Human capital is an important construct in a variety of fields spanning from micro scholarship in psychology to macro scholarship in economics. Within the various disciplinary perspectives, research focuses on slightly different aspects and levels of human capital within organizations, which may give opportunities for integration. The current paper aims to increase knowledge about human capital within organizations by integrating two streams of research which focus directly on human capital, but have approached human capital in different ways: strategic human capital (SHC), and strategic HRM. We describe both SHC and strategic HRM research streams and propose areas of integration, and directions for future research on human capital in organizations.

Human capital is a critical construct in a variety of disciplinary fields spanning from very macro scholarship in economics, where the concept was originally developed (Becker, 1964) to micro level scholarship in psychology who have focused on individual differences in knowledge, skills, abilities, and other talents. Both the strategy and HRM literatures recognize the importance of human capital for enhancing firm performance (Barney, 1991; Becker & Huselid, 2006; Crook, Todd, Combs, Woehr, & Ketchen, 2011). Given the various disciplinary perspectives, it is not surprising that different streams of research focus on slightly different aspects and levels of human capital within organizations.

Approximately 10 years ago a group of scholars across several disciplines helped create a research group in the Strategic Management Society entitled strategic human capital (SHC). This group focuses on ‘human capital’ within organizations but tends to adopt a strategic or economic lens to understand how human capital may serve as a valuable resource and examines issues related to value capture and creation and mobility of knowledge and skills. Along a parallel path, researchers in the area of strategic HRM have been studying ‘human capital’ to understand how the management of people within organizations may relate to important organizational and individual outcomes. Strategic HRM scholars focus mostly on investment in human capital to increase firm performance, by using systems and practices aimed at developing and managing an organization’s human capital (Becker & Huselid, 2006).

While these two streams focus directly on ‘human capital’ we fear that some of their conversations talk past each other or are parallel. Our view is that there may be opportunities for integrating these different areas of research. Prior scholarship has indeed indicated some specific areas of integration of SHC and strategic HRM, focused, for example, on the resource-based view (Delery & Roumpi, 2017), unit-level human capital (Nyberg, Moliterno, Hale, & Lepak, 2014), and human capital definitions and measurement (Wright & McMahan, 2011). We take a broader view in the current paper. Our aim is to describe both SHC and strategic HRM research streams and to propose areas of integration of both literatures. We do not intend to systematically review all prior research on SHC and strategic HRM, but instead look ahead to what we believe to be important areas of future research aimed at integrating SHC and strategic HRM. In doing so, we specifically focus on conceptualizations of key constructs, mechanisms and phenomena of interest, and methodological orientations, which are seen as important when integrating research from different perspectives (Molloy, Ployhart, & Wright, 2011; Nyberg & Wright, 2015; Ployhart, 2015; Ployhart & Hale, 2014). More specifically, we discuss the notion of ‘human capital’, human capital movement and management, and research methods in both streams of research. The overall goal of this paper is to outline a research agenda that leverages the strengths and different approaches and orientations of these two related literatures to help increase knowledge about the management and performance implications of human capital within organizations.

In the remainder of this paper we provide a brief overview of the extant SHC and strategic HRM research and then highlight several areas of focus germane to both perspectives. In doing so, we pay particular attention to how each area could provide critical insights to each other to generate important future research directions. Blending SHC and strategic HRM approaches creates opportunities for expanding the human capital research agenda in a manner that advances both of these important perspectives on human capital. The societal relevance of this paper is in applying new and alternative models for organizational challenges in day-to-day practice such as the attraction and retention of valuable employees in contemporary organizations.


In this paper we have given an overview of research in SHC and strategic HRM, and focused on the perspectives of both streams of research on the nature of human capital, human capital movement and management, and research methods. We identified several differences in the approach used within SHC and strategic HRM, and also identified strengths and weaknesses in both research areas (see also Table 1). Integrating SHC and strategic HRM would help to increase our knowledge about human capital. For example, several strengths of SHC research can help to improve strategic HRM research. Whereas SHC focuses on human capital itself, strategic HRM focuses on the HR system, without specifically studying the nature of human capital. Looking at human capital movement and management, SHC views mobility as something that can be positive or negative, whereas strategic HRM has a more limited view on turnover as a costly and problematic phenomenon. Also, the process through which collective human capital emerges is typically not included in strategic HRM research, and the organizational context, which is important in SHC research, has received less consideration in studies of strategic HRM. Regarding research methods, the econometric techniques typically used in SHC can add value to strategic HRM by helping to examine causality and reducing potential sources of biases in analyses. Insights from strategic HRM can also help to overcome the limitations of SHC research. For example, the micro level view on human capital and multilevel approaches can help to strengthen SHC models. Taking the individual context into account by including psychological concepts such as motivation in relation to SHC can be helpful, as well as including psychological measurement rather than proxy-oriented measures.

As a whole, this paper has shown that there are several areas in which SHC and strategic HRM can inform and complement each other. Integration of SHC and strategic HRM helps to overcome the weaknesses in both areas and create a more robust approach to the study of human capital. We identified specific as well as more general areas for integration, which we hope will generate interest and inspiration for collaborations between SHC and strategic HRM researchers to address these issues and result in improved research on human capital in organizations.

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Integrating strategic human capital and strategic human resource management

Author(s): Corine Boon,Rory Eckardt,David P. Lepak &Paul Boselie

Alternative formats


Rusdin Tahir

Senior Lecturer [study on leaves] Department of Business Administration Science Faculty of Social and Political Science UNIVERSITY OF PADJADJARAN Jalan Raya Bandung-Sumedang KM 21 Jatinangor 45363, West Java, Indonesia Ph: +62 22 7792647,7796416 Fax: +62 22 7792647 Mobile: +62 81 123 9491; 822 919 356 65 Email:;; Web: Web: Web: Web: Web:

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