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Fighting the War for Talent is Hazardous to Your Organization's Health


  • Pfeffer, Jeffrey

    (Stanford U)


Because we live in an economy in which all work is becoming knowledge work and in which intellectual capital is important for company success and, indeed, its value in the capital markets, there is an assumption that "the company with the best talent wins." This war for talent imagery overlooks the fact that it is often the case that effective teams often outperform even more talented collections of individuals, that individual talent and motivation is partly under the control of what companies do, and that what matters to organizational success is the set of management practices that create the culture. But it is not just that the war for talent is the wrong metaphor for organizational success. Fighting the war for talent itself can cause problems. Companies that adopt a talent war mind set often wind up venerating outsiders and downplaying the talent already inside the company, set up competitive, zero sum dynamics that makes internal learning and knowledge transfer difficult, activate the self-fulfilling prophecy in the wrong direction, and create an attitude of arrogance instead of an attitude of wisdom. For all of these reasons, even fighting the war for talent may be hazardous to an organization's health and detrimental to doing the things that will make it successful.

Suggested Citation

  • Pfeffer, Jeffrey, 2001. "Fighting the War for Talent is Hazardous to Your Organization's Health," Research Papers 1687, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:1687

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    3. King, Karin A., 2016. "The talent deal and journey: understanding the employee response to talent identification over time," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 66563, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
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    5. Mellahi, Kamel & Collings, David G., 2010. "The barriers to effective global talent management: The example of corporate élites in MNEs," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 143-149, April.
    6. King, Karin A., 2015. "Global talent management: introducing a strategic framework and multiple-actors model," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 66564, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Fabio Fonti & Massimo Maoret, 2016. "The direct and indirect effects of core and peripheral social capital on organizational performance," Post-Print hal-01478950, HAL.
    8. Ehis Omoluabi & Olufemi Akintunde, 2013. "Strategic Management of Human Capital Development on Employees Performance in Nigeria Cements Sector," Acta Universitatis Danubius. OEconomica, Danubius University of Galati, issue 9(6), pages 28-42, December.
    9. Alan D. Smith, 2011. "Corporate social responsibility implementation: Comparison of large not-for-profit and for-profit companies," International Journal of Accounting and Information Management, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 19(3), pages 231-246, September.
    10. Neckermann, Susanne & Frey, Bruno S., 2013. "And the winner is…? The motivating power of employee awards," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 66-77.
    11. Rossen Petkov, 2010. "Perspectives On Disclosing Human Capital Into The Notes Of The Financial Statements," Analele Stiintifice ale Universitatii "Alexandru Ioan Cuza" din Iasi - Stiinte Economice, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, vol. 57, pages 29-40, november.

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