All Posts in Workforce Planning

August 6, 2016 - No Comments!

Find the One – What Does This Mean?

Don't we all want to work with amazing people? There is plenty of research and real life experience that says investing in who decisions pays off.  Finding the one for your company means achieving success or just getting by.

Enlightened CEO's place the importance of people decisions at the top of their list of important skills to develop and invest in. I grew up as an HR professional at American Hospital Supply (AHSC) - later acquired by Baxter Healthcare.  From the first introduction to the company through thoughtful and interactive interviews, to a well articulated offer and then onboarding, I was fortunate to have a world class experience.  I can say that now. After 20 years plus in the field and working with many companies as we help them find the one, they still struggle with this work and more importantly, in getting the process right.

Joining American at the time felt like joining a family. There was great care and planning on making us feel welcome, immediately connected to resources and people that cared about our success.  Thank you Bob Ruh for inspiring me even with that high bar for performance!  We were always clear on what the responsibilities were and where the challenge could take us.  I was very early in my career and had come from a company that offered little development and almost no conversation about the business.  It taught me to take initiative.  AHSC  prepared me for doing my best work with incredibly talented people.

It is important to find the one.  And, it means getting the first part right and then ensuring that you have all the other parts in place; integrating the one into your culture, developing their skills, stretching them with challenging assignments and having a plan for development.  Oh, and I almost forgot, scheduling conversations with key influencers and your boss about how it is going and what is needed to keep you on track and engaged.

Finding the one means;

  • having regular meaningful conversation with people.  It seems many have lost that focus for there is so little time to commit to this today.  There are way more initiatives on everyone's plate and little time to reflect and care for the ones that contribute.
  • looking at entirely new options for your workforce.  Frankly, the one you want may get more excited about a gig, a project, an experience with  you rather than the full time position you have posted.  John Boudreau masterfully talks about these options in his book, Lead the Work. To continue to find the one, we now have to look at other ways for our talent to contribute.

This future of work offers a huge upside to individual workers and their leaders.  Think about it; we see how younger professionals, mid-life or late stage careerists are taking on what they want, when they want it and where they want it. Let's get over the old model of employment and think more about what "the one" defines for themselves.  You will be surprised how committed and aligned those workers will be if we ask, listen, share perspectives and help each other grow.

March 2, 2015 - No Comments!

SBCo February Newsletter: Taking Talent Global with Edwards LifeSciences

Globalization and growing talent continues to be a hot topic, so we decided to get the first-hand perspective from an ex-pat on assignment in China with a highly successful U.S. based organization. This month we talked with Thomas Hopson, Business Unit Director Greater China and Korea, at Edwards Lifeciences about the unpredictable nature of working global.

Sherry Benjamins: How did you end up as the Business Unit Director in Shanghai, China for Edwards? 

ThomasHopsonThomas Hopson: Fifteen years ago I did an international assignment in England with a different company and loved it. After I completed my EMBA in the states, I was working at Edwards and wanted another global challenge.

I approached Edwards about an international assignment and they asked if I would be interested in going to China. At the time, Edwards was struggling to bridge the gap between what our corporate office in Irvine wanted and what was actually happening in China, so I was sent to train and develop the sales and marketing teams.


SB: Wow, what a fascinating start! Now that you have been there for a few years, what is your number one objective for 2015?

TH: I really want to create the building blocks for the future. We need a stable and sustainable foundation to continue our growth. For Edwards, sustainability starts with investing in employees. We have a young tenured staff in China, so it is important to establish a culture of Edwards investing in employees for the long term.

SB: What major learnings have you had working with your team in China versus your team in Orange County?

TH: The biggest thing has been to be very clear on the message being stated and ask for confirmation of understanding. In the Chinese culture it is very difficult for people to say “no”. They end up saying “yes” even when they don’t understand because they don’t want to seem disrespectful or incompetent. I am learning the language to help ease some of the complexity, but right now it takes two times as long to deliver a message to my team through translators or translated materials.

The other learning was that the environment over here is young, vibrant, and the economy is growing. We find individuals hooked on finding the “next best” opportunity. I have had to be flexible and let go of any preconceived notions of how this workforce should think, act, or perform.

SB: You mention employees searching for “the next big thing”. How are you learning what that means?

TH: We train on everything from product, to organization development and skill building. Most importantly, I try to empower my team to have a voice and an impact. We created an Executive Sales Panel where employees have an opportunity to voice any concerns to management and we respond. The answer is not always “yes”, but at least they know they have been heard. Through this effort we learn what is important to each individual.

With such a young team, we also run into issues where employees are promoted at a rapid pace, but lack the skillset to match their new title. We have to make sure we evaluate our talent in a way that is logical and also makes the employee successful.

SB: In the U.S. we talk about the exit of Baby Boomers, the new Millennial workforce, and lack of leadership in middle management. What are the talent issues in China keeping you up at night?

TH: There is a huge leadership gap here. The workforce is young and lacks experience, which is why you see mostly ex-pats in leadership roles right now. The one child policy in China is beginning to have an impact on talent. From a business stand point, the aging population is beneficial, but it makes for a very tight talent pool.

At Edwards, we want to be seen as a career destination, not a transition company for strong talent.

SB: It sounds like you have consistently been the pioneer for people-driven initiatives.

TH: I have always loved leadership and watching people grow. I have worked harder in this role than ever before, but I have also never been more excited about my work. I can really see the effects of what we are doing here from a business and talent perspective.

On the personal front, I am learning that persistence, perseverance, and flexibility serve me well. Being in China has meant constantly learning and being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Everything from the food, to the internet, to the way work is approached is different here.

