percentage of temporary workers weaken their initial investment in quality infrastructure.

Research limitations/implications

This research does not consider one key aspect. This is the lack of information about the organizational culture inside Colombian organizations that is related to a successful implementation of Quality Management standards like ISO 9001. However, it does not affect the conclusion about the mediation effect of human capital in the relationship between ISO 9001 and firm performance.

Practical implications

The study covered all the Colombian manufacturing firms with ten or more employees. It provides critical insight for managers to value implementing ISO 9001 certification and appropriately put attention to enhancing their firms' human capital in emerging economies. Also, a policy implication of the paper is that governmental efforts to strengthen quality infrastructure in emerging economies should also include steps to increase a firm's investment in human capital.


This study provides further support for government policies to strengthen firms' incentives to adopt modern management practices. The strong effects of implementing these management practices on sales, productivity and innovation have been identified. Furthermore, the investments in quality infrastructure must be accompanied by investment in human capital and workforce stability.



Authors thank Colombia Científica-“Alianza EFI” Research Program, with code 60185 and contract # FP44842-220-2018 funded by The World Bank through the call Scientific Ecosystems, managed by the Colombian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. The authors also thank the Inter‐American Development Bank for financial support under the contract ID OC#7000001919.


Gallego, J.M. and Gutiérrez Ramírez, L.H. (2023), "Quality certification and firm performance. The mediation of human capital", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 72 No. 3, pp. 710-729.



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