HR’s new cornerstone: Talent management (HR manager’s bookshelf)

Books examine workforce planning and leadership development
By Ray Brillinger
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/04/2007

The phrase “talent management” is gaining popularity and this column has looked at numerous books on the subject over the years. It’s a broad concept dealing with an organization’s philosophy, practices and systems for attracting, developing, deploying, retaining and rewarding the people who possess critical knowledge and skills.

Much of the focus is on differentiating the organization from competitors, both in the marketplace for goods and services and in the labour market for scarce talent.

Beyond HR

positions human capital management as the key foundation of HR’s evolution as a business discipline and strategic contributor.

The other books reviewed below deal with various aspects of succession and workforce planning, leadership development and recruitment — all different perspectives from which to build various components of a talent management framework.

Beyond HR

By John Boudreau and Peter Ramstad, 272 pages, Harvard Business School Press (2007), ISBN 1-4221-0145-6

Connecting talent to strategy, this book describes the developing “decision science” of human capital, something the authors call “talentship.” HR has evolved from a control function (personnel) to a services role (HR) and is now moving into decision capability (talentship). This is akin to what has happened in other departments, such as the development of sales into marketing and accounting into finance.

The authors present a structured framework that shows how to analyse and develop actions across a range of “pivot points” to achieve efficiency, effectiveness and impact. The book has an excited, pioneering tone and describes examples of talentship approaches at work in organizations such as Boeing, Corning, IBM, General Electric and Disney.

Beyond HR

belongs in a select category of books that provide cutting-edge insight into HR’s real potential and where the profession is going. It also provides a solid framework to help HR professionals move their careers, and organizations, in the right direction.

Two other titles that also belong in this select category include:

The HR Value Proposition

by Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank, HBSP (2005), ISBN 1-59139-707-3; and

The Workforce Scorecard

by Mark Huselid, Brian Becker and Richard Beatty, HBSP (2005), ISBN 1-59139-245-4, both previously reviewed in

Canadian HR Reporter

.

Effective Succession Planning

By William Rothwell, 400 pages, Amacom (third edition, 2005), ISBN 0-8144-0842-7

This revised edition of Rothwell’s comprehensive guide, subtitled “Ensuring leadership continuity and building talent from within,” provides an overview and “how-to” steps for designing and implementing a state-of-the-art approach to succession planning.

Topics include: current trends; competency identification and values clarification; assessing work requirements and future potential of jobs and candidates; developing internal successors; alternatives to internal development; technology to support the program; and evaluation of the succession planning system. There’s also a CD-ROM containing worksheets, assessment tools and training guides.

Growing Your Company’s Leaders

By Robert Fulmer and Jay Conger, 280 pages, Amacom (2004), ISBN 0-8144-0767-6

Case studies from companies such as Dell, Dow Chemical, PanCanadian Petroleum, Sonoco, Eli Lilly and Bank of America are featured in this look at how great organizations use succession management to sustain competitive advantage. The authors trace the reinvention of succession management to meet renewed interest, the ownership of the process by both the CEO and HR, how to identify talent, the linkage between succession and development and the measurement of long-term success.

Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees

By Diane Arthur, 354 pages, Amacom (fourth edition, 2006), ISBN 0-8144-0861-3

As a comprehensive resource, this book provides an overview and guidance on:

• recruitment challenges, sources and electronic methods;

• interview types, preparation, questions and legal considerations;

• documentation, testing, reference checks and the selection process; and

• employee orientation and beyond.

This new edition is updated to reflect current workforce, economic and interviewing issues and trends.

Strategic Executive Development

By James Bolt, Michael Dulworth and Michael McGrath, 174 pages, Pfeiffer (2005), ISBN 0-7879-7463-3

Research and consulting experience at major organizations (including IBM, Texas Instruments and Weyerhauser) underpin this examination of factors that make a critical difference in executive development for bottom-line results. The book is built around five “essential investments” or strategic uses of executive development:

• creating strategic unity and alignment;

• ensuring the successful transition of new executives;

• accelerating the development of emerging leaders;

• transforming the organization; and

• identifying and addressing critical business challenges.

