Document Type

Journal Article


Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.


School of Business and Law


Originally published as : Plimmer, G., Plimmer, G., Bryson, J., Bryson, J., Teo, S. T., & Teo, S. T. (2017). Opening the black box: The mediating roles of organisational systems and ambidexterity in the HRM-performance link in public sector organisations. Personnel Review, 46(7), 1434-1451. Article can be found here



The purpose of this paper is to explore how HIWS may shape organisational capabilities, in particular organisational ambidexterity (OA) – the ability to be both adaptable to the wider world, and internally aligned so that existing resources are used well. Given the demands on public agencies to manage conflicting objectives, and to do more with less in increasingly complex environments, this paper improves our understanding of how HIWS can contribute to public sector performance. The paper sheds light inside the black box of the HIWS/organisational performance link.


This multi-level quantitative study is based on a survey of 2,123 supervisory staff, and 9,496 non-supervisory employees in 56 government organisations.


The study identifies two paths to organisational performance. The first is a direct HIWS performance link. The second is a double mediation model from HIWS to organisational systems, to OA and then performance.

Practical implications

A focus on developing HIWS provides an alternative means to public sector performance, than restructuring or other performative activities.


This is one of the few studies that explore how HIWS can develop collective as well as individual capabilities. Studies in the public sector are particularly rare.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.