Archives for July 2019

July 18, 2019 - No Comments!

Expect the Unexpected in this Talent Market

Many organizations still see search as a transaction to fill immediate or important gaps. They, or their down-line manager identify a need for more productivity or a specific skill and open a requisition.

A few organizations seek outside talent because they identify a gap in their internal intellectual capital for a future objective. Yet, after two decades in search, not much has changed – most organizations’ approach identifying talent gaps, planning future workforce needs, and finding talent just like they did decades ago.  Not much has shifted despite business change at an alarming rate.

The value of intellectual capital, the people empowering business success, the human factor, will dominate the future of work. The winners will be those who expect the unexpected, have a vision for the future, a workforce plan enabling adaptability, and a solid strategy for getting and keeping the talent they need to make it all happen.

Looking back at where we are today, some leaders may be satisfied for being great at managing process or using technology and tracking systems to keep all the parts moving. But hindsight may also show that wasn’t enough to keep the organization on track for success in this future. We need to be asking ourselves, are we looking ahead to understand and prepare to manage the unexpected?

According to Bob Johansen, a trends forecaster with a discipline around moving from foresight to action, the more complex the future, the further ahead leaders need to look.

We don’t have to imagine a heated, highly competitive talent market of the future, it’s here today. It has been heating up for years and the competition is fierce. Urgency is driving decisions to buy experts, and search professionals are being tasked with finding “the unicorn” or being told to “look under rocks” for that unique leadership skill set everyone wants.

On more occasions than executives may want to admit, after a long, exhaustive search process, someone inside the company is identified to take the role. The client realizes the unique mix of skills and experience they’re looking for doesn’t exist in the external market – at least not at the rate they’d like – and they should “develop the internal talent after all.” Ultimately, this decision benefits the internal candidate, but squanders time and money, sends mixed signals to employees and the talent market, and potentially creates new challenges in the future.

Reactive, tactical talent processes cost more from every perspective, and yet many organizations keep repeating the same, costly cycle.

How did we get here?

Increasing talent scarcity, with a narrow view of options, caused a level of pain and cost that almost paralyzed hiring decision makers. The talent market had changed dramatically, and many were unprepared to confront the change, adapt, and regain their advantage in the critical war for talented workers.

Some have no idea where to start, others are not even convinced they’re off course. Everyone is trying to navigate a new landscape without a functional map.

One quick caveat – a few organizations recognized and reacted to the evolving market. They’re currently winning the war for talent without just throwing stacks of money at candidates. The very best organizations are already planning for how they’ll manage the talent race as the field continues to evolve.

Meanwhile, at the average organization, the external talent market began to wonder why they weren’t hearing back from the recruiter or hiring manager. Was something wrong with the company? All the waiting gave candidates more time to look at social networking platforms to research the company, the department, the manager, and to connect with existing and even former employees. They want to understand the inside picture and get an idea for what they might be getting into.

Interview panels were not aligned on what they were selecting for and didn’t put a lot of value on creating a positive candidate experience.  While the recruiting and management teams slogged through the old, process-driven, tactical hiring process, internal talent was getting burned out and stressed wearing too many hats and trying to fill vacant shoes.

None of this is sustainable, and certainly isn’t the best way to drive value, improve the bottom line, or set the organization on a path to sustained success. The negative impact to the company’s brand and the bad impression on the talent market may impact their ability to attract the right talent for years.

Change is Inevitable

The perspective needs to shift, and the approach must change.

Those with a longer view have already shifted from “filling a need” to understanding business initiatives, people implications, and future skill requirements, and then planning to develop and acquire the talent for the next phase today. Seeking to understand is more important than advocating for a predictable, yet ineffective fix for old problems.

Organizations need to identify their mission-critical work – now and five years from now – and its impact to the bottom line. Then, know your game changers. This informs options to build a go-forward plan that ties business and talent strategies together and creates room to address todays unique talent marketplace.

It has been more than 20 years since we faced a 3.7% unemployment market, and the first time we have had more jobs than people looking for work.

This scarcity dynamic forces us to pay more attention to what a company offers, their culture, their brand and market presence. It demands a compelling answer for, “why join us,” and more detail on leadership values to engage the Amazon review-age of contemporary workers.

Rather focusing on finding a costly “unicorn,” go for a deeper and broader exploration and compete authentically to attract and grow the best people for your unique business and future objectives.

In today’s talent world:

• Attracting is all about telling a story and marketing a compelling message, so candidates inside and out are eager to learn more and consider an opportunity.
• Finding is building a strategic out-reach plan leveraging your employee network and diverse talent pools to build relationships for the future.
• Growing includes building acceptance for a new role, onboarding to drive immediate engagement, and ensuring a new hire is prepared to succeed in this new team and culture.

