Workforce Intelligence – Human Capital Insights for Executives Leading Post-Recession Organizations

WHILE THE LABOR MARKET CLEARLY HAS AN ABUNDANCE OF WORKERS, THIS phenomenon is not widespread. Certain skills critical to business operations have too few workers to satisfy demand. In fact, 2 out of every 5 positions are anticipated to demand more workers in the next five years than what the labor market can supply. What this means to business is that some organizations will be challenged to attain their key outcomes like: sales volume growth, customer experience targets or operating efficiency gains. So, the challenge executives face is not whether they have enough workers. Rather, it’s do they have enough workers with the right skills for the positions most critical to their business. These positions, which are commonly referred to as critical positions, are jobs that are hard to fill and either mission critical or business impacting. Our current research projects that organizations where critical position shortages are most likely to appear first are where the demand for workers is:

• Required at an unattractive location
• In jobs requiring specialized knowledge or scarce skills
• Out-pacing internal and external supply
• Required by an unattractive employer

Now, understanding whether or not an organization has a critical position that will experience a workforce shortfall requires a certain level of sophistication. Naturally, the better the forecasting methods, the better an organization is able to determine when a workforce shortfall or gap will appear and its driving cause – attraction issues, turnover challenges,
retirement concerns or a combination of several causes. The level of sophistication, or rather, the business capability organizations require for this challenge is called workforce intelligence.

Workforce Intelligence is an Emerging Capability Offering Executives Talent Insights for Critical Business Situations

Workforce intelligence is an emerging capability for forecasting supply and demand for a critical position. The forecast is derived from six distinct projections. Labor requirements are assessed for both the organization and its competitors which combine to produce the total demand for a critical position workforce. Next supply pools are determined for the organization, its labor market, any student institutions and others who are qualified who may have temporarily left the workforce which combine to produce the total supply for a critical position. Developing the forecasts at varying time periods enables executives to see changes in demand and supply for a critical position. Drill-down capabilities empowers executives with the information to determine root causes that are driving the forecast and deploy pin-corrective actions with pinpoint precision.

The projections can be easily developed from an organization’s workforce data, stored in its ERP system, and its strategic business plans along with labor market data maintained by organizations like Talent Strategy Advisor’s and its global labor market database. When combined just right, these projections enable executives to determine whether or not an organization will have the critical position workforce it needs, now and in the near future.

For most positions, this level of forecasting precision is unnecessary, but for those which are critical to an organization’s operations, this business capability is essential for executives who need to address real issues like:

• Which regions or facilities have a high-risk of a critical position workforce shortage
• How to optimally grow a critical position workforce growth given labor market trends
• Which workforce expenditures to reduce or eliminate because of low-returns
• And, ultimately, which positions require a focused talent strategy

As critical position workforce gaps becomes more widespread, what would have once been considered an HR challenge will be elevated to a business challenge. At this point, those organizations which do not have a workforce intelligence capability will likely jeopardize their near-term business objectives, whether it be sales volume growth, customer experience targets or operating efficiency gains.

This piece by Eric Seubert is available for download at:


The List: Provocative Ideas for Talent Management

In point of fact, we are no strangers to tough talent issues having survived many of the business challenges of the last several decades.  But balencing the demands of the business with a ready flexible pool of talent given the demographic changes, will require an increasingly sophisticated set of solutions that many companies have not yet considered much less developed.  Over my travels this past year, I’ve developed my “list” of talent trends. My hope is that there is a nice balence of ‘near in’ with a fair bit of ‘stretch’ to challenge thinking.   So here are a few of the ideas on my list:

