John W. Boudreau: Professor and Research Director, Center for Effective Organizations University of Southern California Los Angeles, California

Talent Development, January 2014 | Go to article overview

John W. Boudreau: Professor and Research Director, Center for Effective Organizations University of Southern California Los Angeles, California


John Boudreau is recognized worldwide for breakthrough research on the bridge between superior human capital, talent, and sustainable competitive advantage. He consults and conducts executive development with companies worldwide.

WHAT DREW YOU TO THE FIELD OF MANAGEMENT, AND YOUR CONCENTRATION IN HUMAN RESOURCES?

My dad worked for IBM when I was younger, and I remember an episode when he had been working a couple of 24-hour-straight shifts fixing computers. I asked, "How are you feeling?" And he said, "Look, we have a great sense of accomplishment, IBM is a great company, but I can't help but notice that the manager is taking our sales group out be-cause they beat their goals by 10 percent--they are all having a steak dinner." And he said, "I have a good manager, but if he knew how much it would mean to us technicians if he would do that with us, I think he would do it."

I have my dad and people like him in mind-the notion that these terrific HR professionals I have the privilege of working with may take some small idea I have and make work life better for people.

WHAT IS YOUR GLOBAL TALENT 2021 PROJECT ABOUT?

It was an opportunity to conduct hundreds of interviews with leaders of all kinds, particularly HR leaders in various countries, about what we envisioned were the friction points of work and labor markets going forward as we look toward 2021. Some of the findings were quite telling. When you do the projections, it turns out that Western Europe and the United States are more likely to have labor shortages than places like India and China, which is very surprising. How could that be? Well, when you think about it, it's the interface between the skills that are going to be needed and the ability of the education system to provide people who have those skills.

One of the things I took away is that the education systems in some of the more developed countries are less likely to change in response to skills that will be needed in the future. We're still analyzing the data, so these are not conclusions but my personal impressions.

WHAT ARE SOME QUALITIES OF OUTSTANDING CHIEF HR OFFICERS? …

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