The theory of the high-performance work systems (HPWS) suggests that a company can achieve sustained competitive advantage provided HRM practices are employee focused, internally consistent, and dynamically aligned with corporate objectives and strategies. The research found that implementation of HRM practices was minimal in Australian engineering design companies, rather than high- performing, and that human resources at the technical core were not a contributory factor to company performance. The findings of the study revealed the major asset as not human resources per se, but rather, the corporate leaders, who were able to leverage substantial sector growth to the benefit of the companies. The research also demonstrated that firm growth and long-term survival can eventuate despite minimal, non-strategic HRM systems. In an external context characterised as hypo-competitive, market buoyancy and the quality of strategic decision-making at the corporate level overwhelm human resources at the technical core in contributory significance to company performance.