The Talent Era: Achieving a High Return on Talent by Subir Chowdhury, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
The Talent Era: Achieving a High Return on Talent

The Talent Era: Achieving a High Return on Talent

by Subir Chowdhury

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Talent is the true engine of the next economy.

Talented people aren't simply "knowledge workers": they're free agents, capable of bringing enormous value to the organizations they are part of. And they know it.

Organizations who want to maximize the value of talent need to act in radically new ways. In this book, world-renowned quality strategist


Talent is the true engine of the next economy.

Talented people aren't simply "knowledge workers": they're free agents, capable of bringing enormous value to the organizations they are part of. And they know it.

Organizations who want to maximize the value of talent need to act in radically new ways. In this book, world-renowned quality strategist Subir Chowdhury presents a powerful new blueprint for recognizing talent, rewarding it, and making the most of it.

Chowdhury reveals the seven key secrets of talent, then shows managers exactly how to measure Return on Talent (ROT)—and exactly how to enhance it. He also shows talented individuals exactly how to maximize their own talents—and maximize the rewards those talents can earn.

Why talents so often go unrecognized
Overcoming obsolete metrics, reward systems, and mindsets
It's not just money
Competitive salaries are only one part of the solution
Leading talented people
The new role of managers in the talent-driven organization
7 great ways to leverage talent
Magnifying the value of your best people
Introducing the "Talent Scorecard"
Quantifying talent—so you can identify, recruit, retain, and nurture it
Encouraging managers to encourage talent
What managers do when they are threatened by talent

Maximizing your #1 marketplace differentiator: talented people.

  • The 7 secrets of talent
  • The new talent value chain
  • The talent scorecard: measuring and enhancing ROT
  • Breakthrough approaches to recognizing and rewarding talent
  • Optimizing your own talents—and reaping the rewards!

Talented people are the lifeblood of the profitable, innovative enterprise.

Talented people have choices. They can go anywhere. They're free agents—no less than ballplayers or movie stars.

This book is about helping you attract them. Keep them. And make the most of them.

World-renowned quality strategist Subir Chowdhury presents a complete strategy for leveraging talent to increase business value. Chowdhury focuses on the real issues facing organizations seeking to utilize talent more effectively. You'll discover why there's more to attracting talent than inflating salaries, how managers handle talented subordinates, how to measure the value of talent and ROT, and much more.

From start to finish, The Talent Era gives you the tools you need to maximize your #1 marketplace differentiator: talent.

Editorial Reviews

Not a return on your own talent, of course, but on that of someone you can hire and fire. Quality specialist Chowdhury explains how the business world has followed sports into an era of free agents who migrate to the fattest contracts with no more sense of loyalty to a company than companies show to them. He suggests that managers learn to distinguish Talents from garden-variety workers and treat them very special. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Product Details

DIANE Publishing Company
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Read an Excerpt

Introduction: Welcome to the Talent Era

It was late 1969, and the Amazing Mets had just won the World Se-ries. The United States was in a turbulent time. The civil rights movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and the moon landing dominated the headlines. Riots had erupted across the country; music, theater, movies, and TV shows explored uncensored territory; and, yes, the Mets had won. The world had turned upside-down. But of all those events in the late sixties, the one that might seem inconsequential had one of the biggest impacts in the long term. You see, it was the Mets rather than the Cardinals who won the National League championship. Throughout the 1960s, the Cardinals had been a powerhouse.

In 1969, the Cardinals had won three of the previous five years and were expected to win again. They had Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and several other fine players. But the Cardinals had been ruled with an iron fist, and one outstanding player voiced a complaint that had been brewing for years. Curt Flood was one of the greats: He was a three-time all-star, played a record 226 games without an error, was awarded seven Gold Gloves, and was a lifetime .293 hitter in an era when pitchers dominated. With Flood, the Cards had won three National League pennants and two World Series. It was his eleventh year in the league in 1969. Whereas Flood was making $90,000 at the time, many players were making less than $10,000. Under baseball's reserve clause—which had been in effect in one form or another since the game began—a team owned a player. If a player would not sign an agreement with his team, he had the option of quitting baseball, but he could not play for another team. Players were traded from team to team, sometimes against their wishes. This was the way it was, and, although many had grumbled about it, no one had tried to buck the system. But after losing the pennant in 1969, the Cards, who viewed Flood as a troublemaker despite his obvious skills, decided to trade him to the Phillies. Flood refused to go and on January 16, 1970, filed a lawsuit claiming that the reserve clause violated the antitrust act and should be eliminated. In the end, Flood lost the suit. He sat out the 1970 season and was traded to the Washington Senators in 1971. After thirteen games, he decided the atmosphere was too difficult and retired from the game. But the damage had been done—Flood's suit had broken the dam. In 1975 it was official: Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally won their case against the reserve clause, and free agency was born.

In 1976, the average baseball player received eight times what the average person received in compensation. By 1994, baseball salaries had reached fifty times the average salary. Free agency had changed the game, other sports, and everyone's perception of what a worker was worth. No longer were wages a suppressed topic that management dictated. Curt Flood cut his career short based on his conviction that he was in effect a slave to baseball and that he should be free to go out and seek whatever employment he could. He had seen the impact of free agency not only on the game of baseball, but also in every walk of life.

