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Beyond the competency frameworks-conceptualizing and deploying employee strengths at work

Vikas Rai Bhatnagar (Department of Organizational Behaviour, Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, India)
Ajay K. Jain (Department of Organizational Behaviour, Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, India)
Shiv S. Tripathi (Department of Strategic Management, Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, India)
Sabir Giga (Faculty of Health and Medicine, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK.)

Journal of Asia Business Studies

ISSN: 1558-7894

Article publication date: 13 May 2020

Issue publication date: 7 December 2020




With growing stress at work, the need for scholars to focus on humanizing organizations is pressing. Scholars agree five factors lead to humanizing organizations. This study dwells upon one factor – employee strengths at work (ESAW) – problematizes, identifies the gap in its conceptualization, deploys critical social systems theory and reconceptualizes the construct of ESAW by taking key contextual factors into consideration. Thereafter, this study aims to develop a conceptual model and makes propositions related to the mediating effects of ESAW on the association of leadership style and employee performance.


Aimed at contributing to humanizing organizations, this conceptual study problematizes the construct of competency and the trait-based conceptualization of strengths in identifying gaps in the construct of competency for humanizing organizations. Next, the study deploys the technique of construct mixology for evolving the new construct of ESAW. To empirically test ESAW in the field, the authors deploy the critical social systems theory and develop a conceptual model. Further, drawing upon the conceptual model and the extant literature, the authors develop many propositions for enabling future research.


The study develops a new construct of ESAW that holds the promise of contributing to humanizing organizations. By embedding the current trait-based conceptualization of employee strengths to the context of the organization, the new five-factor construct of ESAW is indigenous to the field of organization science, hence, has a higher relevance. The study develops a conceptual model and makes propositions for empirically testing the new construct in the field that future researchers may focus upon.

Research limitations/implications

There is a compelling need for humanizing organizations. This conceptual study attempts to bring back the focus of researchers on humanizing organizations, within the framework of the market-driven economy. The new construct of ESAW has huge potential for theory-building and empirical testing.

Practical implications

Deployment of ESAW will contribute to humanizing organizations. The construct of ESAW is relevant to practice as it has evolved from the domain of organization science, unlike the earlier trait-based conceptualization of strength that emerged in personality psychology. Practitioners can deploy the construct of ESAW and achieve the two seemingly conflicting objectives of enabling employee well-being while also ensuring superior performance.

Social implications

Any contribution toward humanizing organizations forebodes increasing the social capital and the personal well-being of employees. If employees are happy at work, their productivity increases. As per the broaden and build theory of Fredrickson, higher well-being and productivity at work creates a spiral of positivity that transcends the working life of an employee. Hence, the study has huge social implications at times when the social fabric is stretched because of multiple demands on an employee.


Constructs developed in other fields and adopted in organization science have less relevance than those evolved in the domain of organization science. Past deficient conceptualization and practices persist unless scholars logically challenge it an alternative and improved conceptualization provided. The new construct of ESAW uses the method of construct mixology after unravelling the assumptions that impedes humanizing organizations.



The authors deeply acknowledge the intuitive guidance constantly extended by Reverend Prof. Prem Saran Satsangi, Chairman of Advisory Committee on Education, Dayalbagh Educational Institute and the Spiritual Leader of the Radhasoami Faith.


Bhatnagar, V.R., Jain, A.K., Tripathi, S.S. and Giga, S. (2020), "Beyond the competency frameworks-conceptualizing and deploying employee strengths at work", Journal of Asia Business Studies, Vol. 14 No. 5, pp. 691-709.



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Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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