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RecensionsBook Reviews

The Talent Revolution: Longevity and the Future of Work, By Lisa Taylor and Fern Lebo (2019) Toronto/Buffalo/London: University of Toronto Press, 228 pages. ISBN 978-1-48750-082-5

  • Catherine Glee-Vermande

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  • Catherine Glee-Vermande
    Associate Professor in OB-HRM, Iaelyon School of Management, Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3, Lyon, France

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In an era where organizations are facing big issues relied with demographic questions, it is interesting to read a book which advocates for the aging workforce, as the current technological revolution leads organizations to put the emphasis on millennials and to frequently forget boomers. In three parts and thirteen chapters, the authors support the idea of demographics longevity as “the single greatest opportunity on which smart organizations can capitalize” and boomers, called “a mature workforce” as revolutionaries building a rich and underused resource of talents for organizations. The first part, based on studies and theoretical frameworks, makes a sort of “zoom out” to place the debate in the big picture and to go behind common preconceptions and stereotypes. Big picture means that we currently are facing a social revolution with huge consequences on work inside and outside organizations. The point is to replace today’s demographic change as part of a long, revolutionary cycle, not to minimize but to put in perspective the notion of “revolution” and to explain that workplaces have experienced revolutions before and probably will after! However, understanding what is at stake in this revolution may deliver an early competitive advantage. In this context, the whole world of work is dramatically changing with employers and employees facing the same issues, which are: demographics, career ownership, freelance economy, the rise of platforms and the impact of AI and robotics. The authors argue that what is coming first, as driver, and explaining the dynamic of all the others drivers, is demographics, because longevity does have an impact on the workforce by setting new norms and expectations. The social revolution is taking place in the fourth wave of the industrial revolution called “a tsunami” and described as “driven by technology, fueled by competition and characterized by massive changes in the workplace”. For the authors, if we are considering this point just as a change in our working environment, we will be aiming towards what we want. Quite the reverse, we need to be aware that it’s not less than a paradigm shift and act accordingly which means: thinking about managing a “talent revolution” and not a technological or a demographic one. The early stage of the talent revolution, as it is for each revolution, is characterized by instability, chaotic situations, precarious employment and it affects all workers of all ages. Focusing on demographics diverts from the real issues and challenges. This is why we need to capture things that we know for sure and which are that, according to the authors, organizations must adjust to new career realities. They must be aware that the older workforce has similar expectations to those of millennials, that boomers and millennials are sharing a common lifestyle vision. What the technology revolution pushes to front stage is that individuals are controlling their own careers and that, after a long time where organizations were controlling and defining career paths, it’s now the turn of employees, whatever their age, to take control of their own next step in today’s more fluid and precarious environment. Consequently, organizations need to move from a “career management” perspective to a “talent management” one. According to the authors, talent management takes a company-first approach to the way employees support organizational goals. In this perspective, organizations must think about talent programs that consider the value of an aging workforce too. If not, they will miss a great opportunity for innovation, contribution, productivity … because workers over the age of sixty, thanks their professional expertise, continue to make important contributions to their organizations. Not only does the mature workforce represent currently the most undervalued and …