So the Story Goes…

The new talent perspective makes it clear these changes impact all our businesses in critical ways today, and the impact will only accelerate in the future. Inevitably, employment cycles will go up and down, but the “do more with less” mentality must head for extinction.

The future of work and talent dynamics compel us to trade outdated approaches and recognize the value of our limited resources, as well as the possibility and hidden value in creative solutions to getting work done.

The first step is a system of self-inquiry to create an actionable plan using the real perspectives of your leaders and workers. These insights must be integrated with your business strategies, talent needs, and real-world experiences attracting, finding, and growing a workforce to meet your objectives and help you stay at the top of your game.

Will you be a game changer?

Expect the unexpected and:

1) Create a dynamic lineup – Imagine how you’ll execute on key initiatives without the right team or back-ups.
2) Define the BIG jobs – Which are essential for taking the mission forward and what is the most critical work?
3) Reimagine talent acquisition – Develop internal potential, address your employment brand, align your values, and market your compelling story to attract needed talent.

Time to be trail blazers again - the stakes are high to get ahead of this challenge and  it will take business leaders and Talent experts to tackle this together.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Talent Economy

July 8, 2019 - No Comments!

Newsletter story for July 2019 – Game Changers – Meet Brian Wilkerson, Managing Partner, hrQ.

Sherry:  What led you to the business of helping companies improve performance? 

Brian: I started in the non-profit world and was attracted early on to the concepts of servant leadership.  I learned quickly after joining Anderson Consulting that those principles apply to the corporate world as well.  A deeper insight into the client world resulted in me helping others solve complex and even crisis driven projects.  It was rewarding and important work and I enjoyed it.  My work in strategic planning, talent strategy and leveraging technology was frankly before we had labels for this kind of forward looking analytical consulting.

SB: What attracted you to then start your own business after the corporate experience? 

Brian:  It started early on for my grandfather emigrated here from Italy and he had his own business.  I had an early exposure to what that meant and felt it was potentially a path for me as well.

SB:  What is your perspective on the workforce and workplace today?

Brian:  We have change coming at us from so many angles.  I understand the complexity of this and how dealing with it holistically is a challenge.   There are multiple generations that have driven change.  There are clear differences in what we value and I observe that many companies are ignoring this element.  Company structures, products, services and how we think about work and relationships with talent has changed in huge ways.  In 2008, following the recession, we saw a shift in mindset and actions that reflected a clear hesitation to grow in the same ways as before.  The range of talent options we have today from full time, to part time and freelance or gig is just a few ways to look at the availability of talent. Organizations have not figured out a systematic way to manage through those options.

SB: Do you think your clients are overwhelmed or facing these changes head on?

Brian: I think our clients are overwhelmed by the sheer pace of change and what they want to change.  It is a challenge to make progress in that kind of environment.  It results in a lack of time to focus on strategy.

SB: What can be done to help clients lead change?

Brian:It is about helping clients re-prioritize and think about the critical things.  When I work with my clients and we go through that process and there is a realization that it may shift their focus.  We can then create a cohesive roadmap and they feel confident in executing more efficiently.

SB: What are you seeing when working with companies today?

Brian:There are four areas that seem to cover the challenges we see today.   The first one is to identify and manage against key analytics that link to business goals.  Dashboards provide a foundation but are not sufficient to provide dynamic insight and concrete linkages between people and business results – more complex analytics are needed to understanding the business issues and the value add work is creating a line of sight to progress and results.

The second one is helping clients shift the way they think about talent. It is time to think about customer and talent relationships in the same way.  We know everything about the ideal customer profile. It is time to do the same thing with talent. Our talent today is less tolerant of bureaucracy and corporate politics and works in a new way.  Take the time to understand them and personalize your approach.

Our best companies have been linking employment brand to brand management. It is all part of the value proposition for the organization.  Lastly, it is time to upgrade the skills of people in HR.  Our more progressive clients are investing in top tier talent and equally investing in developing a deeper bench for HR.

SB:  Engagement studies reports over 80% of workers are less engaged than we need them to be.  What is your take on this?

Brian:  Work needs to be more like life.  Those that seamlessly integrate both are using technology, flexible work models and creative adaptation so that work and home needs are met.

It is also important to find out what motivates and engages others – great people bring their passion to work. Let’s take the time to understand what that is for each worker.  Managers are not often skilled in these conversations or take the time to learn and really know their people.  How are we preparing managers to be better?  I have seen significant improvement in engagement when investing in developing managers to manage in this unpredictable and fast moving environment.

