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Retooling HR

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HR professionals have made major strides toward becoming strategic partners. But they need to do more by generating value through savvy decisions about talent. HR leaders typically assume that, to make such decisions, they must develop sophisticated analytical tools from scratch. Even then, the resulting tools often fail to engage their peers.

In Retooling HR, John Boudreau shows how HR leaders can break this cycle - by adapting powerful analytical tools already used by other functions to the unique challenges of talent management.

Drawing on his research and examples from companies including Google, Disney, IBM, and Microsoft, Boudreau explains six proven business tools leaders already use. And he shows how HR can apply these tools to talent management. Examples include:

  • Using engineering tolerances to find pivot points that job descriptions miss
  • Using inventory and supply-chain analytics to ensure a ready supply of the right talent 
  • Applying logistics tools to optimize succession planning and leadership development 
  • Adapting consumer research tools to find untapped value in total rewards

Retooling HR builds on Boudreau's bestselling book Beyond HR, which traces HR's evolution as a decision science. For HR professionals seeking to sharpen their decision-making prowess, this provocative new book blazes an innovative new path."

Books in Brief Summary in HR Magazine

"HR professionals can apply proven techniques used by other parts of their organizations—such as financial planning, inventory analysis, engineering performance analysis and more—to improve decisions about talent, author John Boudreau writes.

In Retooling HR, Boudreau identifies common HR decisions and shows how other business disciplines apply to the same situations.        

For performance management, Boudreau advises trying engineering’s emphasis on “performance optimization.” He shows how three engineering tools can help HR measure its “return on improved performance.” Readers learn how information they already hold about jobs, performance and capabilities reveal where employee performance has the most impact on the business.

Some CEOs already refer to having a talent “portfolio,” a term they borrow from finance. Boudreau advises going further and truly treating talent like an investment portfolio.

HR can use scenarios, as finance does, to plot potential future risks and how the organization would handle them. HR can use financial-style diversification—seeking the right mix of employees, in the right jobs, with the right capabilities, to prepare the organization for potential changes. Boudreau shows how to estimate the risks and returns for different strategies.

Ideas from marketing and consumer research can help HR better use the huge amounts of information it already holds about demographics, employee engagement, labor patterns, turnover and much more. Using marketing tools, HR can pour in all that data and identify “talent segments” just like marketing identifies consumer segments. Then HR can map the workforce’s preferences and customize the employment opportunities it offers.

Inventory optimization tools that help businesses deal with shortages, surpluses and costs also apply to employees. Readers learn how to move from thinking about “turnover” to thinking in terms of “workforce inventory.” The inventory approach asks: What is the optimum number of employees? How often should we hire, train or develop them? What level of vacancies can we allow? How long should we allow for hiring, training and development, since it takes time for new employees to become ready employees?

The book draws examples from a wide range of businesses including the airline, automotive, technology, retail, food service and manufacturing sectors."

Additional Info

Name Retooling HR
SKU 48.25079
Year published 2010
Page count 224
Publisher Harvard Business Press
ISBN 978-1422130070
Author John W. Boudreau
Format No