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High-involvement Work Processes and Systems: A Review of Theory, Distribution, Outcomes, and Tensions

Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management

ISBN: 978-1-78973-852-0, eISBN: 978-1-78973-851-3

Publication date: 15 July 2019


High-involvement work processes (HIWPs) are associated with high levels of employee influence over the work process, such as high levels of control over how to handle individual job tasks or a high level of involvement at team or workplace level in designing work procedures. When implementations of HIWPs are accompanied by companion investments in human capital – for example, in better information and training, higher pay and stronger employee voice – it is appropriate to talk not only of HIWPs but of “high-involvement work systems” (HIWSs). This chapter reviews the theory and practice of HIWPs and HIWSs. Across a range of academic perspectives and societies, it has regularly been argued that steps to enhance employee involvement in decision-making create better opportunities to perform, better utilization of skill and human potential, and better employee motivation, leading, in turn, to various improvements in organizational and employee outcomes.

However, there are also costs to increased employee involvement and the authors review the important economic and sociopolitical contingencies that help to explain the incidence or distribution of HIWPs and HIWSs. The authors also review the research on the outcomes of higher employee involvement for firms and workers, discuss the quality of the research methods used, and consider the tensions with which the model is associated. This chapter concludes with an outline of the research agenda, envisaging an ongoing role for both quantitative and qualitative studies. Without ignoring the difficulties involved, the authors argue, from the societal perspective, that the high-involvement pathway should be considered one of the most important vectors available to improve the quality of work and employee well-being.



Boxall, P., Huo, M.-L., Macky, K. and Winterton, J. (2019), "High-involvement Work Processes and Systems: A Review of Theory, Distribution, Outcomes, and Tensions", Buckley, M.R., Wheeler, A.R., Baur, J.E. and Halbesleben, J.R.B. (Ed.) Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management (Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, Vol. 37), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 1-52.



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