Peter Cappelli

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Leading Authority on the Future of Work in the Age of AI; Top 50 Influencer on Aging; Expert on Human Resource Management, Public Policy Related to Employment, and Talent and Performance Management; Professor, The Wharton School

Biography

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.

Named by HR Magazine as one of the top five most influential thinkers in management, Cappelli says much of what we think we know about the future of work is a myth. Most of the assumptions of recent years in human resources (HR) – AI replacing workers, the dominance of the “gig” economy, millennials being difficult to retain compared with previous generations – are not supported by evidence. Our biggest challenges come from within our companies and organizations and the choices we make about management. In his compelling presentations and interactive workshops, Cappelli helps managers better understand the fundamental choices we face in the workplace – from “making” versus “buying” talent to the hard choices required to make agile systems work to the delicate balances needed in implementing AI – and offers practical guidance on how to make them.

If your organization believes it can rely on AI and automation alone to cut jobs and costs and boost efficiency, you are making a mistake. Cappelli’s new research on the impact of AI and automation shows that while technology can take over many tasks currently performed by humans, it is also adding tasks that require new workers and, in many cases, new skills. Cappelli offers insights on how middle managers can use data science and evidence to devise the best workplace policies and avoid the downsides of worker resentment and disengagement that can come with moving decisions from people to machines. His lessons also illustrate how technology actually impacts people’s jobs and the real generational issue that must be addressed: as our longevity increases, companies should be retaining mature workers in an economy that needs their skills and experiences.

Named one of the 50 influencers in the field of aging, Cappelli has also studied and written extensively on managing a multigenerational workforce with differing values. He co-authored the book “Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order” (HBR Press, 2010), which provides key steps to recruiting and retaining workers who are older by becoming more purpose-driven, emphasizing social connections and tailoring benefits to elderly people’s needs. As the population becomes progressively “greyer,” devising a strategy for the older worker now will give you a competitive advantage.

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 for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

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Video ThumbnailHR Exchange at Think 2018: TED Talk with Professor Peter Cappelli, Wharton School - youtube Video

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Cappelli, Peter

Biography

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.

Named by HR Magazine as one of the top five most influential thinkers in management, Cappelli says much of what we think we know about the future of work is a myth. Most of the assumptions of recent years in human resources (HR) – AI replacing workers, the dominance of the “gig” economy, millennials being difficult to retain compared with previous generations – are not supported by evidence. Our biggest challenges come from within our companies and organizations and the choices we make about management. In his compelling presentations and interactive workshops, Cappelli helps managers better understand the fundamental choices we face in the workplace – from “making” versus “buying” talent to the hard choices required to make agile systems work to the delicate balances needed in implementing AI – and offers practical guidance on how to make them.

If your organization believes it can rely on AI and automation alone to cut jobs and costs and boost efficiency, you are making a mistake. Cappelli’s new research on the impact of AI and automation shows that while technology can take over many tasks currently performed by humans, it is also adding tasks that require new workers and, in many cases, new skills. Cappelli offers insights on how middle managers can use data science and evidence to devise the best workplace policies and avoid the downsides of worker resentment and disengagement that can come with moving decisions from people to machines. His lessons also illustrate how technology actually impacts people’s jobs and the real generational issue that must be addressed: as our longevity increases, companies should be retaining mature workers in an economy that needs their skills and experiences.

Named one of the 50 influencers in the field of aging, Cappelli has also studied and written extensively on managing a multigenerational workforce with differing values. He co-authored the book “Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order” (HBR Press, 2010), which provides key steps to recruiting and retaining workers who are older by becoming more purpose-driven, emphasizing social connections and tailoring benefits to elderly people’s needs. As the population becomes progressively “greyer,” devising a strategy for the older worker now will give you a competitive advantage.

