#NZLEAD PREVIEW: Workforce Planning


The world of work is changing rapidly, and organisations that are able to adapt to changing conditions are the ones that position themselves for success.  Megatrends like big data, crowd sourcing, global connectivity, the death of 9-to-5, personal manufacturing, robotics, the rise of the contingent workforce, and many more are changing the nature of the work we do, and how we do it.

Let’s think about some of the dramatic changes that are happening in our economy today – our wealth is growing, and the nature of work changing, faster than during the industrial revolution.  Barriers to work, both artificial and real, are falling away, disrupting entire industries.  If you have (or had) “Agent” in your job title, you’ve already seen it.  The complete disruption of the travel industry by online bookings is an obvious example, but we’re also seeing recruitment go through similar disruption.  Recruitment Agencies who continued to rely on their extensive candidate database as their point of difference failed.  All of that information is online now, available to anyone, and updated constantly.

Companies today need to, and do, continually re-invent their business models in order to survive in the face of changing markets and technology.  But we in HR don’t always follow suit.  While our organisations pursue differentiation, many in HR pursue “best practice”.  It’s a contradiction that can’t be sustained.  We need to both tailor our programs to our organisations (and the roles within them), and to assess their value.  A case in point – this week I was speaking at an event in Melbourne to an audience of around 75.  About half of those were using some form of psychometric assessment when selecting candidates.  Only one had checked whether the tests that they were using actually predicted success for their organisation.  That one person? He’s wrapping up his PhD in Organisational Psychology.  Connecting our recruitment practises to the performance of employees selected?  It’s a no-brainer.  And it’s easy to do.

Some of New Zealand’s leading public and private organisations are turning to Strategic Workforce Planning to connect each of their HR initiatives to one another, and to their organisational strategy.  Done well, this uncovers the value of each initiative, and pro-actively positions the workforce to deal with the changing internal and external environments affecting the workforce today and well into the future.  To describe it as having “The Right Skills in The Right Place at The Right Time” oversimplifies it, but at its’ essence, that’s what workforce planning is designed to do.  The real challenge is in understanding what those skills and places will be 3, 5, or 10 years from now.  To pro-actively position HR to lead your organisation to long-term, sustainable success is within every HR professional’s reach.  After all, we’ve been trained in, and charged with the responsibility of, looking after what most organisations call their “greatest asset”.

The questions for this week are:

Q1) Is the world of work really changing? How relevant are terms such as ‘global connectivity’, ‘contingent workforce’?

Q2) How has connectivity changed the world of work? Or not changed it? Is the term ‘agent’ still relevant?

Q3) How do you connect your HR practices to the performance of your employees? What are the successes and challenges in doing this?

Q4) What is your understanding of ‘strategic workforce planning’? How are you applying it?


#NZLEAD RECAP: Attracting and retaining talent through engagement


Thanks all for your spiritied contributions to last week’s #nzlead on attracting and retaining talent through engagement.  I thought there was a great mix of serious and provoking comment, humour and dry wit undoubtedly borne from personal experience.   Thanks must also go out to @pauljacobs4real for the role he played in performance managing my co-contributor @AndyBurner

The conversation kicked off with a discussion on how you best mitigate candidate perceptions of poor engagement through the recruitment and onboarding experience.  Overwhelmingly, the consensus seemed to be that honesty was always the best policy.  As it was pointed out, you just never know what will ultimately appeal to, and motivate, particular individuals.  Our gracious hostess pointed to the Daniel Pink concept of motivation  – a must watch if you haven’t already.

@blackbirdsthree in fact pointed out that a tough environment may actually be perceived as particularly attractive for the right person…

Question two, why organisations enter “Best Employer” surveys, unsurprisingly netted a range of responses.  @nzheadhunter and @carmenbailey both expressed a degree of uncertainty, perhaps mixed with a degree of healthy skepticism.  @HRManNZ, never afraid to call it as he sees it, perhaps captured it best however with his observation:

The observation was made by several contributors that there are now multiple awards with various winners.  What is the methodology? Are they genuine mechanisms for recognising engagement? Or more used as an employment branding tool? @alisonhallnz made a subtle, but significant contribution to this discussion, questioning whether regarding these awards as an actual “competition” actually misses the point:

The question was then asked, how do you effectively weaponise (I mean utilise) engagement as an employment branding tool.  Of course, winning one of the aforementioned prizes is great from a broader brand perspective, but overwhelmingly the feedback seemed to suggest that it is the actual employees that are the best advocates of the employment experience.  @NZrec summed it up with:

The conversation then moved to how you effectively get employees to own engagement, and what are the tools or levers that can be used to boost engagement.  The answers were quite varied on this particular point.  From:

(please note that @AaronDodd also suggested cattle prods, threats, intimidation and waterboarding…..)

Through to:

The variety of the comments again talks to the danger of adopting a “one approach fits all” method in terms of driving engagement.

