Human capital is unique and differs from any other capital. It is needed for companies to achieve goals, develop and remain innovative. Companies can invest in human capital for example through education and training enabling improved levels of quality and production.
Human capital theory is closely associated with the study of human resources management as found in the practice of business administration and macroeconomics.
The original idea of human capital can be traced back at least to Adam Smith in the 18th century. The modern theory was popularized by Gary Becker, an economist and Nobel Laureate from the University of Chicago, Jacob Mincer, and Theodore Schultz. As a result of his conceptualization and modeling work using Human Capital as a key factor, the 2018 Nobel Prize for Economics was jointly awarded to Paul Romer, who founded the modern innovation-driven approach to understanding economic growth.
In the recent literature, the new concept of task-specific human capital was coined in 2004 by Robert Gibbon, an economist at MIT, and Michael Waldman, an economist at Cornell University. The concept emphasizes that in many cases, human capital is accumulated specific to the nature of the task (or, skills required for the task), and the human capital accumulated for the task are valuable to many firms requiring the transferable skills. This concept can be applied to job-assignment, wage dynamics, tournament, promotion dynamics inside firms, etc.