High-Impact Human Capital Strategy: A book review by Bob Morris

High-Impact HumanHigh-Impact Human Capital Strategy: Addressing the 12 Major Challenges Today’s Organizations Face
Jack J. Phillips and Patricia Pulliam Phillips
AMACOM (2015)

“It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits of our abilities do not exist.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

According to Jack Phillips and Patricia Pulliam Phillips, “This book focuses directly on how to develop a human capital (HC) strategy in today’s turbulent and changing environment. Too often, HC strategy encompasses a classic and traditional approach to human resources (HR): recruiting the best people, preparing them for assignments, motivating them for his performance, and retaining them for several years. While all this is necessary, it is more helpful to have a strategy that fits into the current environment and context.” More specifically, an HC strategy “must effectively address the demographic changes in the workforce, current skill shortages and mismatches in labor markets, societal and structural shifts in organizations, the persistent energy crisis, globalization, and important environment challenges. At the same time, strategy must be feasible, actionable, measurable, and implemented with remarkable success. This book addresses twelve forces that must be addressed in HC strategy.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of the book’s coverage in the first five of 14 chapters:

o Are People Necessary? (Pages 1-3)
o A Brief History of Valuing Human Capital (4-7)
o The Expanded Role of Human Capital (8-11)
o Barriers to Change (11-12)
o The Importance of Linking Human Resources to Strategy (13-15)
o Strategic Planning Process (17-23)
o Opening Stories: Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Quiktrip (29-31)
o Organizations that invest only the minimum in people (34-37)
o Invest Until It Hurts (46-50)
o Determining the Payoff Needs (57-61)
o Determining Business Needs (61-65)
o Determining earning Needs (65-67)
o Developing Objectives for HR Programs (70-73)
o Why Talent Is Critical to Success (79-83)
o Needed: A System for Talent Management (83-88)
o Acquiring Talent (88-92)
o Developing Talent, Managing Teams, and Retaining Talent (92-97)

With regard to the passage “A Brief History of Valuing Human Capital” (4-7), these are some thought-provoking comments in Rodd Wagner’s most recent book, Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They’re Real People: “Your people are not your greatest assets. They’re not yours, and they’re not assets. They are someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister, mom or dad. They’re people — people for whom you have a crucial stewardship and with whom you are building a personal legacy that will last long after you have retired. Do right by them, make them happy, and they will be the major force behind the success you share with them, and the best part of being privileged to be a leader.”

This is precisely what Jack Phillips and Patti Phillips have in mind when observing, “No resource is as valuable, or expensive, as your people. By learning to provide high-level strategic direction, you not only improve how people work and what they focus their efforts on achieving, but you also deliver the bottom-line results your organization needs to thrive in the future.”

Years ago when then chairman and CEO, Herb Kelleher, was asked to explain the extraordinary success of Southwest Airlines, he replied, “We take great care of our people, they take great care of our customers, and our customers take great care of our shareholders.”

It is no coincidence that most of the companies annually ranked among those most highly admired and best to work for are also among those that are annually ranked most profitable with the greatest cap value in their industry.

Jack Phillips and Patti Phillips seem to be on a crusade to help as many leaders as possible to create and then sustain a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. Those who share my high regard for their brilliant book are urged to check out two others: Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, co-authored by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson (Harvard Business Review Press) and Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations, co-authored by Rich Karlgaard and Michael Malone (HarperBusiness/An Imprint of HarperCollins).

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