Social Capital and the Practice Lens Approach

Social Capital and the Practice Lens Approach

Ray Gibney (The Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg, USA), Thomas J. Zagenczyk (Clemson University, USA) and Marick F. Masters (University of Pittsburgh, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-883-3.ch117
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Internet technology has enhanced the efficiency of the human resource (HR) function in organizations by making the use of self-service technology (SST) functionality commonplace. SST allows employees to enter information directly into a human resource information system (HRIS). It has reduced the time spent on administrative tasks by HR personnel by enabling employees to directly change information (e.g., address changes, benefit plan enrollments, etc.) through employee self-service (ESS) modules. Manager selfservice (MSS) allows managers to perform performance evaluations, transfer and termination paperwork, and pay-rate changes online.
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Social capital is the value inherent in relationships between individuals and has been applied in a variety of disciplines such as sociology, organizational behavior, human resource management, and economics (Adler & Kwon, 2002). Woolcock (1998) defines social capital as “the information, trust and norms of reciprocity inhering in one’s social behavior” (p.153). Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) identify three dimensions of social capital: (1) structural dimensions, (2) relational dimensions, and (3) cognitive dimensions.

Structural Dimension of Social Capital

The structural dimension of social capital primarily focuses on who talks to whom and is delineated by network ties and network configuration. Ties provide informational conduits and are often discussed in terms of tie strength. Granovetter (1973) defines tie strength as “a (probably linear) combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding) and the reciprocal services which characterize those ties” (p. 1361) and distinguished between strong and weak ties. Strong ties are more intimate and involve more self-disclosure, whereas weak ties are less intimate and exhibit less frequent interaction. Network configuration is concerned with ties in an aggregated form and is often discussed in terms of closure and structural holes (Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998). Structural holes are the gaps between individuals who are disconnected in the social structure of an organization whereas all members are connected with other members in closed networks (Coleman, 1988).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Network: Social relationships of individuals or organizations, depicted as nodes, based upon some unifying characteristic (e.g., friendship, industry, etc.)

Social Capital: The value inherent in relationships.

Self-Service Technology: Technological artifact enabling individuals to produce a service without direct interaction with service providers.

Norm: Social rules enforced through group sanctions such as ostracism.

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