Nationally-acclaimed HR expert pinpoints best practices

I had the good fortune to meet and get to know Peter Cappelli when I was attending the doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. I found Peter to be absolutely spot on in terms of how HR professionals need to look at the corporate landscape in order to implement diversity at all levels. Recently Peter answered a few questions for us to share with our WOMEN Unlimited readers. But first here are some highpoints of Peter’s background and accomplishments.

Peter Cappelli

Peter Cappelli

Currently Peter is the George W. Taylor Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Human Resources at The Wharton School, as well as Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. He was recently named by HR Magazine as one of the top five most influential management thinkers and was elected a fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources. He has published extensively and his book, Talent Management: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty, which outlines the strategies that employers should consider in developing and managing talent was named a “best business book” for 2008 by Booz-Allen. Peter’s recent research examines changes in employment relations in the U.S. and their implications.

Peter Cappelli on Best Practices for Forward-Thinking HR Professionals

What 3 key strategies will help HR professionals and Talent Development leaders foster the advancement of women into the top-management pipeline?

I tend to think they are the same strategies that should be used to advance anyone:

  1. Focus on giving people the opportunity to take on tasks that help them develop. These are stretch assignments that challenge by requiring new behaviors.
  2. Make people responsible for outcomes. It’s especially important for career advancement inside the same organization. To get ahead, people need visibility. It is important to be able to say, “I did this.”
  3. Mentoring and social support systems are important for helping everyone’s career and most especially women’s. Historically, women and minorities faced special problems in the workplace not only because of discrimination but because of being cut off from social networks that provided information and advice on how to get ahead.

What significant barriers do you see standing in the way of advancing female talent?

The big one is that in most organizations it is hard to get opportunity. Executives and managers usually have their heads down, focused on achieving today’s results, and not really thinking about developing the people around them. Getting that needed opportunity will likely require negotiating and asking to do something new and different. It always helps to do the negotiating and the asking in a way that benefits the boss.

What advice would you give HR professionals/Talent Development Leaders to help them motivate management AT ALL LEVELS to actively support diversity?

Creating special programs for developing a diverse talent pool isn’t a very good strategy. It’s likely people won’t take them seriously enough because many initiatives and programs come and go.

The biggest thing to do is to make the appropriate behaviors visible and on-going. Recognize people who have helped develop talent and reward them.

Thanks, Peter. I look forward to comments from our readers.

Dr. Rosina L. Racioppi