The Year Ahead

New Year, Melbourne

New Year, Melbourne (Photo credit: dan taylor)

It’s been a big year for me and Kienco, and 2014 is shaping up to be even bigger. We’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing clients and partners this year.

Some of my personal highlights have included having conversations with people around the world about the connection between workforce strategy and business strategy.  At times these have come from surprising places – a glass manufacturer working through the effect of automation, for example; and an international organisation expanding into China – and facing a very different talent market than in their US headquarters.  I’ve personally been fortunate enough to speak at and chair some great conferences in Melbourne and Sydney, and to serve as Faculty at The Conference Board’s Strategic Workforce Planning Academies in New York and Brussels.

In 2014, Kienco are expanding our Strategic Workforce Planning Masterclass program.  This year we have run Masterclasses in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Wellington, and Auckland.  In 2014 we’ll be going even further abroad, with Masterclasses in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, UAE, Canada, and the UK.  The year kicks off with trips to the USA, Singapore, and London in Jan and Feb to both teach workforce strategy techniques, and to hear what’s happening in those markets.  We will also continue to run private in-house strategy sessions on Strategic Workforce Planning and Agile Analytics.

As well as expanding the training program, Kienco is launching two new products next year.  The first, readers of this blog may already have heard about.  In conjunction with ATC Events, we’ll be running the #masterplan2014 conference in both Melbourne (27/28 March, 2014) and Wellington (1/2 April, 2014).  This is shaping up to be a fantastic event with some insightful and interesting speakers from around the world.  If you’re interested in hearing more – or if you have a case study and would be interested in speaking at the event – please feel free to contact me.

The second new product, which I’m very excited about, is the launch of our workforce analytics dashboard.  We’ve been working for the past few months on this product which allows organisations to quickly visualise and quantify workforce data and patterns.  It is Kienco’s belief and experience that analytics don’t necessarily give you all the right answers, but they can prompt the right questions.  It’s with this in mind that we’ve developed this very flexible software that allows you to take a true data science approach to workforce data – by exploring patterns, trends, and areas of opportunity and risk – real-time, and on mobile devices.  We’re currently in private beta, and are preparing for a public launch.  Look out for more information and screenshots on our website soon.

From me and my colleagues at Kienco, we’d like to thank the readers of this blog and our clients and partners for an incredible 2013 – and we wish you a very happy and successful 2014.  Happy New Year!

What works there won’t work here

I’ve just gotten back from the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas – an amazing event with thousands of attendees, hundreds of products exhibited, and 65+ product launches and announcements.  There were some truly innovative new products there, including some very interesting takes on workforce planning… but that’s a topic for another post.

Between the exhibition, the conference sessions, and nearly getting mauled by a bear in the Sequoia, my very good friends Trevor and Kevin joined me at Coca-Cola world for a tasting of different Coke products from around the world.  The general consensus was that all but one of them were unpalatable – from the Chinese apple-flavoured one to the one from Djibouti that tasted like mouthwash, most of the drinks were at best very unusual to western tastes.


Of course, these products are best sellers in their home markets, because every country has its’ own culture, tastes, and preferences – a lot like organisations, really.  Coke gets differentiation.  They know that what works in one culture won’t work in another – so they tailor their product offering to their market.  Differentiation is at the heart of market strategy, and make no mistake – the talent market is a market too – yet organisations who want to win in the talent market often don’t differentiate.  That’s why we have so much “best practice” HR initiatives, and so few outstanding companies who understand their talent market, craft their practices to benefit those market segments, and validate their results continuously.  One size does not fit all – in fact, it fits no one.  Take a lesson from Coke – understand your market, and craft your offerings accordingly.

Strategic Workforce Planning Workshops in Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland

I’m happy to announce some upcoming Strategic Workforce Planning masterclasses in Melbourne (July), Sydney (July), and Auckland (August).

Attendees at the recent Wellington Workshop described it as

  • “A thought provoking and clarifying call to action.”;
  • “Practical, experience-based learning about a comprehensive model for conducting workforce planning”;
  • “A relaxed, social environment that made participation and involvement easy.”;
  • “A fascinating introduction to the world of Strategic Workforce Planning.”; and
  • “Not having enough morning tea”.

We’re fixing that last one.  If you’re interested in attending, more information, dates, and bookings for both Australian and New Zealand courses can be found here.

The Problem with Extrapolation – Predictions for Fast & Furious #50

Cover of "Fast & Furious"

Cover of Fast & Furious

The only sense that is common in the long run, is the sense of change and we all instinctively avoid it – E B White

One of the things about purely numeric forecasts is that they often show how unsustainable a trend can be.  The “No Change Future State” shows what will happen if current trends continue (even though we know in the real world they won’t).  This isn’t scenario planning, it’s not strategy, and it’s not a predictor – it’s simply a conversation starter.  Unfortunately, it’s also the point at which most organisations stop their workforce planning & analytics efforts – they’re not able to make the leap of faith from the hard numbers of the past to the “dark art” of scenario planning.  Unfortunately, this can give you a false sense of confidence in your ability to predict the future. Continue reading

Who’s Planning your Future?

I read with interest today Fast Company’s list of the Most Creative People in Business for 2013.  Two names in particular stood out to me because of the nature of the work I do.  At Number 1 is Nate Silver, the author of “The Signal and the Noise”, who became famous for his predictions of both baseball and politics (he correctly predicted the winner in 49 of the 50 states for the 2008 US Presidential election; and then 50 out of 50, plus DC, for the 2012 election).

So here we have Silver – a statistician – and he’s #1 in a list of the most creative people.  At first, this seems like an oxymoron until you realise that creativity and forecasting are not mutually exclusive – in fact, knowing what to include in a model and what to exclude, as well as how to interpret the results, inherently requires creativity, not just statistical knowledge. Continue reading

Workforce Planning in New Zealand

I’m very grateful that I’m able to do the kind of work that I do. I get to work with organisations that I respect, travel to beautiful places, and do work that truly engages me.  A couple of weeks ago I got the trifecta – working in Wellington, New Zealand, in collaboration with HCMS, and helping some fantastic private and public sector organisations to build internal capability in Strategic Workforce Planning and Analytics.

I also found a great place to hide from Nazgul, had an encounter with Gollum, and enjoyed the beautiful views from the top of Mount Victoria. Continue reading

Inattentional Bias and Environment Scanning

Even highly skilled and intelligent leaders aren’t good at detecting changes in their environment that might affect strategy. When you are focusing on all of the moving parts of your business, you can be blinded to these important changes.  In psychology, this is known as inattentional bias, which typically happens because we are all overloaded with stimuli, and it is impossible to pay attention to everything in one’s environment.

To be adaptive to change, you need to be attuned to these signals.  Not only that, you need to be able to determine which of those are transient and which are permanent; which of them are opportunities and which of them are threats. Continue reading