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Book Review Differentiated Workforce

I have been reading an exciting new book. Exciting, because of the explicit roadmap linking key positions and talent with strategy. The book The Differentiated Workforce by Bran Becker, Mark Huselid and Richard Beatty provides a compelling explanation for identifying key positions and people whose performance make or break strategic success..

Most organizations are focused on across the board talent development. This is a very expensive proposition. The authors make a powerful case that people in high impact positions contribute disproportionately toward strategic success or failure. Focusing line managers and HR resources on the people in these positions drives down cost, builds value and strengthens long term sustainability.

The authors begin by establishing the benefits of having a differentiated workforce strategy including

  • Measurable improvements in strategic execution.
  • Senior managers are as engaged in following workforce issues as they are in following financial issues.
  • Enabling HR professionals to distinguish between investments that provide measurable ROI from best practice hype.
  • Enable HR managers to make targeted investments in staff and technology that create high strategic returns or eliminate wasteful practices that do not.
  • Resulting in obvious and measurable strategic contributions by the workforce.

The authors point out something I have said for years. That line managers are the most important link in strategic execution. They have the great influence over the mindset and motivation of their direct reports. If they do not understand or buy into changing policies and objectives; then strategy will never become a reality. The authors describe the importance of management and HR accountability in delivering talent development.

While the workforce takes up to 70% of all expenditures most organizations do an extremely poor job of accounting for it. The authors do and excellent job of describing the significance of measurement, accountability and consequences. The authors emphatically state that effective workforce development ensures that top talent, the authors refer to them as A level employees, in key roles drive strategic capability, create customer and investor value".

The authors lead the reader through easy to follow steps in creating a fully differentiated workforce. This is a must read for all managers and HR professionals.

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