  • Mindset . . .ways of creating or shaping new ways to see the world.   From a talent perspective, I see organizations changing the way they think about ‘who’ is their talent, where is their talent, and how they engage or deploy the talent for maximum flexibility.  Infosys, a hot Indian engineering firm, is reverse hiring talent by setting up shop in the US with a new Global Talent Management Program.  What’s different?  Certainly not the job level or the pay . . . the point of difference is the way they are establishing a global mindset with their new hires.  And programs like Your Encore have certainly changed our mindset about the who, how, and where of our talent pipeline.  The point here is not that traditional organizations are going away, but that they will need to reinvent themselves to participate fully in a networked world.  This is about creating a permable menbrane around the organization, increasing flexibity and agility.   In the end, my favorite examples come the Manpower ads on You Tube . . .they will most certainly challenge your mindset about talent.  Have you seen them?
  • Cultural Consciousness . . . the concept of organizational culture is not new, but being conscious about developing, shaping, and communicating culture is taking on a new significance from a talent point of view.  Business Week recently reported on a survey of 43,000 US college students asking them to name their ideal employer.  Ernst and Young jumped up to #4 on a ranking of 220 ccompanies.  Their rise was specifically aided by social networking.  In fact, they are branding themselves with ‘social networking.’  They purposefully do not use Facebook to post jobs or look at profiles, they use it as a way to inform — their values, what they have to offer, and to answer questions.  Vlogs, designed by interns, are designed to illustrate what it’s like to ‘work here.’  Not everyone wants to work at E & Y, but for those who do, creating cultural transparency through social networking can increase the probability of finding, selecting and keeping talent . . .the talent right for them.  
  • Creating Relevance . . . tapping into what is pertinenet or applicable from a talent perspective.  As global talent needs have increased , even governments are starting to address the issue.  So let me confirm what we’ve always know . . . despite globalization, location still matters.  Local communities and even countries have strategically developed distinctive advantages from a talent perspective.  Stockholm is focused on succeeding in the knowledge economy by attracting talent with highly valued skills using a vibrant urban environment.  Singapore is focused persuading multi-nationals to establish a base or regional headquarters with generous tax breaks and affordable land.  Anticipating industry needs, they are proactively establishing policies so that they can rapidly respond . . . including equal employment guidelines.  Frankly some of the best work in creating relevance comes in the form of benefits and workplace policies.  In an effort to attract their target talent demographic, people 45 and older, Border’s offers a  ‘passport’ program which allows employees to work in multiple geographic locations.  Think warm winters in the south and cooler summers in the north  . . .what’s not to like?
  • Open Source . . . Mass collaboration has become a disruptive force that has created new possibilities in every sector.  New social networking tools have changed the very nature of what work is in a 2.0 world.  For me the interesting question here is what does open source mean for leadership.  Gary Hamel in his book, The Future of Management, challenges us to innovate our management models . . . creating new ways to  mobilize talent, allocate resources, and build strategies.  Mozilla, a non-profit software development firm has created a new type of management mantra.  Open source management means: 
    • It’s all about getting community buy-in
    • Volunteers are willing to do more than you think . . . just ask
    • Managers are more powerful when they follow
    • Innovative things happen when you nurture renegades
    • Blend . . . open source is powerful when paired with conventinal approaches
    • Think globally. . . your talent certainly does
    • Listen . . . very carefully. . .and always
  • Social Learning . . . increasingly learning happens through others.  It’s multi-threaded, searchable, physical or virtual, collaborative and personalized to each learner’s role in a specific context.  Social networks are certainly not new, but technology has accelerated their importance and impact on a variety of talent processes — development being one.  But how do you do that on a global basis.  Triple Creek offers a networking application that is being used by a number of companies.  Instead of matching individuals based on personal preferences, they are connecting people based on job skills, leadership qualities or the experienes they want to gain.  In my mind, this puts the responsibility for developing and maintaining the relationship where it belongs . . in the hands of the mentor and mentee.  Many of us are familiar with Second Life, which has developed an interesting business model selling virtual property.  Some companies are using Second Life as collaboration hubs for employees and alumni, places to create ‘cross-border’ networks in a 2.0 world, and virtual learning classrooms.  Going one step further, Sun Microsystems, Inc. has developed its own software and simulated building that even allows employees to walk through the hallway for a ‘water cooler chat’ in a 2.0 workspace. 
  • Sustainability . . . I want to end the list with a conversation about sustainability . . . the ability to provide the best outcomes for humans and the organization now and in the future.  Issues of sustainability are everywhere — even in talent processes.  HIP Investor helps organizations realize that human impact and profitatility are simultaneously important with a very procative scorecard approach.  My favorite example of sustainability is one that my son David brought to my attention — Patagonia.   As trendy as they may seem, they have been at this sustainability issue for a long time . . .it permeates their very approach to the business, their management mantra, and even the way they attract, develop, and engage their talent.  As their CEO and Founder says, “Most people want to do good things, but don’t.  At Patagonia, it’s an essential part of your life.”

