Peter Cappelli

Peter Cappelli
  • George W. Taylor Professor
  • Professor of Management
  • Director, Center for Human Resources

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    2205 SH-DH
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: human resource practices, public policy related to employment, talent and performance management

Links: CV, Center for Human Resources, Talent on Demand


Peter Cappelli is the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School and Director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources.  He is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, MA, served as Senior Advisor to the Kingdom of Bahrain for Employment Policy from 2003-2005, and since 2007 is a Distinguished Scholar of the Ministry of Manpower for Singapore.  He has degrees in industrial relations from Cornell University and in labor economics from Oxford where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He has been a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution, a German Marshall Fund Fellow, and a faculty member at MIT, the University of Illinois, and the University of California at Berkeley. He was a staff member on the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s Commission on Workforce Quality and Labor Market Efficiency from 1988-’90, Co-Director of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce, and a member of the Executive Committee of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center on Post-Secondary Improvement at Stanford University.  Professor Cappelli has served on three committees of the National Academy of Sciences and three panels of the National Goals for Education.  He was recently named by HR Magazine as one of the top 5 most influential thinkers in management and was 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 contributions to human resources.  He serves on Global Agenda Council on Employment for the World Economic Forum and a number of advisory boards.

Professor Cappelli’s recent research examines changes in employment relations in the U.S. and their implications.  These publications include The New Deal at Work: Managing the Market-Driven Workforce, which examines the decline in lifetime employment relationships, Talent Management: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty, which outlines the strategies that employers should consider in developing and managing talent (named a “best business book” for 2008 by Booz-Allen), and The India Way: How India’s Top Business Leaders are Revolutionizing Management (with colleagues), which describes a mission-driven and employee-focused approach to strategy and competitiveness.  His 2010 book Managing the Older Worker (with Bill Novelli) dispels myths about older workers and describes how employers can best engage them. Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs (2012) identifies shortfalls with current hiring practices and training practices and has been excerpted in Time Magazine (online) and reviewed in the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and most major business publications.  Related work on managing retention, electronic recruiting, and changing career paths appears in the Harvard Business Review.

Relevant websites

Wharton Leadership Conference

Talent on Demand

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  • Michael Useem, Harbir Singh, Peter Cappelli, Jitendra Singh (2015), Indian Business Leadership: Broad Mission and Creative Value, The Leadership Quarterly .

  • Peter Cappelli and JR Keller (2014), Talent management: Conceptual approaches and practical challenges, Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior , 1.

    Abstract: he challenges associated with managing talent in modern labor markets are a constant source of discussion among academics and practitioners, but the literature on the subject is sparse and has grown somewhat haphazardly. We provide an overview of the literature on talent management—a body of work that spans multiple disciplines—as well as a clear statement as to what defines talent management. The new themes in contemporary talent management focus on (a) the challenge of open labor markets, including issues of retention as well as the general challenge of managing uncertainty, (b) new models for moving employees across jobs within the same organization, and (c) strategic jobs for which investments in talent likely show the greatest return. We review the conceptual and practical literature on these topics, outline the evolution of talent management over time, and present new topics for future research.

  • Peter Cappelli and Monica Hamori (2013), Who Says Yes When the Headhunter Calls? Understanding Executive Job Search, Organization Science, forthcoming. (NBER Working Paper 19295).

    Abstract: We examine an aspect of job search in the important context of executive-level jobs using a unique data set from a prominent executive search firm.  Specifically, we observe whether or not executives pursue offers to be considered for a position at other companies.  The fact that the initial call from the search firm, which we observe, is an exogenous event for the executive makes the context particularly useful. We use insights from the Multi-Arm Bandit problem to analyze the individual’s decision as it emphasizes assessments of future prospects in the decision process, which are particularly relevant for executive careers.  More than half the executives we observe were willing to be a candidate for a job elsewhere. Executives are more likely to search where their current roles are less certain and where their career experience has been broader.  Search is more likely even for broader experience within the same employer. In the latter case, the array of likely opportunities is also broader, making search more useful.

  • Peter Cappelli and JR Keller (2013), Classifying work in the new economy, Academy of Management Review, 38 (4), pp. 1-22.

    Abstract: Alternatives to the archetypal model of full-time, regular employment are now both prevalent and wide-ranging. Over a fifth of US workers, and even more globally, now perform economic work under arrangements that differ from full-time, regular employment. Yet most of our management and social science notions about economic work are based on the full-time employment model. We know relatively little about the operation and consequences of alternatives arrangements in part because while these arrangements vary considerably, they are commonly grouped together for research purposes using existing classification systems. We outline an inclusive classification system that distinguishes clearly between employment and its alternatives.  It also distinguishes among the alternatives themselves by grouping work arrangements into categories that share common properties and that are distinct from each other in ways that matter for practice and for research. The classification system is based on distinctions about the sources and extent of control over the work process, the contractual nature of the work relationship, and the parties involved in the work relationship. Our classification system is both informed by and reflects the legal distinctions among these categories. We explore implications of our system for research and theory development.

