Purpose – This paper has two objectives. The first is to see whether “shared values” is an important intermediary, or part of the “black box” (along with organisational commitment and job satisfaction), between HRM practices and firm performance. The second is to assess whether the use of multiple levels of respondents produces different results compared with the usual practice of using senior HRM managers or, in lieu, another senior manager. Design/methodology/approach – A survey methodology is used to obtain perceptual data on HRM practices and a variety of work-related attitudes. The sample comprises managers, supervisors and workers from 27 New Zealand firms. Statistical analysis, using SPSS, was performed at the firm and individual level. Findings – At group-level there are wide differences in attitudes towards HRM activities. The desirability of using as many respondents as possible, and also respondents from different levels within organisations, was confirmed. “Shared values” is also deemed worthy of inclusion in the “black box” as it relates significantly to perceptions of HRM practices. However, organisational commitment and job satisfaction appear to have a stronger role. Research limitations/implications – Current writings suggest that certain HRM practices can foster a system of shared values amongst the workforce. The study finds this indeed to be the case at the individual level. However, the supposition that a shared value system significantly contributes to the promotion of other desirable attitudinal outcomes has not been supported by the study's findings. A limitation of the study is that it did not explore the HRM-firm performance relationship in its entirety. Further research exploring all linkages in this relationship is now required. Practical implications – The paper concludes that practitioners should be wary of pursuing an agenda that sees the development of a shared value system as the key to superior firm performance. Instead, it is suggested that the values of the organisation should be considered as the foundation from which a set of mutually reinforcing and supportive HRM practices is developed. Originality/value – The paper provides much needed empirical data on shared values and their role in the HRM-performance relationship.
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