Now that you’ve heard what on my mind, let me invite you to share your thoughts.  What resonated with you?  What other trends have you been watching?  What examples would you like to share?

08/25/08 Update: Creating Cultural Transparency

A colleague just sent sent me a link to a very interesting website . . . Jiibe is designed to help people find corporate cultures that fit their values and style of work.   How do they do that?  They use an on-line assessment, user-driven content and social networking to help people find good cultural matches.  Check it out!

Talent Readiness Beyond the Demographics: How are you preparing for the future?

We all approach this ‘workforce crisis’ issue from different perspectives.  For some of us, the issue is quite real and our organizations are worried about a range of issues, including impending retirements, brain drain, a revolving door in key markets, a lack of talent in certain disciplines, generational issues, and looking for actionable insights.  Meanwhile others of us are legitimately left wondering what the ‘fuss’ is about. . .yes, we’ve seen the data but our current talent piplines seem to be happy, healthy and full.  Still others of us are quite simply too busy ‘right sizing’ our organizations and trying to survive in the current economic climate.  Regardless of your starting place on the issue, I think we ought to be asking ourselves some tough questions on behaf of the organizations we serve . . .

  • Do you know what your organization needs to enable its future success?  Do you know what specific organizational capabilities and individual skills will be required to support the organization’s growth strategies . . . short and long term?  Do you systematically spend an adequate amount of time looking outside the organization for predicitive insights about what the future holds for your organization?  Do you drive today’s talent decisions in a way that enables your future viability? 
  • What strategies do you have in place to address key talent gaps?  Do you have a workforce plan . . .have you determined which talent needs are critical to the growth of the business?  As you are making key talent decisions today, are you protecting your future?  Are you global in your mindset, even if your business is local . . . because your talent most certainly thinks globally about where and how they do work. 
  • Do you have an organizational culture that fits the future needs of the organization and the evolving workforce?  What shifts in the organizational culture do you need to start driving now?  Do you have the type of culture that attracts the talent you need to enable your future?  As Edgar Schein so elegantly puts it, “Leaders create culture.  Culture in turn creates the next generation of leaders.”  To influence the success of our future, I think we need to pay attention to leader behavior now.  Given that refining culture talkes time, are you actively and consistently coaching leaders in a way that enables your future not disables it?
  • How strong is the talent pipline?  Has your leadership team identified the key constituencies which have a material impact on both the current and the future performance of the company?  In what ways will the rapidly evolving workforce demographics have the most impact on the talent for these positions?  I think one of the most intriguing questions is how the demographic changes will impact the path to senior management.  The development road to the top is arduous, and once there, the challenges are significant and demanding.  Add generational aspirations and lifestyle needs to the equation, and therein lies the organizational dilemma.  Will your talent pipeline be robust enough to yield the right number of talented leaders when the time comes?
  • How engaged is your workforce?  As your organization competes for talent and a share of mind, employee engagement becomes an important part of the total employment equation.  Over the past several years, companies have tapped into employee engagement initiatives as a way to increase customer satisfaction and bottom line results.  Others have tapped into engaged employees as compelling ways to fuel their growth engine with innovative ideas.  What are your key touch points that influence your workforce’s impression of the company and thus, their engagement?  What undiscovered potential does the employee engagement equation have for your business?  What “unintended messages” has your organization been delivering. . .disengaging your talent at a time when you most need them? 
  • In what ways have you created a culture of learning within your organization?  How will your company retain the institutional memory of those leaving the organization?  Are your employees adequately prepared to deliver against your future needs?  I am convinced that learning will be a source of competitive advantage.  And to do that internal training organizations need to morph into sophisticated learning consortiums with deep experience in a range of learning methodologies and technologies.  They will not only develop the human capital of the company but serve as the innovation engine for the business.  Companies at the forefront are actively using social networking with a range of technologies that appeal to different generational cohorts.  What are you doing to compete?  

The fundamental shifts in the workforce demographics will impact every aspect of our organizations.  The talent decisions we make today will most certainly impact our ability to compete in the future.  Are you forward looking enough to help your organization navigate these challenging issues, regardless of your starting place?

So, how are you preparing?