  • Peter Cappelli and JR Keller (2013), A study of the extent and potential causes of alternative employment arrangements, Industrial & Labor Relations Review, 6 (4), pp. 874-901.

    Abstract: The notion of regular, full-time employment as one of the defining features of the U.S. economy has been called into question in recent years by the apparent growth of alternative or “nonstandard” arrangements – part-time work, temporary help, independent contracting, and other arrangements. Identifying the extent of these arrangements, whether they are increasing, and where they occur is the first step for understanding their implications for the economy and the society. But this has been difficult to do because of the lack of appropriate data. We present estimates of the extent of these practices based on a national probability sample of U.S. establishments, evidence on changes in their use over time, and analyses that help us begin to understand why they are used.

  • Peter Cappelli, Strategic Talent Management: Contemporary Issues in an International Context (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

  • Peter Cappelli, Strategic Talent Management: Contemporary Issues in an International Context (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

  • JR Keller and Peter Cappelli, “A supply chain approach to talent management”. In Strategic Talent Management: Contemporary Issues in International Context, edited by Paul Sparrow, Hugh Scullion, Ibraiz Tarique, (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

  • Peter Cappelli, Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skill Gap and What Companies Can Do About It (Wharton Digital Press, 2012)

  • Peter Cappelli (2011), HR Sourcing Decisions and Risk Management, Organizational Dynamics, 40, pp. 310-316.


Past Courses


    This course examines the art and science of negotiation, with additional emphasis on conflict resolution. Students will engage in a number of simulated negotiations ranging from simple one-issue transactions to multi-party joint ventures. Through these exercises and associated readings, students explore the basic theoretical models of bargaining and have an opportunity to test and improve their negotiation skills. Cross-listed with MGMT 691/OPIM 691. Format: Lecture, class discussion, simulation/role play, and video demonstrations. Materials: Textbook and course pack.


    This undergraduate core course introduces students to a combination of basic concepts and timely topics around work and employment. As such, it is divided into two main sections and two quarters within each of those. The first main section deals with micro-level work issues, while the second main section deals with macro-level work issues. Within each of those sections, the first quarter focuses on basic concepts, while the quarter section deals with more applied topics.


    Despite the press accounts about the "gig" economy, the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that about 92 percent of the people working in the US are employees who are supervised by someone. That figure has remained roughly the same for decades. The term "supervisor" is sometimes used for the first-level of supervision in an organization, but in fact that role - and indeed the title � goes all the way up to the very top of any employer organization. Even CEO's are the supervisor of their direct reports. When people talk about their "boss," they almost always are referring to the person who supervises them. Stepping into a supervisor position is challenging, exceptionally so the first time. Thattime comes relatively soon for Wharton grads. Undergrads pursuing consulting jobs typically find themselves supervising new hires by their third year, those working for corporations find themselves in those roles even sooner. Roughly three-quarters of our MBA students report that they had been required to supervise subordinates after college and before arriving here. In this class, we examine the role of the supervisor and the unique tasks associated with performing that role. We pay special attention to the unique challenges of taking on that role for the first time.


    Emerging enterprises, the focus in this course, are small, new, fast-growing organizations. Their founders and managers face multifaceted challenges: how to assess the competitive position of their business model and develop a strategy; how to develop the internal organizational structure, culture, and policies for selecting and managing employees; and how to pursue global opportunities. We cover these challenges in separate modules on strategy, human and social capital, and global issues. The human and social capital module covers classic management challenges of aligning interests of the individual and the organization; managing individual psychological needs and social influences; and developing employee capabilities that provide competitive advantage. Also covered are unique challenges that yound organizations face, i.e. building an effective culture; recruiting, selecting, and retaining talent; building systematic approaches to motivating employees; coping with the stresses of rapid growth; and leveraging the benefits (and avoiding the liabilities) of the founder's powerful imprint. The strategy module covers fundamental issues central to the competitiveness of the enterprise. Because the strategy field is broad, MGMT 612 emphasizes topics and frameworks that are most relevant for younger firms, such as innovation, disruption, managing resource constraints, and building capabilities. However, a key insight of the module is the importance of seeing the playing field from the perspective of the competition. Thus, by the end of this section, students will have a robust grounding in strategy that will allow them to succeed, whether their career path leads to a Fortune 100 firm or a garage start up. The global module covers the emerging firm's decision about when (and whether) to internationalize. This decision must address which foreign markets to enter; the mode of entry; the sequence of moves to develop capabilities; what organizational form to choose; where to establish HQ; and how to adapt to the unique economic and institutional features of different markets. In all these issues, the emphasis is on how young, resource-constrained firms can position themselves profitably in globally competitive markets. For the final project, student teams provide integrated analysis across the modules for an emerging enterprise of their choice.


