This paper focuses on one aspect of human resource management (HRM) that is important for innovative employee behaviour: direct employee involvement quality (DEIQ). However, research has also shown that employee involvement is often in serious need of improvement. This paper presents evidence from three manufacturing companies in the Netherlands. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with low- and medium-educated blue-collar workers, top managers (HRM, production and R&D) and direct supervisors. Using a qualitative approach, we were able to acquire insight into the 'black-box' of well-known pre-conditions and contribute by identifying additional dimensions. The research supports various pre-conditions critical for successful DEIQ including the critical role of the HR function and adequate preparation of direct supervisors. Furthermore, an under-explored issue is highlighted: the employment relationship.