Employee creativity: mediating & moderating role of psychological capital.

AuthorGupta, Vishal


Increasingly turbulent environments, heightened competition and unpredictable technological changes have brought to the forefront of management the recognition, development and sustenance of employee creativity. Creativity is defined as the production of novel and useful ideas by an individual or by a group of individuals working together and has been found to contribute to organizational innovation, effectiveness and survival (Amabile, 1983; 1996; Shalley, Zhou & Oldham, 2004). Surprisingly, the review of literature suggests that the impact of human resource management (HRM) practices on employee creativity has received scant attention from both academicians and practitioners (Shipton, West, Dawson, Birdi & Patterson, 2006; Gupta, 2013). Though there have been studies that tested the impact of specific practices on creativity (e.g., Baer, Oldham & Cummings, 2003; Huang & Lin, 2006; Manolopoulos, 2006; Shalley & Perry-Smith, 2001; Shipton et al., 2006), these studies have failed to provide a theoretical rationale for choosing the HR practices. Moreover, the studies have failed to provide a coherent validation of directionality of these relationships. Baer et al. (2003:570) observed that "Unfortunately, there is little agreement among scholars concerning the likely direction of the effects of such rewards on creativity". Fewer studies have considered the important role of employees' perceptions of HR practice used or examined the more proximal outcomes of high-performance HR practices that may play mediating roles in the HR practice--performance relationship (Guest, 2011; Kehoe & Wright, 2013).

If we are to improve our understanding of the impact of HRM on creativity, we need a theory about HRM, a theory about creativity and a theory about how they are linked. The present study develops a theory about the linkages between HRM practices and employee creativity. In doing so, support has been taken of the componential framework of creativity (Amabile, 1983) consisting of domain-relevant skills, creativity-relevant skills and task motivation. The second part of the study explores the 'black-box' linking HRM practices and employee creativity. Building on the ideas of positive psychology, we present positive psychological capital both as a mediating and a moderating variable for the HRM practice-creativity relationship. High-performance practices enhance the positive exchanges between the employee and employer, thereby enhancing employee psychological capital and creativity.

HRM Practices in the Indian Context

Nature of human resource management is culture specific (Budhwar & Khatri, 2001). The cultural and economic differences may hinder the acceptance and implementation of human resource practices (Schneider, 1988). North American and Western European organizations operate in a highly developed legal and regulatory environment. Organizations that operate in India do not have such a well-developed institutional infrastructure for free market transactions. The country had a system of state-controlled organizations until 1990s, when the economy of the country was finally liberalized. India is distinct from other countries in terms of its culture (low uncertainty avoidance, high power distance, medium collectivist orientation, medium masculinity, strong long-term orientation) (Hofstede, 2001). A sizeable Indian population has deep-seated belief in fatalism and as a result any significant change in attitudes as well as behaviors is relatively difficult to accomplish. Taking into account the dominant social norms and values, adopting HRM practices seen as appropriate in local context can be crucial for achieving desired performance (Bjorkman & Budhwar, 2007). Table 1 provides a listing of the HRM practices included in the present study along with their definitions and the India-specific research evidence. Due to the potential of the identified HRM practices to have an overall positive influence on employee performance, they are referred to as high-performance HRM practices in the present study.

High-Performance HRM Practices & Creativity

The componential framework of creativity (Amabile, 1983) includes three major components: domain-relevant skills, creativity-relevant skills and task motivation. Domain-relevant skills include factual knowledge, technical skills and special domain-relevant talents that may contribute to creative productivity. Creativity-relevant skills include a cognitive style characterized by the ability to break perceptual and cognitive sets, to understand complexity, to break out of performance 'scripts' and see things differently; knowledge of heuristics for generating novel ideas, and creative work style characterized by the ability to concentrate effort and attention for long periods of time, persistence and high energy levels. Task motivation can be broadly classified into intrinsic motivation--a motivational state generated by the individual's reaction to intrinsic properties of the task; and extrinsic motivation--motivation generated due to the extrinsic factors (e.g. rewards, job title etc.) associated with the task (Tremblay, Blanchard, Taylor, Pelletier & Villeneuve, 2009).

Organizations set the tone of social exchange relationships by providing employees with a multitude of resources such as appreciation, prestige, growth, recognition and empowerment through their HRM practices. In return, employees may expand their definitions of job responsibilities and be motivated to engage in creative behaviors. Researchers have conceptualized that the HRM practices impact employee performance through a 'cognitive path', where an employee takes greater advantage of the skills and abilities, and a 'motivational path', in which HRM practices increase employees' motivation to succeed at work (Bates, Cox, Robertson-Smith, & Garrett, 2009; Gong & Chang, 2008; Vandenberg, Richardson & Eastman, 1999).

High-Performance HRM Practices, Task Motivation &Creativity

The mentoring relationships lead to development of positive interpersonal relationships, better employee morale, better career management, and greater commitment (Allen, Eby, Poteet, Lentz, & Lima, 2004; Allen & O'Brien, 2006; Horvath, Wasko & Bradley, 2008). Empowerment maximizes employee's involvement thereby fostering positive work attitudes (Konrad, 2006). Conflict resolution mechanisms help alleviate situations of perceived injustice or conflicts in the company and are likely to maintain a high level of motivation (Fey, Bjorkman & Pavlovskaya, 2000; Morrison & Robinson, 1997). Information sharing conveys to employees that they are trusted and valued by the organization (Pfeffer & Veiga, 1999). Though extrinsic motivation has been said to be detrimental to creativity (Amabile, 1983), in a scarcity-ridden economy like India extrinsic rewards can be strong motivators of innovative behaviors for roles that demand creativity as a part of employee's job description (e.g., Research and Development work). Paul and Anantharaman (2003) found that compensation practices positively affect commitment of skilled professional in Indian IT firms. Performance-based compensation and merit-based promotions have been found to influence extrinsic motivation (e.g., Guest, 1997; Manolopoulos, 2006).

India is a collectivist society. Strong missions that appeal to emotion or logic can generate enthusiasm for the work, task significance, commitment to task objectives and compliance with requests for cooperation and assistance (Cappelli et al., 2010). Stringent selection practices (e.g., followed in Google) influence the employee-job fit and the quality of the workforce (Godard, 2004; Guest, 1997; MacDuffie, 1995). Moreover, a selective organization conveys status and prestige to those being selected (Gong & Chang, 2008). New-comer socialization and...

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