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Flore Bridoux and J. W. Stoelhorst

The strategic human capital literature has emphasized that a firm’s ability to generate rents often depends on human capital complementarities involving firm-specific or collective human capital resources. It has also been recognized that whenever such complementarities are central to rent generation, employing an economic rationale to govern employee relationships (i.e., using pecuniary benefits that appeal to employees’ self-interest as a motivational device) is likely to be suboptimal. What is less clear is what the alternatives might be. We build on relational models theory and relate it to the strategic human resource management literature to show that employing an economic rationale is but one of four possible ways to govern relationships with employees. Moreover, we discuss why the other three are more likely to motivate employees to invest in developing human capital complementarities.