Putting the system back into training and firm performance research: a review and research agenda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


  • Thomas N. Garavan
  • Alma McCarthy
  • Yanqing Lai
  • Nicholas Clarke
  • Ronan Carbery
  • Claire Gubbins
  • Maura Sheehan

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University College Cork
  • National College of Ireland
  • Universiti Putra Malaysia
  • National University of Ireland Galway
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • EADA Business School
  • Dublin City University
  • Edinburgh Napier University


Research investigating training and firm performance is currently at an inflection point; capable of recognising previous achievements but also having a focus on the future. Based on our review of 207 quantitative papers over a 40-year period, we find that the field has converged in terms of theory and methods. Important insights have been generated yet there is scope to better understand the complex, interrelated and dynamic nature of the relationship between training and firm performance. We propose that open systems theory (OST) provides the potential to move the field forward and encourage researchers to investigate interactions and linkages between training and performance components, the role of temporal dynamics in inputs and processes, reverse causality and to broaden conceptualisations of firm performance. We consider six principles of OST, highlight productive avenues for future research and identify methodological challenges and implications.

Bibliographic note

Publisher Copyright: © 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Resource Management Journal
Early online date12 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Mar 2021


  • firm performance, future research directions, open systems theory, training