Research on the impact of human resource management (HRM) on firm performance has increased since the end of the nineties. Despite the pile of studies and results, critical assessments of this literature stream point to several empirical and theoretical gaps. We focus on two empirical gaps. First, there is a lack of attention to innovation as a measure of firm performance outcome. Most articles use financial (e.g., return on assets (ROA)), organisational (e.g., productivity) and employee related (e.g., commitment) performance measures. Yet, Western knowledge economies consider innovation to be a driving force of economic growth, and international competitive advantage. Moreover, innovation is a function of a firm’s ability to create, manage and maintain knowledge. Because knowledge is created by and stored within individuals, human resources as well as HRM may play an important role as drivers of innovation. Second,HRMis considered to be a large company phenomenon. Yet, small businesses provide a great environment to study the HRM-performance relationship because of their transparent nature and the small distance between an individual’s and a company’s performance. Next, human resources and HRM are crucial to small businesses because they have less tolerance for inefficiency. We examine a sample of small start-ups that aim for an innovation strategy, but are not necessarily successful in terms of innovative output. We expect start-ups with superior human resources and HRM to produce more innovative output. The results show that both human capital (of owners/managers and employees) and HRM are important determinants of innovation in start-ups.
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