In order to learn more about hrQ and their perspective on the world of work, check out their site.


Thank you Brian for sharing your perspective on the challenges you see your clients tackling today and how you are working with them to accelerate their people strategy.

I am also seeing that the most forward looking companies are proactive in adapting and changing to this workforce.  It takes different approaches for sure.  One thing I do know, is that we need more of these!

Competitive advantage today is about our people and how quickly we can prepare them with new skills and capabilities.  Continuous learning is the new edge.  How are you creating your own competitive edge?  Let us know and we would like to highlight you and share with others in our news stories.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Employee Engagement, Newsletter

July 8, 2019 - No Comments!

Newsletter July 2019 – The Next Talent Wave – Wanted: 600 Women to Govern California Companies – Kate Kjeell, TalentWell

Quietly last year Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed California Senate Bill 826 requiring publicly held companies based in California to have a minimum of one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019. From there, women’s representation will increase. By the end of July 2021, companies must have at least two women on boards of five members and at least three women on boards with six or more.

According to the Los Angeles Times, this means over 600 women will be needed just for the boards of the largest publicly traded companies in California, not to mention smaller companies. If this is expanded across the nation, this would translate to over 3,000 women needed by 2021 to balance the board rooms across the country in the Russell 3000 companies.

While many forward-thinking companies recognize the glaring need for gender parity in the board room, California companies should actively attract this talent as other companies across the country are sure to follow suit.

Finding, attracting and hiring your next talented board member, who also happens to be a woman, should be part of your company strategy. This should not be a haphazard approach but a planful, proactive process.  Below are four steps that will guide any board of director search.

  1. Align your board

As with many senior level searches, multiple stakeholders weighing in on the position, requirements and candidate profile often lead to disparate opinions.  Success depends on doing the upfront work to align all the members of a hiring team, in this case your BOD.

To facilitate consensus, ask the following questions prior to engaging with candidates:

  • What is the role of this individual?
  • What background is needed to successfully accomplish this?
  • What qualities have made other board members successful in the past?
  • Where do we think we might find this person? What companies or industries are our targets?

This information should drive a candidate profile that is based on the work to be done and background needed, versus a gut-feel that a certain individual would fit.  This will also help encourage diversity when subjective assessment is replaced with objective evaluation based on agreed upon criteria.

  1. Define your value proposition

Don’t overlook defining your value proposition; that is what your company offers a new board member in terms of impactful initiatives as well as financial compensation.

With the certain increase in demand for savvy female board members, companies need to not only assess candidates but provide a compelling story for why join their board.  What are the key initiatives, growth opportunities and board dynamics that would be exciting to a new member? Make sure your board is united in their view of this opportunity and value proposition. In this tight employment market, competition for top talent extends to the board level.  Come armed with a unique and exciting message that is tailored to engage female board members.

In addition, make sure the key leaders in your organization have a strong social media presence that speaks to their personal brand.  Most passive talent will research your board and leadership team prior to deciding if they are interested in having a conversation.  How do your senior leaders show up on the internet? Are their LinkedIn profiles bare bones or non-existent?   A weak social media presence is a red flag for top talent and can prevent your organization from having a preliminary conversation with highly sought after board candidates.

  1. Leverage your network

Networking and referrals have always been the best source of quality candidates and that has never been truer than at the board level. Chances are your senior leadership and board members have a strong network of talented individuals.  This is the holy grail for board searches.  Tap into this pool of talent using your aligned profile (step one) and value proposition (step two).

Don’t accept that your board and executives “can’t think of anyone.”  Our experience shows that some prompted discussion around where this person might be, target companies, industries and shared connections can surface a nice slate of potential candidates.  “I can’t think of anyone” quickly turns into, “Let me call her and make an introduction.”

  1. Build a pipeline of talent

For many the reality of hiring female board members has just hit them.  Now what?  Smart companies have started to build a pipeline of talented women executives for current and future board positions.  CEOs and other leaders in California should be engaging and wooing top talent for all of their senior positions, including board members.  If you are not actively building a talent pipeline, you are not preparing for the future.  As Benjamin Franklin aptly said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

The statistics are clear on the supply and demand of female board members.  That alone should prompt action to address both immediate and long-term talent needs. But the numbers are not the only reason to identify, attract and engage with female board members. A diverse board is the right business strategy and leads to better decision making and ultimately higher profits. What company wouldn’t want that?

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Newsletter, Recruiting

July 8, 2019 - No Comments!

Interview with Soren Kaplan – Game Changer

Our interviews this month are with “game changers” and my discussion with Soren Kaplan, best-selling author, innovator, consultant and professor had me reflecting on what it means to innovate and disrupt the status quo.  I learned that Soren is a role model for rewriting the rules, challenging our assumptions and relentlessly driving change.