@AndyBurner  made the observation that policy runs the danger of becoming a four letter word, reinforcing @HRManNZ’s earlier point that people inherantly seek an empowered and respectful working environment.   @HassanahRudd reinforced this view with a particularly pithy comment:

In summary, it seems that engagement is truly a tool for the attraction and retention of talent.  We seem aligned that driving engagement is critical, but often over-thought and over-complicated.  Without wanting to simplify the concept, it seems that treating people with respect, providing opportunities for empowerment and reward, and leading in a genuine and authentic way are all key to developing and sustaining a working environment that will sustain and encourage high performance talent.

Slightly off-topic, but a gem that I can’t help but highlight, came from @AaronDodd.  Not quite sure how it relates to engagment, but a timely reminder for us all.

Thanks again to @sterling_amanda for driving the discussion and ALL of last week’s participants and contributors.

Scott Duncan

#NZLEAD PREVIEW: Attracting and retaining talent through engagement


People work not just for money, but also for a greater sense of meaning in their lives.  Engaged environments are more energetic, more rewarding and much more enjoyable to be part of.  We seek to build engagement because we have a belief that it has a positive impact on business performance.

We decided to team up on this blog, as we thought we may be able to present two slightly different perspectives on how engagement impacts the broader talent agenda. We’re interested to hear your thoughts on how engagement impacts the attraction and retention of talent, and how this is managed and communicated to an external audience.

The External Perspective

In the time I’ve worked in recruitment, I have had the pleasure of supporting a whole range of clients across a broad spectrum of industries and functions.  Not being “part” of my client organisations, I am somewhat reliant on what they tell me about their levels of engagement, that and, of course, what I hear from other sources.  I’m confident, however, that engagement is a component either consciously or unconsciously considered when individuals consider a new employment destination.    You may be able to relate, but I tend to find an almost palpable difference between engaged and unengaged workforces just by “walking the floor”.  The middle ground is certainly harder to ascertain, but the extremes are obvious.  Here are some thoughts (happy for debate) regarding engagement and the attraction of talent:

  • Engaged organisations have better employment brands.  As such, there will be greater levels of demand / interest from potential hires.
  • An increase in candidate supply should provide greater choice; you would think improve the ultimate outcome.
  • Engagement and the perception of the employment brand will determine the sourcing strategies; contribute to the shape of the recruitment infrastructure; and, determine the reliance on external providers.
  • Trade-offs may be required when recruiting for unengaged (unattractive) organisations, i.e. compensating through higher remuneration.
  • The candidate experience is typically more enjoyable (authentically so) when interviewing with a highly engaged organisation.
  • Ultimately all these will have impacts on cost and quality of hire.

Scott Duncan 

The Internal Perspective

I am sure you’ll agree that employee engagement is key to attracting and retaining the best talent. At Chorus we are firmly committed to making the employment experience sticky so we can retain our best people. Our overall HR plan is to ensure our people’s experience of Chorus is exceptional; a fundamental part of this plan is to focus on employee engagement. Having a highly engaged workplace makes it easy to attract and retain the right people and makes it a difficult choice for our people to leave.

Aside from (selfishly!) wanting to work in a great environment ourselves, the HR team are focused on this goal because we know that people don’t just tend to stick to great workplaces, they tell others about it which enhances our reputation even further. Our ultimate aim is to have all out people say: “Chorus is the best place I have ever worked”.

I am confident this strategy is working because over the past two years I have lost count of how many times I’ve been told that one of the main reasons people want to work at Chorus is because they’ve heard about out workplace reputation. When I say I have lost count, I don’t exaggerate – we have doubled our workforce in this time!   We have made significant numbers of these hires by referral as we have found that engaged employees take greater accountability for the organisational success.

Another key part of our strategy is to ensure our people know that engagement is not just something HR does, but something every employee owns. HR plays a critical part in coaching leaders on how to grow and sustain engagement in their teams, and I have noticed that people soon become advocates of the great environment in which we work.

Having ‘Aon Hewitt Best Employer’ status certainly supports our employment branding. And although it is a great achievement, we believe the real test is it what people hear and experience when they talk to our employees, ex-employees, customers and suppliers.  I love it when people say they’ve heard that Chorus is a great place to work – I feel very proud of this because I know it is rare to truly love being at work, supporting our goal of making Chorus a hard place to leave.

Andrew Burner

This week’s questions:

Q1)      Accepting that not all organisations are highly engaged, how have you mitigated candidate perceptions of low levels of engagement through the recruitment and on-boarding process?

Q2)      Why do organisations enter “Best Employer” surveys / competitions?

Q3)      How do you use engagement as an employment branding tool?

Q4)      How do you get every employee to own engagement, take responsibility for sustaining it?

Q5)      What are the levers /tools that you have used to boost engagement in your workplace?