UK: BOOKS - TOP-SHELF THEORY.

UK: BOOKS - TOP-SHELF THEORY. - Luke Johnson says the advice in a book on personnel selection is sound - but expensive. The People Advantage by Neville Bain & Bill Mabey - Macmillan £25.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Luke Johnson says the advice in a book on personnel selection is sound - but expensive. The People Advantage by Neville Bain & Bill Mabey - Macmillan £25.

By LUKE JOHNSON, chairman of the Belgo group.

The two authors of this book are both on the board of SHL Group - specialist occupational psychologists who help companies assess staff.

The book is almost inevitably infused with many doctrines from SHL, and it proposes techniques for the recruitment and promotion of personnel which are recommended by SHL.

In that sense it might allow certain penny-pinchers to avoid hiring expensive consultants by simply following the advice put forward in the book.

The advice itself is mostly sound but can be depressing, as it includes a listing of the many talents which leaders should possess - and you think, 'Who on earth has all of these?'

It proposes endless detailed systems for finding the best people, motivating them, training them and so forth. In reality, the cost and effort of such procedures can be wildly excessive while still managing to produce poor results. Hiring, retraining and promoting the most able employees is often a matter of luck - something no academic model can overcome.

Much of the material in this book is somewhat theoretical, the business school type of stuff which cannot easily be applied in the marketplace.

As soon as I read chapter headings such as 'The Cross-cultural Context', I find myself thinking - are any entrepreneurs going to read this? And just what does 'universalism versus particularism' actually mean - and will it help me make more profit?

I suppose such book are written for personnel officers in big organisations.

No doubt SHL consults to large companies, where there is plenty of bureaucracy and money around.

It is perhaps noteworthy that Neville Bain, one of the authors, now serves as chairman of the Post Office, which would surely be bust if it did not enjoy a legal monopoly. I have worked as a postman, and, in my opinion, the key attribute you need to deliver letters is a willingness to work in the rain. I wonder if Bain has ever delivered letters in such meteorological conditions?

I'm afraid to say there are too many management books being published.

Many are bought by 'psycho-inadequates' who simply pay for the book and feel they have done the work of reading it.

Reading this was hard work and I would have preferred to tackle a few annual reports or business plans relating to real situations.

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