High-Impact Interview Questions

By Victoria Hoevemeyer, 172 pages, Amacom (2006), ISBN 0-8144-7301-6

Competency-based behavioural interviewing (CBBI) is the focus of this book, which presents “701 behaviour-based questions to find the right person for every job.” The author contrasts CBBI with three other interview approaches: traditional, situational and brainteaser. Sample CBBI questions are outlined for about 80 competency sets, including action orientation, teamwork, risk taking, perseverance, customer focus, continuous improvement, conflict management, influencing, listening, manager relationships and delegation. Specific chapters also deal with probing or followup questions, initial telephone screening, creating an interview guide and assembling the interviewer data. The final chapter takes a brief look at incorporating the competency-based approach into performance management, individual performance improvement plans, training and development and succession planning.

101 Strategies for Recruiting Success

By Christopher Pritchard, 209 pages, Amacom (2007), ISBN 0-8144-7407-1

The first five chapters offer brief sections of guidance and ideas on strategies for operational success in recruiting, successful sourcing, diversity, hiring and retention. The content could be helpful to those fairly new to recruiting, or even seasoned professionals, who would benefit from checklists of ideas and different perspectives on what they are doing. Sourcing ideas include use of the media, outplacement, career fairs, government resources, associations, employee referrals, colleges and universities, search firms and competitors. The latter section is in workbook format, with 35 one-page segments designed to help round out the reader’s effectiveness. It includes conducting a performance self-appraisal, meeting with legal counsel, reading an annual report, visiting a career fair and interviewing other recruiters to learn from their experience.

Corporate Reputations, Branding and People Management

By Graeme Martin and Susan Hetrick, 384 pages, Butterworth-Heinemann (2006), ISBN 0-7506-6950-0

At the heart of talent management is the question of what differentiates one employer from another. This book is “aimed at helping HR practitioners understand the corporate agenda and the role of reputation management, brands, social responsibility and governance in creating competitive advantage and organizational legitimacy. By drawing on a wide range of ideas, from branding, marketing, communications, public relations and reputation management, it examines how effective people management and HR strategies can contribute to this corporate agenda.”

Bench Strength

By Robert Barner, 241 pages, Amacom (2006), ISBN 0-8144-0884-2

Talent acquisition, development and deployment decisions are the focus of this book, which may appeal to senior managers who see business in terms such as “conducting war game scenarios,” “keeping score” and “selecting the king’s advisor.” The tone and approach of the book are a little more down to earth, including key decisions about talent such as the make or buy decision, “stream or pool” (developing candidates for specific positions or retaining pools of potential leaders), focusing on a few high-potential individuals rather than a broader bench group and the “trade-up or build-out” decision (progressively building higher performers versus hiring a large group of potential managers all at once).

Leadership Can Be Taught

By Sharon Daloz Parks, 287 pages, Harvard Business School Press (2006), ISBN 1-59139-309-4

From the book’s jacket: “Step into the classroom of Harvard leadership virtuoso Ronald Heifetz and his colleagues to experience a dynamic type of leadership and a corresponding mode of learning called ‘case-in-point.’… In this setting, failures become active experiments not just in learning, but in living leadership. As Heifetz teaches it, leadership is not about wielding power and authority. It is about mobilizing people to make progress on the tough, adaptive challenges that make or break organizations… being able to both see the bigger picture and make decisions under fire… and contrary to popular notions of charisma, leadership is not about personality, but presence — the capacity to foster collective action.”

Workforce Crisis

By Ken Dychtwald, Tamara Erickson and Robert Morison, 269 pages, Harvard Business School Press (2006), ISBN 1-59139-521-6

The looming talent shortage in the United States is the major focus for this call to action: “How to beat the coming shortage of skills and talent.”

The book is organized around the themes of management challenges associated with changing demographics; three cohorts (young, mid-career and mature) and how to engage them; the new employment deal (flexibility in work arrangements, learning opportunities, compensation and benefits); and management practices including meaningful work, engaged workers and a manager’s agenda for change. It includes experience and examples from numerous companies to help readers avoid their own workforce crisis.

Ray Brillinger is a Toronto-based certified management consultant working internationally with organizations on change management, HR strategy and performance improvement. He can be reached at ray@brillingerconsulting.com.

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