In another article we explained why Psychological Capital (PsyCap) is an important capital to have on the HR agenda to help you keep your workforce at their best and future fit. In this one, we describe the concept of PsyCap.
It includes four state-like psychological resource capacities – hope, (self-) efficacy, resilience and optimism (the HERO within) of which the total output is greater than the sum of the individual parts (Luthans et al, 2004). In simple words, these 4 work together and strengthen each other giving you the 1+1=3 effect. The concept of PsyCap is one of the best studied constructs in positive psychology. High psychological capital is demonstrated to lead to better employee performance, job satisfaction, problem solving and well-being, amongst a lot of other benefits (Luthans et al, 2017).


The will and the way

Hope is a word you know for sure…  it often gets confused with wishful thinking. PsyCap’s Hope however is very active and something radically different than wishing for the best. It’s about the choices you make today because hope for the future makes you do so. It’s a combination of strong willpower together with openness to various pathways to get the results needed. It helps to proceed when the way gets blocked and your first try doesn’t work. In other words, high hope-ers work hard to reach their goals and will adjust if what they are doing doesn’t work.

Self efficacy:

Belief in self

(Self-) Efficacy is rooted in Bandura’s (1997) social cognitive theory, and defined as “people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce effects”.  It represents employees belief and abilities to control outcomes. It is well known that our beliefs significantly influence how we feel, think and motivate ourselves. Put simply, those high in self-efficacy believe in themselves. This will drive them to take on and welcome challenges, and use their strengths and skills to face those challenges. It helps to keep going when faced with obstacles that may otherwise lead to giving up. Efficacy works synergistically with the will component of hope.


Bouncing back and beyond

Resilience refers to the ability of an individual to bounce back from adversity, uncertainty, risk or failure, and adapt to changing and stressful life demands (Masten & Reed, 2002; Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004). Resilient employees do well under difficult circumstances. They have the ability to positively adapt during or following stressful events, failures, and also during positively challenging events that ask a lot of us. They handle stress effectively, work through negative experiences and changes happening around them. Most people call these types of people ‘strong’ after seeing them come back from a challenging situation.


Realistic and Flexible

Optimists have a completely different coping approach than pessimists, they keep trying, focus on what is within their control, frame situations and challenges positively and accept what is outside their control. Simply, those high in optimism believe things will be ok in the end, they generally attribute positive events to personal, permanent and pervasive causes. And on the negative events in life they phrase them as external, temporary, and related to the situation.  Optimism goes beyond accuracy and optimism essentially is a thinking error. The research however is clear that the motivational effect is more beneficial than the calculation accuracy of pessimism.

The good news is that those positive- psychological states are open to development! You can build more of these resources in your organization and help your employees to be their best selves and their best with each other! You will have a strong impact on desired employee attitudes, behaviors, and performance. You can also nurture these resources so that they are not eaten away during turbulent times, or personal difficulties.

If you are interested to learn more about this topic, let us know, we’re passionate about it and can help out in this field.


  • Psychological capital and beyond. Luthans, Youssef and Avolio, Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Psychological Capital: An Evidence-Based Positive Approach. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior Volume 4, 2017 Luthans, pp 339-366



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