    FAP is an experiential-based course where learning is done outside of the classroom. It is unique in its lack of a classroom setting all meetings take place in a professor's office in small teams of 4 to 6 students. Teams are faced withreal-time issues of outside organizations and work with faculty and host managers to construct innovative solutions. Solutions are integrative and cross-functional in nature. We encourage creative thinking giving students wide access towhat we call "area of expertise" faculty. Depending on the project scope we help students arrange meetings with professors who are experts in their field. Host organizations range from large multinational firms to start-ups. A significant percentage of the projects are with non-profits and organizations focused on social causes. Format: Teams (4-6 members) meet with faculty on a weekly basis (30-45 minutes). There are also 3-5 meetings with host managers. In addition to meeting with aFaculty Head, students are given access to "area of expertise" faculty. These faculty members are chosen based on their specific expertise. The final deliverable consists of an oral presentation and a written document. Requirements: Weekly team meetings with faculty project head and a final PowerPoint report and presentation.


    This course examines the art and science of negotiation. This course develops managerial skills by combining lectures with practice, using exercises where students negotiate with each other. Over the course of the semester, students will engage in a number of simulated negotiations ranging from simple one issue transactions to multi-party joint ventures. Through these exercises and associated readings, students explore the basic theoretical models of bargaining and have an opportunity to test and improve their negotiation skills. Cross-listed with LGST 806 and OIDD 691.


    The success of entrepreneurial endeavors depends, even more so than in larger more bureaucratic organizations, on the ability to locate and manage talent effectively. Specifically, on the need to find the right people and keep them engaged in working on the organization's goals. We focus in this course on leading, building, and maintaining human assets in start-up and small, growing operations. The course is designed with several key components, these are: conceptual and practical readings relevant to the topic; case studies illustratng key concepts and issues; lecture on practical application and examples; and lastly every class will also feature a presentation by and conversation with an outside expert whose work is relevant to guiding or advising start-ups and fast-growing small firms. We will focus on the following objectives: identifying the talent needed to initiate and sustain an entrepreneurial endeavor; structuring human resource policies and corporate culture to prepare for and facilitate firm growth; assessing the human aspects of valuing entrepreneurial companies; and responding to conflict and organizational threats within nascent firms. This course will apply recent research from strategic human resource management, personnel economics and organizational behavior to the practical issues of building and managing human assets in new ventures. Format: Case discussion, guest speakers and lectures, active class participation, final project


    Business success is increasingly driven by a firm's ability to create and capture value through innovation. Thus, the processes used by firms to develop innovations, the choices they make regarding how to commercialize their innovations, the changes they make to their business models to adapt to the dynamic environment, and the strategies they use to position and build a dominate competitive position are important issues facing firms. In MGMT. 892, you will learn to address these issues through an action learning approach. MGMT. 892 is a 1.0-credit course conducted in the spirit of an independent study. By working on consulting projects for leading global companies, you will develop and then apply your knowledge about innovation management and help these firms better understand the challenges and opportunities posed by emerging technologies and markets.


    This is a half-semester PhD course in the Management Department that is also open to any current PhD students at Wharton. The canonical model in economics views an agent as a fully rational, atomistic individual making optimal choices under scarcity. This approach has been very powerful theoretically and empirically to explain and to predict behavior in the workplace. This model has also been enriched to accommodate other phenomena arguably affecting behavior in the workplace like the social context (e.g. peer effects, altruism, or social comparison), non-standard time preferences, loss aversion, and cognitive costs. Incorporating these ideas into the standard model can be accomplished in various ways but the real stress test for these theories is whether they predict behavior more generally (i.e. we don't just use theory to explain one choice but choices more generally) and to generate empirical predictions that can be tested using experiments. In this mini-course we start-off with a tour de force of the fundamental principal-agent model and the various behavioral extensions. The core of the course is, however, not theoretical but a practical course on how to design field experiments to test these ideas.


    This class is designed to give students an overview of the fundamental topics and arguments in the area of employment, how different social science paradigms consider employment topics, and some pf the new and emerging approaches to this topic.

Awards and Honors

  • Ranked fifth on HR Most Influential 2012 Top 20 International Thinkers, 2012
  • Member, World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Employment, 2012-2014
  • HR Magazine’s list of top international thinkers, 2011
  • Core teaching Award WEMBA East, 2011
  • Received 2009 PRO award from International Association of Corporate and Professional Recruiters for contributions to human resources, 2009
  • Member of Business Roundtable “Springboard” Commission of Workforce Training & Development, 2009
  • Distinguished Visitor Board, Ministry of Manpower, 2008-2012
  • Elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources, 2003
  • Named by in 2001 as one of the 25 most important people working in the area of human capital, 2001

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Latest Research

Michael Useem, Harbir Singh, Peter Cappelli, Jitendra Singh (2015), Indian Business Leadership: Broad Mission and Creative Value, The Leadership Quarterly .
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In the News

Living Longer, Saving Less: What it Will Mean for Retirement

Changes in the economy, the nature of employment benefits and attitudes toward work more generally have made planning for retirement more complicated than ever.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2019/07/22
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