High-performance work systems and job performance: the mediating role of social identity, social climate and empowerment in Chinese banks

Timothy Bartram, Brian Cooper, Fang Lee Cooke, Jue Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Despite the utility of social identity and social climate theories in explaining individual and group behaviour within organizations, little research has been conducted on how these approaches interconnect to explain the way high-performance work systems (HPWSs) may increase job performance. This study extends one’s understanding of the human resource management (HRM)–performance relationship by examining the interconnections between these disparate social approaches within the Chinese banking context. Design/methodology/approach: Drawing on a sample of 561 employees working across 62 bank branches in China, the authors test four hypotheses: (1) HPWS is positively related to social climate; (2) social climate mediates the relationship between HPWS and social identification; (3) psychological empowerment mediates the relationship between social identification and job performance; and (4) social climate, social identification and psychological empowerment sequentially mediate the relationship between HPWS and job performance. Data were collected over two waves and job (in-role) performance was rated by managers. Findings: The authors confirm the four hypotheses. Social climate, social identification and psychological empowerment sequentially mediate the relationship between HPWS and job performance. Research limitations/implications: This study contains some limitations. First, the authors’ research sites were focussed on one main region in state-owned banks in China. Second, this study examined only one industry with a relatively homogeneous workforce (i.e. relatively young and highly educated employees). Practical implications: HPWS may translate into individual performance through a supportive social climate in which staff identify themselves with their work team. This suggests that organizations should pay close attention to understanding how their HPWS system can foster a strong social climate to enhance employee identification at the work group level. Second, as the nature of work is becoming increasingly more complex and interdependent, enabling not just individuals but also work groups to function effectively, it is critical for departments and work groups to promote a collective understanding of HRM messages with shared values and goals. Originality/value: This research contributes towards a more comprehensive understanding of the HRM–performance chain as a complex social process underpinned by social identity theory. The authors demonstrate that social identification and social climate both play an important role in explaining how HPWS positively affects psychological empowerment and subsequent job performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-302
Number of pages18
JournalPersonnel Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • China
  • Empowerment
  • HPWS
  • Social climate
  • Social identity theory

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