Department of Management


Date of this Version



Published in The Peak Performing Organization, ed. Ronald J. Burke and Cary L. Cooper (London & New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis, 2009), pp. 73–91. Copyright © 2009 Gwendolyn M. Combs, Fred Luthans and Jakari Griffith. Used by permission.


In this chapter we have attempted to expand the application and utility of the newly emerging core construct of psychological capital to an area critically important to high performance organizations. More specifically, the enormous organizational resources devoted to building and sustaining human capital through employer-sponsored or delivered learning and education programs demands continued analysis and investigation of how to ensure the effectiveness of such programs. Learning motivation (antecedent) and transfer of learning (outcome) are two particularly challenging elements in the learning/education program development formula that if addressed correctly can minimize failure and maximize success.

In developing and sustaining human capital, the synergy of PsyCap — through its independent yet interacting components of hope, optimism, efficacy/confidence, and resilience — seems to offer great promise for influencing learning effectiveness. In this instance the unique duality of PsyCap is its potential capacity both to influence the acquisition of KSAs for task performance (i.e., positively impact the motivation to learn), and to serve as a strategic intervention to increase the desired outcome of learning transfer. Even in environments where transfer may be difficult, organizations can receive return on the learning investment because the employees will be cognitively positioned to stretch, adapt, and reformulate their experiences in the learning environment and beyond in the work setting. Moreover, the engagement of PsyCap to facilitate constructive positive thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors allows employees to energize, direct, and to take ownership for their success from the learning and development effort, creating an upward spiral effect, a contagion effect. Additionally, we envision PsyCap as a tool for learning facilitators to enhance the highly desirable positive psychological states of their participants’ confidence, hope, resilience, and optimism. The measurement of the PsyCap of the participants can be used to support the needs assessment and preparation for learning. Overall, PsyCap would seem to have important implications for jump-starting new thinking and ways to help solve two major challenges currently facing human capital development: increased motivation to learn and transfer of training back to the job for more effective performance and competitive advantage.