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The War for Talent Hardcover – October 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

Talent, as defined by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod, is shorthand for a key employee who possesses "a sharp strategic mind, leadership ability, communications skills, the ability to attract and inspire people, entrepreneurial instincts, functional skills, and the ability to deliver results." It's also, they contend in The War for Talent, an overarching personnel characteristic that companies of all kinds will require throughout their organizations in order to survive the competitive recruiting era that we appear to be entering. Michaels, Handfield-Jones, and Axelrod, authors of a 1997 McKinsey Quarterly article that uncovered a definitive connection between top performers and superior corporate achievement, spent the intervening years studying 13,000 executives in 27 companies to identify the programs and behaviors that help today's foremost firms attract and retain the best kinds of employees. The authors outline five common "imperatives" that they found these companies employed to strengthen their talent pools ("Embrace a Talent Mindset," "Craft a Winning Employee Value Proposition," "Rebuild Your Recruiting Strategy," "Weave Development into Your Organization," and "Differentiate and Affirm Your People") and construct a practical framework for making it happen in your company. --Howard Rothman

From Publishers Weekly

The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. coined the phrase "War for Talent" several years ago when its surveys revealed a diminishing talent pool. The basic McKinsey principle asserts that employers must adopt innovative recruitment techniques, and the authors offer many examples from companies like the Limited, Enron and Amgen. Among their suggestions: offer mentoring programs; encourage employees to switch departments; and with senior hires, look for "leadership style and values" consistent with "the company's culture." Employers will find this book useful if somewhat dry. McKinsey's name along with extensive publicity will help initial sales, but the boilerplate content may not maintain them.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1St Edition edition (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578514592
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578514595
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Floccinaucinihilipilification on October 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Easy reading, entertaining, interesting and informative. Light on details but a very good general overview of the topic.
Conceptually excellent. The value is in how you implement the recommendations - which is where you will find this book wanting.
If you get nothing else out of this book, the quote from Dee Hock (founder of Visa) will make it worth buying:
"Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second motivation; third capacity; fourth understanding; fifth knowledge; and last and least, experience.
Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind."
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44 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The New Yorker (July 22, 2002) had an article that referred to "The War for Talent" that summed up what I felt after finishing the book (I paraphrase): The book largely amounts to an argument for indulging A employees, fawning over them, and "allowing them to find out what they like most to be doing." Malcolm Gladwell's article really articulated my feeling about Enron, my former company and how management talked about encouraging risk and allowing "A talents" to be the dynamic driving force WITH little regard to organizational structure or goals. The resulting chaos of having dozens of self-proclaimed geniuses pursuing their objectives, while often hidden from outsiders, makes me very wary of some consultant's pet theory that ignores divisions duplicating efforts, repeating mistakes, raiding each others "talent" employees, low office morale and intense political jockeying for advancement (which, ironically, was independent of performance). This book is another tiresome example of tired old "hero" worship; it makes me regret ever having gone to b-school. We MBAs are really screwing things up.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Digital Rights on September 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A friend of mine recently sent me the old article from the New Yorker that was highly critical of this book and how the all out "talent is everything" mania drove Enron into the ground. I decided to also read the book and can't say I agree with any of it other than some of the obvious points of hiring smart people and motivating them. Duh!

Having worked for one of our illustrious big banks that basically failed in 2009 I can attest to the same cynical non-sense going on in our zoo as what may have occurred at Enron. By that I mean the endless shifting of the top managers regardless or experience or job skills into positions of responsibility. Ultimately a lack of accountability fails big companies far quicker than settling for pluggers over shooting stars. What is talent if not discipline, hard work, team work, humility and focus? I just don't see any of that covered here. These same consultants polluted my company for years getting into the ears of insecure senior managers that used the rest of as guinea pigs. I cannot think of one of the 8-10 programs launched by consultants that did anything but disrupt the company and hinder performance.

This book? Seems like it entertained some readers which is fine. But for serious management study it think it should be avoided.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Roger E. Herman on March 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
You can no longer be satisfied with "C" players in your organization. To compete in today's world, you need a powerful team of "A" players-top talent. Every savvy employer knows this fact, at least intuitively. Incredibly, relatively few act on this knowledge, satisfying themselves instead with "warm bodies." And they wonder why they aren't more profitable. (Shake your head in disbelief here.)
Produced by three consultants from McKinsey & Company, "The War for Talent" is based on five years of in-depth research on how companies manage leadership talent. [The research is explained in the book.] From what they learned from surveys of 13,000 executives at more than 120 leading companies and 27 case studies, the authors propose a talent-based approach to recruiting and holding management employees. The concept is simple: emphasize a deep conviction that competitive advantage comes from having better talent at all levels. Execution of that talent is more difficult, requiring total commitment and consistent action on the part of all leaders throughout the organization.
The authors have limited their focus to managerial talent, ignoring the tremendous contribution made by non-management employees. Their contention is that if you have highly talented managers, everything else will work just fine. I had a problem with that concept, feeling that it takes strong talent at all levels to achieve corporate success. As I read the book, I found myself mentally extending the authors' approaches and recommendations to all workers.
The book begins, aptly enough, with a chapter explaining the War for Talent. Wake-up call statements include recognition from 99% of the companies surveyed that their managerial talent pool needs to be much stronger in three years.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bill Godfrey on February 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Based on quantitative surveys, this study identifies that few US companies are good at recruiting, retaining and developing talented people and that excellent performance produces qualitatively and quantitatively superior results. The key cause of success is a mindset among leaders that gives high priority to excellence across all aspects of building talent. The advice provided for achieving excellence with talented individuals is well set out and, not surprisingly, mostly obvious. What needs explanation is why so few leaders give real attention to their stock of talent. The book also tends to assume that talented individuals produce good results, with out looking at the system within which they work.
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