Robert's Reviews > Talent: Making People Your Competitive Advantage

Talent by Dave Ulrich
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Jul 25, 08


Talent: Making People Your Competitive Advantage
Edward E. Lawler III
Jossey-Bass

Lawler makes what I consider to be his most important contributions thus far to our understanding of how to gain and then sustain a competitive advantage by finding, hiring, and retaining the right talent with the right structures, systems, processes, and practices in place. Only then can organizations "perform so well and change so fast that they string together a series of temporary advantages." Lawler asserts (and I agree) that "fewer and fewer companies can be successful by practicing an old-school bureaucratic [structure-centric] approach to management." What does he recommend to decision-makers in most (but not all) organizations? The human capital centric (i.e. HC-centric) business model. What does it look like? "To begin with, it is important to understand what its core is. Above all else, an HC-centric organization is one that aligns its features (reporting systems, compensation, division and department structure, information systems, and so on) toward the creation of working relationships that attract talented individuals and enable them to work together in an effective manner."

The Star (business) Model identifies the organization features about which choices need to be made - about strategy, competencies and capabilities, structure, processes, rewards, people, and identity -- to create an HC-centric organization so that its systems are aligned and integrated. Otherwise, they cannot drive and implement the given strategy. Unlike in a bureaucratic, structure-centric organization, in an HC-centric organization business strategy is determined by talent considerations, and it in turn drives human capital management practices; every aspect of the organization is obsessed with talent and talent management; performance management is one of the most important activities; the information system gives the same amount of attention and rigor to measures of talent costs, performance, and condition as it does to measures of equipment, materials, buildings, supplies, and financial assets; the HR department is the most important staff group; the corporate board has both the expertise and the information it needs to understand and advise on talent issues; moreover, leadership is shared, and managers are highly skilled in talent management.

What Lawler provides in this volume is a combination of information and counsel that will help decision-makers to determine whether or not their organization should be HC-centric. Then, if the choice they make is affirmative, his book will guide and inform their efforts to design, build, and then manage such an organization. "Structures need to change, and practices need to change, but even that is not enough. People inside and outside the need to change the way they think about the organization. The organization needs to become recognizable from all angles as HC-centric." People change organizations, books don't.

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