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 for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Lessons from the Epidemic: What the Coronavirus is Teaching Us About Management and Leadership

The giant experiment caused by shutting down most of the U.S. workplaces revealed some new lessons about management and revived a few older ones. Drawing on a stream of virtual interactions with employers during the epidemic, Professor Peter Cappelli identifies a series of lessons for contemporary leaders. The first set has to do with working from home: There is a vast difference between occasionally working from home – where we take some self-contained tasks with us and answer a few calls – and trying to do so on a long-term basis. The former doesn’t require much difference in behavior. The latter requires much more developed performance management practices that outline precisely what we should be doing and how we are going to measure it. It also requires much greater contributions from supervisors, who have to run interference for subordinates working from home: getting them resources, figuring out which stakeholders need handholding or a heads up, coordinating with other contributors. Not all supervisors have the ability to do so. Some practices, such as agile project management, simply do not work well at a distance and have to be set aside. Being away from the office setting also reminds us how much of our motivation and engagement in our work comes from the workplace environment, from our colleagues with whom we interact and from our leaders. We have to replace that somehow. The older lessons remind us of the importance of leadership, particularly in times of uncertainty where employees have so much more discretion as to what to do and how to do it.  In our newly virtual organizations, communication by leaders is everything – addressing our uncertainties, conveying at least a direction if not a vision of where we are going, acknowledging our emotions. Above all else, communication by leaders – early and often – is critical and will be the driving force of our “new normal.”

The Truth About Jobs, Employment and Generations at Work

AI is automating jobs out of existence. Soon everyone will be working in the “gig” economy rather than for big companies. Millennials and Generation Z are difficult to retain as employees and are more disloyal than previous generations. These are some of the “facts” about the future of work that are widely believed by HR professionals and managers. But according to Professor Peter Cappelli, an esteemed economist whose career as an academic researcher has been based on studying trends in employment, these are all popular myths not validated by evidence. AI has automated routine tasks, but human workers are still needed; there hasn’t been a massive shift from full-time employment to gig or contract work; younger workers are not significantly less loyal to employers than previous generations were at the same age. In this presentation, which can be tailored to address particular myths, Cappelli provides an overview of what trends are and aren’t reshaping the future of work. He also offers recommendations to managers on how they can successfully optimize workers’ productivity, loyalty and satisfaction.

Technology and Trust in the Workplace: How to Re-Humanize Management

Leaders increasingly have access to technology that can insert itself into virtually every task of management. The array of options is staggering – we now have software that gives career advice, predicts the flight risk of employees, and that draws insights from how employees stand and move. The opportunity to use this to make better decisions is great. But so is the risk of disengagement by transferring decisions and control from people to machines and, in particular, by undercutting supervisors when algorithms take away their power. Monitoring is necessary to gather the data needed for these models, but that can quickly invade privacy. The use of AI and data-gathering has historically led to a decline in trust between employees and managers. Whatever benefits may be derived from AI, employee dissatisfaction is a negative that harms productivity, cooperation and retention rates. In this presentation, Professor Peter Cappelli elaborates on his research findings while also recommending ways managers can improve their use of technology without undermining trust. Ultimately, says Cappelli, managers cannot allow technology to alienate themselves from their direct reports. The human touch and personal relationships remain key, especially in the age of AI.

The Real Generational Dilemma: Recruiting and Retaining Older Workers

While managers and HR professionals focus on the supposed challenges of recruiting and retaining millennial and Generation Z workers, they’re ignoring an arguably more important demographic: older workers. As the workforces ages and lives longer than past generations, employees in their 60s and older will become more important and necessary. But companies generally don’t tailor their appeal or policies to these workers. Drawing on the research conducted for his book, “Managing the Older Worker,” Professor Peter Cappelli presents the economic and business case for focusing on longevity and re-orienting HR strategies toward more senior employees. Cappelli’s proposals include emphasizing the purpose-driven nature of organizations and doing more to foster social connections at work. An economist who studies broad trends in employment, Cappelli knows that the future growth area for finding workers will be among the 65 and older demographic; it’s up to companies to fully harness the opportunities.

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