© 2015, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Purpose – High-Performance Work Systems (HPWS) are viewed as strategic levers to a firm’s core competencies’ sustainability and continuous competitive advantage. The purpose of this paper is to explore what factors facilitate HPWS utilization, with a particular focus on the extent to which social capital (SC) derived from buyer-supplier relationships functions as a communication channel to spread effective HPWS implementation. Design/methodology/approach – The authors propose a model of HPWS in which external SC not only favors the use of HPWS but also moderates the incidence of other common facilitators such as technology and flexibility. The study uses data from Spanish manufacturing industry. Findings – Firms yielding external SC use HPWS more intensely, and the effect of technology constituents on HPWS utilization is contingent on SC accumulation. The findings are consistent with the existing HR literature on the subject but broaden its perspective by analyzing a specific pattern of SC and its pivotal role in the HPWS utilization process. Research limitations/implications – The cross-sectional nature of the database leaves open the possibility of causality relationship exploration between the variables of interest, which means that any causal interpretation should be cautious and properly motivated. The study is conducted in the Spanish manufacturing industry context, hence aims to generalize its results by explaining the logic behind the coexistence of HPWS and SC on a same conceptual level. This should be carefully treated and could be further strengthened by other country-level research. The approach does not consider the internal synergic mechanisms and the integration of HR practices. Practical implications – The paper reveals the importance of inter-organizational SC in the Spanish manufacturing industry by showing how its embodiment in buyer-supplier relationships may allow firms to better understand the context in which HPWS are more likely to be useful. Social implications – The impact of social relationships on effective human resource management practices is highlighted. Originality/value – The authors explore the factors that facilitate HPWS utilization, with a particular focus on the extent to which SC derived from buyer-supplier relationships functions as a communication channel to spread effective HPWS implementation.
- Computerized production technology
- High-performance work systems
- Manufacturing flexibility
- Social capital
- Technological intensity