Human Capital Supply Chains: Book Review

Reviewer Ratings: Human Capital Supply Chains by Tim Giehll and Sara Moss


As a human capital management (HCM) research analyst for Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC), I spend my days researching, discussing, and writing about human resources (HR), talent management, learning management, and HCM. When I heard about the book Human Capital Supply Chains by Tim Giehll and Sara Moss, I was intrigued. After a few lengthy conversations on the subject with co-author Tim Giehll, he graciously sent me a copy.

The concept of human capital supply chains may conjure up images of a workforce on an assembly line of sorts. But, in reality, the title of this book and concept behind it accurately depict the idea of managing human capital in the way a company would manage its supply chain.

However, “goods are uniform and people are unique,” state the authors. While organizations can leverage their experience in procurement with handling products and goods, they must adjust their approach when addressing people and teams. The “human” aspect of the capital—the company’s most valuable asset—has to be taken into consideration—after all. Like products, however, proper management of the company’s “assets” will result in better visibility into the total cost of human capital.


A New Book for a New Strategy
With the success that supply chain management (SCM) has brought to manufacturers, it’s time to apply the same philosophy to HCM. This “how to” handbook provides a concrete road map on how key players within an organization (HR managers, hiring managers, procurement officers, staffing suppliers, etc.) can work together to make human capital supply chain management (HCSCM) work for them, resulting in an undeniable competitive advantage.

As the authors point out, if we look back to the 1980s, we see that the application of SCM concepts to manufacturing and other industries resulted in a substantial reduction in cost of goods and services while increasing quality. A natural progression was the application of SCM concepts and skills for the optimization of human capital—the single biggest money drain of an organization. With little written about the subject, however, organizations have been skeptical about adopting this approach to their workforce.

Giehll and Moss go on to say that “there was a lot of resistance and discomfort involved in equating people with inventory, and just-in-time (JIT) talent sounded like an unachievable goal. During the mass layoff during the last recession in 2009, it became obvious that a fine-tuned method for identifying excess in human capital was greatly needed.”

From a basic definition of the human capital supply chain, to a deeper understanding of the effectiveness of such a strategy and the costs savings it could provide, the authors do a wonderful job segueing from one chapter to another, so that readers can make informed decisions about adopting an HCSCM strategy for their organization. Throughout the book, the authors share their insightful experiences in order to link theory to practice.

Each chapter begins with a few bullet points that summarize the key concepts to follow in that chapter. The use of clear and simple charts, checklists, and bullet points highlights the important messages the readers should take away. Additionally, the authors use many tips, diagrams, strategies, and references to key elements (such as JIT processes, metrics, and benchmarking standards) to illustrate their points.

With a section called “Eight HCSCM Steps at a Glance,” the book outlines the inputs and outputs required to achieve a holistic approach to HCSCM (figure 1), as well as key process issues and metrics. Also, “Five Ways to Get Started” offers key points for developing your own road map to HCSCM.

Figure 1. The Holistic HCSCM Process

This book is written à la “for Dummies,” presenting complicated concepts in simple terms in order to be able to convey their message to readers with little or no supply chain expertise.


Author Expertise
Giehll’s experience in manufacturing, coupled with his vision of a highly effective human capital strategy, provide a solid practical grounding for this book. Moss’s experience with total quality management, human capital procurement, and staffing vendor management add to the book’s depth. Taking care not to sugar-coat the concept, Giehll and Moss outline the challenges that organizations most certainly will face when implementing an HCSCM strategy. An example of these types of challenges is given in Chapter 6, where the authors explain that the “design of HCSC business processes can begin only after the total human capital spend is understood and the stakeholders are on board.”

Co-author Tim Giehll is the chief executive officer (CEO) for Bond International Software US Division, and brings more than 30 years of experience in the staffing and manufacturing industries to the pages of this book. He has helped hundreds of staffing firms all over the world to automate their operations.

Sara Moss is co-founder and CEO of The Code Works, a consulting firm that focuses on the staffing and recruiting industry. Sara previously worked at Accenture, where she applied total quality management (TQM) techniques to telecommunications processes for several Global 1000 companies. As co-author of Human Capital Supply Chains, Sara lends her knowledge of human capital procurement, staffing vendor management, and staffing software trends.

The value of this book is exemplified by the authors’ discussion of vendor management systems (VMSs) and their potential cost-savings implications, providing much insight based on their years of experience. They have certainly put their knowledge to good use by sharing their personal experiences with the reader and providing examples of which supply chain processes have worked and which haven’t (e.g., Six Sigma and TQM).

For any organization that’s interested in changing the way it manages its workforce, I would highly recommend this book as a good starting point. Readers will immediately gain a better understanding into what works, what doesn’t, and how a simple SCM history lesson can change the way you do business—and manage your workforce.

And unlike its product supply chain counterpart, the HCSCM concept can be used by organizations in any industry and of any size.

Final Notes
The authors marketed this book by developing a one-minute book trailer hosted on Facebook. This simple (and hip) presentation clearly demonstrates the power of supply chain management to transform businesses.

Human Capital Supply Chains, Tim Giehll and Sara Moss, Langdon Street Press, 2009.
(217 pages)

  • Paperback
  • Other Publishers: Mill City Press (208 pages)
  • Table of Contents

                  Chapter 1: The Human Capital Supply Chain
                  Chapter 2: Thirty Years of Manufacturing Supply Chain Experience
                  Chapter 3: Craft the Business Case for HCSCM
                  Chapter 4: Wrap Your Arms Around the Total Cost of Human Capital
                  Chapter 5: Engage the Stakeholders
                  Chapter 6: The Eight Steps of Human Capital Supply Chain Management
                  Chapter 7: Tie the Technology Together
                  Chapter 8: Create a Strategic Workforce Plan
                  Chapter 9: Partner with Strategic Human Capital Suppliers
                  Chapter 10: Five Ways to Get Started

  • Key words: HCSCM, human capital, benchmarking standards, human capital supply chain, key performance indicators, KPIs, metrics, total human capital spend, scorecard, vendor management systems, VMS, staffing suppliers, HR, procurement, hiring managers 

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