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The Innovative Performance And Psychological Well-being: the dual implications of ambidexterity-supportive HRM practices

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  • Full or part time
    Prof H Shipton
    Dr V Lin
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Innovation has been increasingly recognized as a critical engine of economic growth and firm performance. Many firms redesign their jobs and reconfigure their management practices in order to support employee innovation. Sustainable innovation essentially entails a balance between exploitation and exploration (March, 1991). The former concerns building on existing knowledge and extending existing practices, while the latter involves exploring in new territory and pursuing new knowledge. Various literature have argued that organizations need to become ambidextrous (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; He & Wong, 2004). Although organizational ambidexterity can be realized through structural or spatial separation, these two approaches could be expensive and requires high level coordination. Another approach has been proposed which aim to develop the dual capacities of employees towards exploitation and exploration, i.e., the so-called contextual ambidexterity (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004). Preliminary results show that SMEs could achieve contextual ambidexterity via the implementation of HRM practices (Kang, Snell, & Swart, 2012; Patel, Messersmith, & Lepak, 2013). While this sheds light on the important relationship between HRM and ambidexterity, research in this area is still underdeveloped. With this project, we join this line of research. In particular, we focus on the dual implications of ambidexterity-supportive HRM practices for employees’ innovation performance and psychological well-being.

Ambidexterity-supportive HRM practices require employees to conduct both exploitative and exploratory tasks through, for example, job design and performance appraisal. These practices communicate to employees what are expected from them (Bowen & Ostroff, 2004; Ehrnrooth & Björkman, 2012). At the same time, it supports employees in conducting these two types of activities by providing training and other organizational resources to enhance employees’ abilities, motivation and opportunities to perform (Adler & Kwon, 2002; Ehrnrooth & Björkman, 2012). While these HRM practices promote employees’ innovation performance, it must be acknowledged that employees’ cognitive and time resources are limited. The broader skill spectrum needed for being ambidextrous and employees’ limited cognitive and time resources mean that employees may be “stretched”, or even “strained”. Indeed, Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) have defined stretch as an important contextual attribute that induces members to strive for more ambitious objectives and claim that stretch is an antecedent of ambidexterity. Thus, we envisage that ambidexterity-supportive HRM practices may have dual implications – positive implications for employees’ innovative performance on one hand and negative implications for their psychological well-being on the other hand.

Moving forward, this project aims to answer the following questions:

1. What HRM practices support contextual ambidexterity?
2. What are the implications of ambidexterity-supportive HRM for employee innovative performance and psychological well-being?
3. What are the possible mechanisms of the dual implications? Could work intensification be the mediator?
4. What practices could be employed to mitigate the strain for individuals? Does empowerment reduce the negative effect on employee psychological well-being?

This is primarily a quantitative study. You will be required to do extensive literature review to refine the research questions, develop hypotheses, and select valid instruments from the literature to operationalize the concepts in this study. You are also expected to negotiate access to organizations, collect data and conduct data analysis to build new knowledge to inform understanding in this crucial but underdeveloped area. Well-designed experimental studies may also be considered to identify the causal relationship.

You will get support from supervisors with expertise in the domain of HRM and innovation. You may also be able to link with on-going projects led by academic staff at Nottingham Business School.

In your application you should state what skills, knowledge, or resources you can bring to this project. For example, you should give some indication of the organizations/companies that you envisage targeting in the proposal.


Adler, P. S., & Kwon, S.-W. 2002. Social capital: Prospects for a new concept. Academy of Management Review, 27: 17-40.
Bowen, D. E., & Ostroff, C. 2004. Understanding HRM–firm performance linkages: The role of the “strength” of the HRM system. Academy of Management Review, 29(2): 203-221.
Ehrnrooth, M., & Björkman, I. 2012. An integrative HRM process theorization: Beyond signalling effects and mutual gains. Journal of Management Studies, 49(6): 1109-1135.
Gibson, C. B., & Birkinshaw, J. 2004. The antecedents, consequences, and mediating role of organizational ambidexterity. Academy of Management Journal, 47(2): 209-226.
He, Z.-L., & Wong, P.-K. 2004. Exploration vs. exploitation: An empirical test of the ambidexterity hypothesis. Organization Science, 15(4): 481-494.
Kang, S. C., Snell, S. A., & Swart, J. 2012. Options‐based HRM, intellectual capital, and exploratory and exploitative learning in law firms' practice groups. Human Resource Management, 51(4): 461-485.
March, J. G. 1991. Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. Organization Science, 2(1): 71-87.
Patel, P., Messersmith, J., & Lepak, D. 2013. Walking the tightrope: An assessment of the relationship between high performance work systems and organizational ambidexterity. Academy of Management Journal, 56(5): 1420-1442.

How good is research at Nottingham Trent University in Business and Management Studies?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 23.00

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