Learn More About Peter Cappelli
In a quickly changing world where everything – from how to where we conduct business – is up for debate, organizations face a pivotal question: how do leaders navigate the turbulence of change while retaining and nurturing their most valuable assets, their people?
Though remote work, hybrid models and economic fluctuations have triggered a wave of transformation in the global workforce, Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School, posits that we can safely ignore some of the contemporary concerns, but many management problems like getting better at talent management remain constant.
“How can we explain why we don’t manage people better? So many decisions happen that are penny-wise and pound-foolish, and are just hard to explain,” observes Cappelli, a veteran executive educator who directs Wharton’s Center for Human Resources.
“Companies continue to do things that just don’t make sense, like lay people off, and then a few months later they have to hire them back. Or they don’t train anybody, and instead they go outside and hire people and pay them twice what they’re paying their current employees. By fixating on the cost of hiring, but not bothering to look at whether the people they’re hiring are any good or not, management finds themselves caught in a loop where they just keep doing things which don’t make a lot of sense.”
Cappelli’s unflinching view of a corporate landscape that is popular but cannot succeed in the long run marks him as a trusted advisor for organizations eager to adopt a change in mindset that will help them thrive in transformative times. His practical recommendations stem from decades of observing and dissecting management behaviors. Through engaging presentations and interactive workshops, he pinpoints where leaders falter and offers innovative solutions to enhance their effectiveness. His guidance shows leaders a framework for escaping many of the puzzling practices in contemporary management, replacing them with reliable, tested approaches that align employee mental health with smart business decisions, leading to increased profits.
Balancing Financial Accounting With People Power
Named by HR Magazine as one of the top five most influential thinkers in management, Cappelli’s work resonates with HR professionals and C-suite executives alike, offering them the tools and wisdom necessary to weather the storm of uncertainty. Likewise named one of the 50 influencers in the field of aging, he is adept at dispelling the noise around human capital and distinguishing between valuable trends and temporary distractions – such as generational differences and changing demographics – and urges leaders to prioritize the core issues: Why are employees leaving? How can management practices be improved to enhance overall work efficiency? This perspective helps leaders see how changing tactics could result in unimaginably positive results.
Cappelli’s groundbreaking book, “The Future of the Office” (Wharton School Press, 2021) – which was lauded as the Globe and Mail’s Best Business Book of 2021 – is the basis for new work addressing whether to bring remote workers back in, whether to compromise with hybrid work, and what issues we have to solve to move forward, such as the loss of information sharing that office relationships used to provide. Cappelli’s latest work, “Our Least Important Asset: Why the Relentless Focus on Finance and Accounting is Bad for Business and Employees,” (Oxford University Press, July 2023) delves into the importance of understanding mistakes we keep making in modern management and how to fix them.
“With the way financial accounting is assessed now, you measure outcomes on a per employee basis, instead of per labor cost. This means if you get rid of your employees and your headcount drops incredibly, you look more valuable,” Cappelli remarks in Harvard Business Review. “Leaders are finally starting to realize the quirkiness of financial accounting and that the many dumb things that make it work don’t actually make for a sustainable, successful business long-term.”
How AI Will Change the Workplace: The Danger of Following Blindly
For companies keen on harnessing the power of AI while maintaining the crucial human element within their organizations, Cappelli advises that there are a lot of judgment calls to make.
“Data science tools and machine learning algorithms can work better than anything we are doing now in tasks like hiring, but for them to work, it requires that we take the hiring managers out of the picture,” he explains. “If we aren’t willing to do that, there is no point investing in those tools.”
“Generative AI tools like ChatGPT raise new questions that we haven’t considered,” Cappelli continues. “They can produce good answers, but a huge challenge is that they do not produce the same answer even if you ask them the same question again. Organizations have to figure out how to assess all the possible answers they might generate – and how to deal with the possibility that leaders will drown in competing reports generated by these different tools.”
“How do we explain to a subordinate why the appraisal written by ChatGPT gave them a lower score compared with last year, even though their performance seemed to be the same?” he asks in The Wall Street Journal. Leaders must figure out carefully how to handle the problems that come with AI tools before jumping in to use them.
With insights on how leaders can use data science to create the best workplace policies and avoid the downsides that can come with moving decisions from people to machines, Cappelli’s lessons illustrate how technology actually impacts people’s jobs. As the allure of AI seeps into the white-collar world, promising increased efficiency and accuracy, organizations that blindly embrace the technology may be running some serious risks.
As the future of work morphs, Cappelli’s expertise is essential for leaders striving to balance agility with empathy, efficiency with fairness, and technology with the human touch. A guiding light illuminating the path forward for organizations to thrive, evolve and seize the opportunities of tomorrow, Cappelli helps institutions not just prepare for the future, but lead it.
Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School and director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, is a leading expert on developing strategies to address 21st-century changes in work. Author of “The Future of the Office: Work from Home, Remote Work, and the Hard Choices We All Face” (2021) and “Our Least Important Asset: Why the Relentless Focus on Finance and Accounting is Bad for Business and Employees” (2023), Cappelli has also studied and written extensively on managing a multigenerational workforce with differing values. Named one of the 50 influencers in the field of aging, he co-authored the book “Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order” (2010), which provides key steps to recruiting and retaining workers who are older by becoming more purpose-driven.
In addition to his position at Wharton, Cappelli is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass. Elected a fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources, he received the 2009 PRO award from the International Association of Corporate and Professional Recruiters for his contributions to HR. He serves on a number of advisory boards, including the Global Agenda Council on Employment for the World Economic Forum, and has held a number of labor and workforce-related positions within the U.S. government. Cappelli has degrees in industrial relations from Cornell University and in labor economics from Oxford, where he was a Fulbright Scholar.
Peter Cappelli is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.
Future-Proof Your Talent Management
As the business landscape undergoes rapid change, effectively managing and retaining top talent becomes pivotal. In this engaging and highly experiential workshop, Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School and director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, provides actionable insights on:
- Navigating changes in work environments, such as remote and hybrid models, economic fluctuations, and AI implications, while retaining and nurturing talent
- Escaping the cycle of ineffective management practices by adopting tested approaches prioritizing employee well-being and business profitability.
- Understanding the real cost of financial fixation in hiring and developing talent, emphasizing on talent “building” over “buying” and outsourcing.
- Utilizing data science and evidence for devising efficient workplace policies, ensuring a balance between AI automation and the irreplaceable human element.
- Preparing for future work dynamics while maintaining the essence of empathy, fairness and human touch.
Offered in half-day, full-day or two-day formats, this workshop, filled with role-playing exercises and detailed case studies, is ideal for leaders aiming to create a resilient, future-ready organization.
Experiential Talent Management Workshop with Peter Cappelli
When taking on the responsibility of overseeing an organization’s talent, it’s vital to focus on a number of important areas such as the financial aspects of talent management, delegation of duties, career development and more. In this highly interactive session that can be presented in a half-day, full-day or two-day format, Peter Cappelli, director of the Wharton School’s Center for Human Resources, leads participants through action exercises such as role playing, detailed case studies and more to take on the following topics:
- The financial challenge and financial case for taking talent management seriously, like identifying needs in advance and thinking through how to make “build-buy-borrow” decisions carefully
- What individual leaders of all kinds can and should do to develop their employees, such as delegation, creating assignments that stretch workers, coaching and performance management
- Achieve more “building” of talent and less “buying” and outsourcing of talent by focusing on designing a robust internal marketplace that improves talent development and career prospects. Special attention is given to understanding how employees can and should move through positions that develop their abilities and fill key roles from within the organization