But Flood had opened up the gates. His action opened a new era—an era when people evaluate their owntalent and expect to get what they are worth. At first, it was confined to sports. Basketball players quickly figured out that there are only five guys out there generating a lot of revenue, and so they ought to be paid for it. Football followed suit. Soon each top tennis player, each top golfer, each top player in any sport is a very visible Talent (in this book we will capitalize the word Talent when referring to a person with talent).

It should be pointed out that in the entertainment business, Talents have always been paid much more than others in their craft. It used to be that the studios ruled and had their actors under contract, much as did Major League Baseball. But there was generally the possibility that another studio would pick up the renegade actor. It was Cary Grant who actually bucked the studio system, but the repercussions of his actions were confined to the entertainment industry and did not affect the world at large.

Not Just Sports and Entertainment Anymore

Just as athletes and entertainers had felt the effects of free agency early, in the 1990s talented workers in many other fields began to understand their real worth to their organizations. Management may have known it all along: All workers are free agents. Companies tried for years to foster the feeling that people were there to work for life, and they would be paid whatever management felt like giving them—and they would have to take it. It was as if a selfimposed reserve clause existed. Management tried to build loyalty by dispensing more incentives, but this system began to break down as more people started to see themselves as Talent, as free agents who should receive more if they produced more.

Ironically, corporations often foolishly broke the bond of trust through massive layoffs and an indifferent attitude toward their employees. Even IBM, which typified the "you are here for life" attitude, was among the first in the "lay off people to boost your stock price" movement of the 1980s. This seemingly callous attitude toward employees was headline news, but it happened so regularly that by the 1990s, work for many people had become a place to go simply to make money—it was no longer a home away from home. Loyalty was a zero-sum game. It was not unusual to see people moving every year to a new job, enabled by the Internet and other information technologies. With the growth in the economy, new ventures opened up every day. It was a time to keep your eyes open for new opportunity.

When the big Internet blitz hit, getting into the game early of-ten meant millions of dollars. Getting the best Talent to generate the best ideas and products meant future market domination. Suddenly, all in-demand workers were like free agents. The stories of Steve Ballmers of Microsoft driving up to the front door of Borland with million-dollar signing bonus checks for Borland's key Talents— and then driving away with them—may or may not be true, but many of these people now work for Microsoft. The so-called "Talent war" was on.

Although the "war" may have ended, today we are still in the midst of the Talent Era. People are more aware than ever of their value to their company. So, management must now identify its key Talents, attract more Talents, grow Talents, manage and motivate Talents, and keep Talents. Success depends on these Talent management skills.

This book will teach you all you need to know if you are a Talent, if you manage Talent, or if you hope to optimize the Talent in your organization. This era is defined by a basic change in relationship between employees and companies. Most employees today have lost their dedication to their company. In the face of increased layoffs and the fact that employees will change jobs if another "situation" looks better, any company that wants to be successful needs to adapt, to anticipate losing Talent, to foster more Talent, to try to keep the Talent it has, and to make sure this Talent is utilized to the fullest. Those less-talented employees, including many knowledge workers, may still be vital to keep the company going, but they need to be compensated differently.

That is a key tenet of this book—that top Talents should be compensated commensurate with their contributions and that companies must adapt to this framework to succeed. Because Talent can be found at any level, if you are paying everyone what you pay to keep Talent, you will quickly find yourself in an untenable position. Likewise, if you are a talented person, you want to work for a company that will recognize your ability and not tell you that everyone at your level gets treated the same—even if you are doing the work of three people or have just developed the product that will save the company.

In the Talent Era, the "flood gates" are open. Just as most athletes and entertainers would not want to go back to the old days, most talented business employees would not want to go back to lifetime employment contracts. Companies can do a lot more to keep Talent, but after the ideals of self-determination, capitalism, and freedom to choose are embraced by people, companies must adapt to the situation at hand. Tough decisions need to be made. Talent-friendly policies and practices may be the difference between success and failure. The Talent Era clearly won't end anytime soon. And so, every manager needs to understand the implications.

The Effects of Free Agency

Team owners know that people go to games to watch the marquee players. Look at the interest that was generated in baseball by the Mark McGwire–Sammy Sosa home run race and again with Barry Bonds. Even more intense is the attention garnered by Tiger Woods in golf. Tiger has put excitement back into golf. Throughout the history of sports, there have always been high-impact players, the all-stars. The same is true in entertainment. Big names bring in big bucks. Stars sell movies. Bigtime directors and producers like Steven Spielberg or George Lucas put people into the seats. Big-draw names can mean tens of millions in revenue for a single movie. In some sports and most entertainment, however, if you are not a marquee Talent, you may be a poor, starving artist....

Meet the Author

Subir Chowdhury is Executive Vice President of the American Supplier Institute headquartered in Livonia, Michigan. Hailed by the New York Times as a "leading quality expert," Chowdhury's most recent international best-selling books include The Power of Six Sigma and Management 21C: Someday We'll All Manage This Way. His work is frequently cited in the national and international media.

Chowdhury lives with his wife, Malini, and daughter, Anandi, in Novi, Michigan.

Contact Subir Chowdhury at subir@amsup.comVisit

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