Soren knows this space well. He has been leading disruptive innovation, culture, and business model innovation for many years.  Based in Silicon Valley, Soren works with both fascinating Fortune 1000 firms and technology start-ups.   He is the author of two books on Culture and Innovation and an Affiliate at the Center for Effective Organizations at USC’s Marshall School of Business. He writes for Fast Company and Inc. Magazine and he’s also the founder of Innovation Point and upBOARD.

We discussed the illusive formula for innovation.  It takes time and focus to shift a culture and employee behavior to drive change and get greater innovation.   Soren has a refreshing take on this- in his view, for transformation happens in big small and unpredictable ways.  Few leaders focus on the levers that directly influence innovation however, Soren shares insight on how all of us can design our own invisible advantage.

Sherry:   Tell me about your work at Innovation Point?

Soren:  Early in my career I led the internal strategy and innovation group at Hewlett-Packard (HP) during the roaring 1990’s in Silicon Valley.  I have worked with Fortune 1000 companies and technology start-ups with the goal of guiding leaders in creating cultures that support innovation.  I would say that 80% of companies place innovation as a top priority.

Sherry:  What is the invisible advantage?

Soren: The only defensible competitive advantage resides underneath the products, services, business processes, technologies, and business models we deliver to the world. It’s generally invisible to your competitors, your partners, and even your own employees. It’s your culture.

CEO’s want to clarify what innovation means for them.  Is this a big or little challenge?   Some are thinking a technology platform, structure, process or system change.  All of this impacts culture.  It would be great if we had the formula for gaining competitive advantage through your culture but it is a combination of art and best practice.  I share more about this in my book and it is true that every organization has the power to design their innovation culture.

Sherry:  Check out Soren’s book, The Invisible Advantage

Sherry: What are you learning since writing the Leapfrogging best seller and The Invisible Advantage?

Soren: I am seeing the red flags which indicate a desire for innovation or growth yet it starts with a new business model and entirely new time horizon for change.  It used to be we could create a plan with a long term time line.  Today we are looking at one to two years at most. Our clients are also balancing the need for growth and big change with the need to invest in new stuff while experimenting in smaller ways in order to solve customer problems now.

Sherry:  What surprises you today in your work on innovation?

Soren:In the past year and half we are seeing every industry undergoing disruption. We have converging technologies, AI, Block chain, robotics and more and we are all impacted by these changes.  It forces an expanded mindset and new skill set in dealing with the breadth and depth of this ecosystem that is created to help navigate new technologies.   Business platforms change the way we work and serve our clients.  LinkedIn has changed recruiting.  Airbnb has disrupted our experiences in the sharing economy.

Sherry:  What will it take to lead in this new ecosystem of internal and external markets?

Soren:Future leaders will live with adapted strategies vs. long term planning.  They will have to consider the personality of the organization.  External viewpoints and collaboration across a network of resources will be required.  Leaders will be comfortable with rapid experimentation and they will see failure as a part of the new learning mindset.  Also, every organization will unlock innovation culture in its own way.

Sherry: What are forward looking companies taking action on as they build innovation into their culture?

 Soren:  Companies will embrace “shark tank” like sessions.  Hackathons and learning experiences will happen more frequently on the inside.  Culture will shift because people have these new experiences, then make assumptions about behaviors which get shared across the organization.  We will also work across the world and in virtual models to support innovation which really means creating a culture that links professional development with value creation.

Sherry:  We see you are part of the faculty on the Innovation segment of the Leadership InSITE program that Ian Ziskin leads.  What would you like the attendees' takeaway to be?

Soren:  At the end of the day that I facilitate, which is focused on innovation and strategy, I would like the participant to have an understanding of what innovation means for them and their organization.  They will know how to define this and identify the skill sets needed to support idea generation and new thinking in their companies.


There could not be a better time to let go of the old ways of doing things and embrace something new.  Everything around us is changing, so why not jump in.

The stakes are too high to stay in place.   Soren reminds us that innovation and change can occur incrementally and be as simple as process improvements or enhancing a customer interaction.  Since we really want everyone innovating, the steps forward can start simple and in the line of sight for each of us.   It also means we are learning.  And, learning is truly the new “competitive advantage” as our work world transforms and nudges us forward.

Kelly Palmer and David Blake, in their new book, The Expertise Economysee that companies play a huge role in shaping our future of learning.  If we want to stay in the game or get ahead of it, we will have to harness innovation and learning in entirely new ways.  Our next issue will tackle how CEO’s are driving for learning cultures and seeing the pay – off.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Newsletter