Over the past two decades, organizational sustainability has been studied from several different perspectives, such as marketing, governance, strategy, and human resource management (HRM). However, sustainability framed in HRM has not yet received enough attention in the literature, especially as it concerns the study of different organizational forms. Building on Enhert and Harry’s (2012) sustainable HRM approach, this article studies worker empowerment and how it affects organizational performance in terms of service quality and service innovation. Specifically, it addresses how relational motivations interact with HR-empowering practices (involvement in decisions and task autonomy) as organizational resources in influencing performance, how workload pressure resulting from HR empowerment can improve performance, and the influence of gender on performance, especially with concerns for human capital (tertiary education) and motivations. To this end, a representative sample of workers employed by Italian social enterprises (ES) in the social service sector is used. We propose multilevel SEMs that are based on two sets of equations specifying worker-and organization-level effects on organizational performance. Our main results show that the combination of worker engagement and an appropriate relational context in the organizational environment is most conducive to delivering better and innovative services. In addition, a higher percentage of well-trained and relationally motivated women employees helps achieve this goal.
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