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Talent : Making People Your Competitive Advantage Hardcover – April 18, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787998389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787998387
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #812,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Voted "Best Book of 2008" in Human Capital, Strategy + Business"Some boards do have committees on human resources, but they typically focus on CEO and executive compensation and perhaps succession planning at the executive level, not on the overall talent strategy and effectiveness of the organization...What is needed is a human capital committee that addresses succession planning for senior management positions and the evaluation of the CEO and the top management team."--as excerpted from TALENT by Edward E. Lawler, III in Directors & Boards

"There was one chapter in Talent that I found to be really new and interesting. That was the chapter about corporate boards and talent management. Often when we think about boards of directors we think about a room of former CEOs and finance guys who go over number and compliance issues. That's pretty much what Lawler has found in his research as well. But if a company wants to really use its people as its competitive advantage, then these boards of directors have to be informed on the talent management issues within the company. Not only that, but at least some of these board members should have some HR expertise--which according to Lawler's research, is a pretty rare occurrence."--Workforce Management

"In his book--for those who wish to proceed with HC-centricity--Lawler describes the steps involved in building talent-based organizations. Through generous case studies of companies from Whole Foods to BMW to Siebel Systems, Lawler outlines ways of achieving HC-centric management through approaches he labels 'high involvement' or 'global competitor."--HR Magazine

"Lawler presents visionary information and examples that any organization can take pieces from. As a whole, Talent is a thought-provoking read. More importantly it is a practical book. Anytime the reader starts to say to him or herself "yeah right, that would never work" Lawler responds with an acknowledgment of the practicalities and support for optimism. If Lawler’s prediction that more companies will turn towards HC-centric organizations then it would be wise to read this book now." --The Employment File, 6/10/2008

"A lot of people know a little about Talent. Ed Lawler knows a lot! In fact, he may know more about this topic than anyone I know!"

"There is no better person to provide advice on Talent than Ed Lawler!"

"The world’s authority on HR systems – he shows you how to change the people equation in your company!" – Marshall Goldsmith is the New York Times best selling author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – the Harold Longman Award Best Business Book of 2007.

From the Inside Flap


In today's global business environment, it is more and more difficult to gain a competitive edge, but it is not impossible. Talent, potentially the most powerful source of competitive advantage, is available. But how should organizations be designed to make talent their key source of competitive advantage?

In this follow-up to his best-selling book Built to Change, Ed Lawler shows how organizations can combine the right organization design, management practices, and talent to gain a critical performance edge. Talent offers a blueprint that succinctly maps out the best approach to organizing and leading a talent-focused organization. The organizational features needed to create a talent-focused organization are identified and their operation explained. Special attention is paid to:

  • Leadership

  • Corporate boards

  • Talent management

  • Performance management

  • Information and decision making

Lawler shows how organizations can determine which talent-focused management approach best fits their business: a high-involvement approach that has long-term employment relationships and a high level of employee involvement in decision making, or a global-competitor approach where there is a constant influx of new talent and technological expertise. Drawing from his expertise and providing insights into today's most innovative companies, Lawler describes the human capital strategy and organization design for each approach. He provides the foundation and tools for creating effective and innovative organizations.

A timely, much-needed resource, Talent defines how companies can be managed for competitive advantage today.

More About the Author

Edward E. Lawler III joined the faculty of Yale University after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1964. Three years later he was promoted to Associate Professor.

He moved to the University of Michigan in 1972 as Professor of Psychology and also became Program Director in the Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research. In 1978, he became a Professor in the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. That same year, he founded and became Director of the University's Center for Effective Organizations. He was named Professor of Research at the University of Southern California in 1982 and Distinguished Professor of Business in 1999.

Lawler has been honored as a major contributor to theory, research, and practice in the fields of human resources management, compensation, organizational development, corporate governance, and organizational effectiveness. He is the author and co-author of over thirty-eight books and more than three hundred articles, which have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, MIT-Sloan Management Review, California Management Review, USA Today, Strategy and Business, the Financial Times, and more than thirty other magazines, journals, and newspapers.

His most recent books include Rewarding Excellence (Jossey-Bass, 2000), Corporate Boards: New Strategies for Adding Value at the Top (Jossey-Bass, 2001), Organizing for High Performance (Jossey-Bass, 2001), Treat People Right (Jossey-Bass, 2003), Human Resources Business Process Outsourcing (Jossey-Bass, 2004), Achieving Strategic Excellence: An Assessment of Human Resource Organizations (Stanford Press, 2006), Built to Change (Jossey-Bass, 2006), The New American Workplace (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2006), and America at Work (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2006), Talent: Making People Your Competitive Advantage (Jossey-Bass, 2008), and Achieving Excellence in HR Management: An Assessment of Human Resource Organizations (Stanford Press, 2009) and Management Reset (Jossey-Bass, 2011).

Business Week has proclaimed Lawler one of the top six gurus in the field of management, and Human Resource Executive called him one of HR's most influential people. Workforce magazine identified him as one of the twenty-five visionaries who have shaped today's workplace over the past century. He has been a consultant to many corporations, including the majority of the Fortune 100, as well as governments at all levels.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Viriya Taecharungroj on January 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I don't want to ruin the rating of the book but I would like to give my honest review here.

"The HR Department is the most important staff group"

Talent: Making People Your Competitive Advantage by Edward E. Lawler III is another book on talent management and HR in general. The key content of the book is the four types of organisations. Hierarchical bureaucracy or low-cost operator (Struture-centric approach) and high-involvement organisation or global competitor (HC-centric, HC is Human Capital). Lawlar describes the current state of most organisations and how to move forward.

1. Talent Matters
Talent matters due to the changing business environment in the world and the world is more competitive than ever before.

2. Making the Right Management Choice
This chapter describes the four types of organisation mentioned above and their advantages and disadvantages.

3. Designing Organizations
Lawler adapted the classic five star model of an organisation design including the elements which are People, Structure, Rewards, Processes, (Competencies, Capabilities, and Strategy), which are all related. While Identity is in the middle of all. Lawler describes effect of those elements to the organisation.

4. Managing Talent
The author wrote on how to get the right talent and how to retain them in depth.

5. Managing Performance
Chapter on performance management, full stop.

6. Information and Decision Making
I seriously think that this chapter is unnecessary, Lawler wrote about the information sharing. knowledge management, and technology.

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There is no knowledge leader I admire more than I do Ed Lawler. In this book, he 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." As Dave Ulrich observes in the Foreword, "While talent is necessary, it is not sufficient. Successful management in today's business world requires attention to both talent and teamwork, individual ability and organization capability. Lawler captures both."

Ulrich goes on to suggest that 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.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Yocca on May 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've had the pleasure of working with Professor Ed Lawler on the launch of "Talent." Personally, I found this book to be both simple in its storytelling while detailed in its valuable ideas. Professor Lawler does a wonderful job mixing in real world corporate examples of how leaders can shape their company (and their behavior) to best maximize their most pressing competitive advantage - people.

From Michael Dell's self-evaluation process to Whole Foods public salary disclosure, Professor Lawler uncovers some of corporate America's best talent practices. In my estimation, "Talent" is a must read for any executive or manager who is ready to actively tap into a company's human capital. And doing so is a must today.
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