Summary of Retooling HR

Using Proven Business Tools to Make Better Decisions About Talent

Harvard Business Review Press, more...

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Retooling HR book summary
How to manage your talent inventory now and in the future by adapting business metrics to human resources


9 Overall

9 Applicability

9 Innovation

7 Style


Professor John W. Boudreau wants you to rethink the contribution your human resources unit makes to the way your company recruits, develops and retains crucial “talent,” that is, people. Dodging most, but not all, jargon, Boudreau advocates using metrics from the business side of your organization to evaluate how talent contributes to your firm and how your talent needs will vary under changing business conditions. He asks you to examine how you will muster enough people with crucial skills, now and in the future, and suggests strategically rethinking your workforce and considering how to develop it as the demand for pivotal skills spikes or shrinks. Boudreau makes his points with sharp intelligence in this clearly written, well thought-out book. It covers some very specific subject areas pertinent to HR professionals, but it is not a difficult read, partly due to its lively examples. While HR professionals who want to play a more strategic role will receive it most readily, getAbstract finds that this book will also help talent-focused C-level and middle managers who want more from HR and their employees. Boudreau makes a solid case for the merit of good metrics, but he’s aware that HR is measuring people, not widgets, so risks and trade-offs abound.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How to use business tools from outside human resources to make personnel decisions
  • How to use scenario planning to strategize future talent needs
  • How to manage your talent inventory and “talent life cycles”


Identify and Retain Your Best Talent
Just as the 2008 financial crisis was setting in, Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, advised companies to set aside a “bucket of money” to retain their best performers. He explained that increased competition during hard times makes top talent...
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About the Author

John W. Boudreau, professor and research director at the University of Southern California Business School, has published widely on human capital in competitive advantage.

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    Jason Adams 4 months ago
    Interesting thoughts on how people fit into the workplace from a strategic point of view. Good read.

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