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Human strengths: a systematic conceptual review, conceptualizing employee strengths at work and a framework for management development

Vikas Rai Bhatnagar (Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, India)
Ajay K. Jain (Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, India)
Shiv S. Tripathi (Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, India)
Sabir Giga (Centre for Organizational Health and Wellbeing, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 7 December 2020

Issue publication date: 20 January 2021




Utilizing employee strengths contributes to humanizing organizations. However, the current concept of strengths has evolved from the domain of social work, advanced by personality and positive psychologists and adopted in management. The trait-like conceptualization of strengths conceptualized by psychologists is of lesser relevance to organizations as it discounts the significance of contextual factors for manifesting employee strengths. This study traces the evolution of strengths conceptualization, identifies gaps in its relevance to organizations, employs the concept relation method for developing a conceptualization of employee strengths at work and proposes a framework for management development that predicts improved employee engagement and performance.


The study utilizes the Cochrane method for carrying out a systematic conceptual review and shortlists 19 articles from an initial selection of 430 articles. Drawing insights from the 19 reviewed studies, the study deploys the concept relation method to conceptualize the concept of employees' strengths at work (ESAW) that has a higher relevance for management and organizational behavior. Thereafter, utilizing ESAW, the study proposes a conceptual framework that has huge implications for improving employee engagement and performance by carrying out effective management development. The conceptual framework additionally serves as a springboard for future empirical research.


The conceptualization of human strengths in extant literature favors a trait-based conceptualization advanced by personality psychologists. Concepts borrowed from other domains have lesser relevance than those indigenously developed in the field of management. Incorporating the recent empirical evidence highlighting the importance of factoring in key contextual attributes for the strengths to manifest at work, this study develops a new higher-order construct of ESAW that factors in personal as well as situational variables. Thereafter, the study suggests a conceptual framework for effectively carrying out management development by utilizing the new construct of ESAW.

Practical implications

Deployment of ESAW will contribute to humanize organizations, improve employee engagement and performance. 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. The conceptual framework proposed in the study can be utilized by practitioners for carrying out effective management development.

Social implications

Any contribution to increasing employee engagement predicts increasing social capital. If employees are happy at work, their productivity increases. Furthermore, higher engagement 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 due to multiple demands on an employee.


Constructs developed in other fields and adopted in management have less relevance than those evolved indigenously in the domain of management. The systematic conceptual review of the concept of human strengths reveals a gap in its relevance to organizations. The study develops a new concept of ESAW that has higher relevance for organizational behavior and holds the promise of humanizing organizations. The next originality of the study lies in proposing a conceptual framework for carrying out effective management development that predicts higher employee engagement and performance. The methodological originality lies in utilizing the systematic conceptual review for developing a new concept.



The author his extends his deep gratitude to Reverend Prof. Prem Saran Satsangi, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Education, Dayalbagh Educational School, and the Spiritual Leader of the Radhasoami Faith for constantly extending intuitive guidance to him.The author thanks Prof. Soo Lee and the reviewers for their valuable inputs for improving the quality of the paper.Funding: There is no funding for this research.


Bhatnagar, V.R., Jain, A.K., Tripathi, S.S. and Giga, S. (2021), "Human strengths: a systematic conceptual review, conceptualizing employee strengths at work and a framework for management development", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 40 No. 1, pp. 1-22.



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