ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (2): 251-263.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2015.00251

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A Meta-Analysis on Effects of Human, Social, and Psychological Capital on Career Success in Chinese Business Organizations

(1中国人民大学劳动人事学院, 北京 100872) (2首都经济贸易大学 劳动经济学院, 北京 100070)   

  1. (1 School of Labor and Human Resources, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China) (2 School of Labor Economics, Capital University of Economics and Business, Beijing 100070, China)
  • Received:2014-05-19 Published:2015-02-25 Online:2015-02-25
  • Contact: ZHOU Wenxia, E-mail:


Career success is defined as the positive psychological or work-related achievements one obtains through work experiences. For individuals, career success reflects the self-actualization of individuals. In an organization, employees’ personal career success means the organization’s making the best of its human resources and eventually contributing to its success. As career success is of concern not only to individuals but also to organizations, many researchers continue to identify the individual and organizational factors that facilitate employees’ career success. At the individual level, demographic, social capital, human capital, motivational and work-family variables are possibly associated with career success. At the organizational level, organizational variables such as firm size, industry sector, organizational support and geographic location may also be related to career success. Though Chinese organizational researchers have identified many determinants of career success and some have qualitatively reviewed partially the related literature, no large-scale systematic attempt has been made to systematically summarize the existent literature. In order to quantitatively review the career success literature, we use meta-analysis which is of appropriate for several reasons. Firstly, meta-analysis is a quantitative review technique that can reduce the measurement error from sampling and unreliability in individual studies. Secondly, a critical review and synthesis of the related body of research can play an important role in theory development and building. Thirdly, as former scholars have already identified some factors that determined objective and subjective career success, it would, therefore, be theoretically valuable to review and compare the strength of predictors in determining the objective and subjective career success in order to guide future research and management practices. In this study, we use meta-analysis to examine the relative importance of three career competencies (i.e., human capital, social capital, and psychological capital) and their underlying mechanism of predicting career success. Four inclusion criteria were used to select individual studies for this. Firstly, we focused on studies with dependent variables including at least one kind of operationalizations such as promotion, salary or subjective career success. Secondly, participants had to be employees in Mainland China. Thirdly, correlations were reported in the study. Fourthly, if the same sample was repeatedly included in different studies, then only the study that including most number of variables would be used in the present study. According to the above four criteria, we identified 76 studies that covered 78 dependent samples and 21,570 employees. Based on the intelligent career framework, contest and sponsored mobility, the theory of market transition, and the imbedding perspective of social capital, we put forward our hypotheses. To test our hypotheses, we obtained a correlation matrix first through four steps (i.e., encoding, correcting for correlations, composition of correlations and calculation of effective seizes). Then, we utilized LISREL8.30 to test our hypotheses. The results showed: (1) human capital, social capital and psychological capital were positively related to objective and subjective career success; (2) while human capital could explain more variance of objective career success, psychological capital could explain more variance of subjective career success; (3) organization sponsorship partially mediated the relationship between human capital, social capital and career success; it also partially mediated the relationship between psychological capital and subjective career success. The relationship between psychological capital and objective career success was fully mediated through organization sponsorship; (4) psychological capital could predict better much better organization sponsorship. This study contributes to the career success literature. One major contribution is that our results reveal the differential effects of the three career competency on objective and subjective career success. This finding is important both to theoretical development and to the methodology of measuring career success. Secondly, we examined the underling mechanism on how human, social and psychological capital may affect career success. Thirdly, it is important to find the kind of criteria used by elites and its agents to give candidates sponsorship. This theoretical question is examined in the present study using meta-analysis. Our study also offers implications for managerial practices. First, managers should focus on developing subordinates’ human, social and psychological capital. Second, individuals should be aware of the fact that career success does not only affect human, social and psychological capital, but also others sponsorship. Several limitations have been noted in the current study. First, potential moderators may exist in the relationships among the three career competencies and career success. But we have not examined the moderating effects. A third limitation of this study is that we have not been able to explore the synergy among the three career competencies by examining their interactions due to the limitation of meta-analysis. Third, like other meta-analyses that examine mediating process, the current meta-analysis has not included control variables in hypotheses testing because many studies have not provided correlations with these control variables.

Key words: meta-analysis, career success, human capital, social capital, psychological capital, organizational sponsorship