Does human capital matter? A meta-analysis of the relationship between human capital and firm performance

J Appl Psychol. 2011 May;96(3):443-56. doi: 10.1037/a0022147.


Theory at both the micro and macro level predicts that investments in superior human capital generate better firm-level performance. However, human capital takes time and money to develop or acquire, which potentially offsets its positive benefits. Indeed, extant tests appear equivocal regarding its impact. To clarify what is known, we meta-analyzed effects drawn from 66 studies of the human capital-firm performance relationship and investigated 3 moderators suggested by resource-based theory. We found that human capital relates strongly to performance, especially when the human capital in question is not readily tradable in labor markets and when researchers use operational performance measures that are not subject to profit appropriation. Our results suggest that managers should invest in programs that increase and retain firm-specific human capital.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / organization & administration
  • Efficiency, Organizational*
  • Humans
  • Models, Organizational
  • Personnel Management*
  • Workforce