Book Excerpt

Book Excerpt: Workforce of One


Susan M. Cantrell and David Smith of Accenture argue that "workforce of one works too because it isn't about special treatment or customization for just the leadership ranks, the elite, or the most valuable employees." Instead, they contend that consciously established practices, policies, and standards can make customization work for all employees.

But this is not just a job for the human resources department. Indeed, the authors point out that HR cannot accomplish customization on its own; the strategies, techniques, and offerings must be embedded within the organization and supported by management and all departments.

Given the trends just described, clearly companies need a new model if they hope to manage today's workforce and draw out the best from every employee. Workforce of one, in which employees are managed through highly tailored people practices, is this new model. But the question remains: just how can an organization achieve customization and myriad employment arrangements without devolving into chaos? Workforce of one works because it avoids such a scenario. It enables organizations to achieve customization in a highly structured, coordinated, and scalable way that retains some degree of organizational control, consistency, and manageability while meeting individuals' needs.

Equally important, a workforce of one approach avoids a key problem that today's HR departments often bump up against: In their quest to be all things to all people, they end up reducing what is offered to the lowest common denominator. For example, one manager may have problems handling conflict, while another has trouble giving productive feedback

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Cantrell is a research fellow at the Accenture Institute for High performance. Smith is the managing director of the Accenture Talent & Organization Performance practice.

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