Sprinting to the Finish: Toward a Theory of Human Capital Resource Complementarity

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Abstract

In traditional work contexts, factors such as individuals’ general competencies are used to predict indices of their performance such as yearly performance appraisals. Whereas traditional approaches to predicting individuals’ performance focus on differences between individuals, a considerable proportion of variability in performance is attributable to within-person sources. However, we submit that within-person variability in performance may also be attributable to the fact that people work in different contexts. Moreover, individual performance is often the result of unrecognized team contributions. Accordingly, we advance a Human Capital Resource Complementarity (HCRC) theory to explain the alignment of human capital resources with dynamic situational features, and to illustrate the influence of team collective competencies on the performance of individual members. We then empirically test HCRC theory–derived hypotheses using a sample of 169 cyclists from 22 teams across 18 stages of the centennial Tour de France. Our results suggest that individuals’ specific competencies interact with situational characteristics to predict their performance variability over time, beyond that accounted for by their general competencies. Moreover, these effects are accentuated to the extent that teammates’ competencies aligned with individual competencies in a given situation. Implications for future theory building, research, and practice are discussed.

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