A Few Books for Summer

Jul 3, 2008
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

This week I will keep my column short and devote it to discussing a few books that I have read over the past few months. These books will fuel your creative juices, maybe get you a little angry, or at least motivate you to look at what you do differently.

They are all written by well-known authors who have explored similar topics before. But what is interesting to me is that every one of these books is centered on people, talent, and how talent will be used, organized, or deployed over the next few years.

Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty by Peter Cappelli

Peter Cappelli is known to ERE Expo audiences as he has spoken at the Expo and is frequently quoted in the press on talent issues. He is a professor at the Wharton School  at the University of Pennsylvania and frequently writes and speaks about talent issues.

In his recent book, Peter looks at talent as a supply-chain issue. Just as we take great care to ensure that we have a reliable source of raw material or parts for manufacturing, we need to do the same with the people who invent, design, manufacture or deliver, and sell our products and services.

He also makes a case for the value of creating (developing) the talent that you need versus the constant search for that talent. Good talent management is about balancing the recruiting of talent with development.

He covers many areas in the book, including an historical overview of the talent acquisition process and thinking that is reflected in most American organizations today. If you are a serious talent management practitioner, this is essential reading.

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

A second book, which directly affects all of us who make talent acquisition or development the center of our work, is about the impact Web 2.0 technologies are having on what we do. Charlene and Josh take us on a journey through the world of Web 2.0 and show us how it changing almost all aspects of our lives.

This is a book to pass on to your CEO or VP of HR so that they can begin to appreciate some emerging facts of the 21st century: information cannot be controlled, having a presence on social networks like Facebook is important, and developing a Web 2.0 strategy is essential to success.

They have based the book on their work as researchers at Forrester. They maintain a blog based on the book and you can follow Charlene on Twitter at charleneli. I recommend you at least skim through their book and then pass it up the ladder.

Talent: Making People Your Competitive Advantage by Edward E. Lawler III

Ed Lawler has been working on how to make organizations more effective for at least the past 30 years. Back in the 1980s when I was in the corporate world, Ed was a major presence through his Center for Creative organizations as USC. He has authored or co-authored several books and is always at the edge of talent issues.

His latest book is about the bigger issue of getting organizations “re-tuned” to focus not on securing their raw materials or finances, but on ensuring that they are designed to attract great people.  As Ed says on his blog, “What differentiates Talent from other books on the subject of talent is that it is not about talent management — it is about designing and managing organizations that make talent their source of competitive advantage.”

This is a sampling of the dozen or so books that I have run across over the past few months that I think are worth your time and effort to read and think about.  Let me know what you think about any of these books or suggest one you have read.

Hope your summer is going well.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.