SB: I actually worked at Edwards Lifesciences at the beginning of my career. That is really where I learned how to be strategic, but at the time there weren’t global opportunities. What advice do you have for someone looking to go on a global assignment?

TH: Going global just for the sake of career advancement is the wrong reason to go. You really need a high level of curiosity, adaptability, and some thick skin to succeed in a global role.  It can also be complex as it relates to family or significant others. They need to be a part of this commitment to adventure and personal change.

SB: It seems like we could be doing more “at home” to help our leaders have a global mindset.

TH: You really have to live it to understand it. One week trips to global locations doesn’t provide you the same understanding as living it for 2-3 years. I encourage everyone to take on a global challenge. It’s been one of the best experiences for my personal and professional development.  These experiences have definitely rounded out my skillset and fine-tuned my business and people transformation skills. I am more understanding of the impact of cultures, motivators, and the unique business aspects in cultures such as China.

I was so taken by my discussion with Thomas that I could actually see myself considering an expat assignment! He creates a vision of this incredibly important work in a fascinating culture where he is learning every day. His positive perspective and commitment to learning inspired me. His family is right there with him, learning language and navigating in this unfamiliar global community.

Let us know what you are doing to develop or grow talent in China or overseas. Thanks Thomas for sharing your story of year three in Shanghai. You are clearly energized by this impactful work and we can’t wait to hear how this evolves. Unfortunately, my husband says China may not be in our plans just yet.

January 9, 2015 - No Comments!

We Can’t Assess Talent Like Cavemen

This post was originally posted on LinkedIn on January 9, 2015


Thousands of years ago, cavemen most likely roamed this earth. They survived and evolved the human race by assessing their competition, future mates, and caveman friends by how they looked. Strength, agility, and resilience all signaled that you could survive the harsh terrains, thus making you ideal talent to carry on the human gene.

Fast forward a few hundred/thousands of years and we had telephones, electricity, and cars, but limited working demographics. With this, our assessment of great talent altered a bit. We began to focus on how where people went to school, how high their IQ was, and skills they were able to learn in school.

Then, the big boom happened... an explosion of technology (hello, computers!) put people on equal playing fields. It was less about where you went to school and was more about what kind of skills or competencies you had. Can you use Microsoft Word, do you know how to read excel reports?

Now we are about to head into the next era of talent evolution... Potential. With globalization, economic turmoil, market fluctuations, and scarce talent, organizations are going to be forced to assess talent on potential. The future of talent will not be based on past performance because past performance will no longer be a gauge of future success. Think of some of the greatest talent to build technology like Instagram, SnapChat, or even Facebook. These things did not exist when those engineers went to school or even when they took their first entry level job. Most likely, these engineers were hired because Instagram, SnapChat, or Facebook felt like these engineers had the potential to build a never-before-seen technology.

How you measure potential will depend on the industry, but one thing will remain the same... We can no longer look at how tall someone is, where they graduated, or how well they did in past roles to determine who will be successful tomorrow.

Inspiration taken from

January 24, 2013 - No Comments!

January 2013 S. Benjamins & Company Newsletter: Looking Forward


By now you are probably well into 2013 planning and doing, connecting with friends, and setting priorities. I am glad we can look back at 2012 as a year of unpredictable, fast moving change along with disconcerting economic overtones. On the positive, the global economy began to recover. We averted the ‘fiscal cliff’ for now, but unemployment continues to be high, and slow growth is the name of the game, but not everywhere.

There are some very cool new areas of growth and the shortage of specific skills and experiences at the technical and managerial level continues to hold some companies back. This is a tough predicament – great numbers of folks are available yet they do not match up with the skill requirements. We see this here in So Cal and around the globe.

As I reflect on the conversations last year with our clients, there are several factors I’ve heard that will drive focus this year: the need for preparing and developing leaders doing more with less and consolidating specialty functions introducing mobile and social technologies for the soon to be five generations in the workplace working on your inside so that things get done on the outside – in the words of Stan Slap, “implementing well means to enroll the employee culture in fierce support of its strategies.”

In our search work, we've completed more searches than the previous year with a substantial amount in HR. That kept us busy in our quest of "business savvy leaders with a human resource and talent management expertise." Tough to find...the HR agenda is changing and CEO's know they need a business perspective and strategic counsel from their people leader. Karie Willyerd, of 2020 Workplace, says one of the skills of the future HR leader is being an "Executive Whisperer." We must understand how to engage, listen and ask questions that demonstrate knowledge of the business.

Before I share our playbook for 2013, I took a moment to speak with my trusted friend and business, total rewards and OD strategist, Jim Finkelstein (President of FutureSense in Northern California). Jim revealed his views for this year in key people areas:

  •    Retention of key human assets – Are you vulnerable for losing talent and intellectual capital? “They” are out there coming to get your best and brightest.   Better watch out.
  •    Total reward and motivation strategy – Is equity ownership really “da bomb” anymore? What melts people’s butter these days? We need to reinvent our approach to compensation, benefits and the 20th century thinking on these old programs.
  •    Engagement – Are you taking the steps necessary to improve accountability and action to move the employee engagement survey beyond simply scorekeeping? Engagement can produce significant results, but too many companies just worry about what percentile they are in rather than producing sustainable, meaningful results.
  •    Change leadership – Do all of your change initiatives really have sustainable paths? Or are they just quick wins and then revert back to bad habits? More change is afoot –at an unprecedented pace – as the economy starts to recover. We need to have change leaders prepared to lead and companies committed to investing the time and resources to make it happen.
  • Strategic workforce planning – Have you forecasted your needs for 5-10 years from now? Do you have control of your human capital supply chain? It is my belief that those that do the planning, and build the right strategy for the future workforce, win the talent acquisition and development game.
  •    Simplicity – In an age of purported complexity, those that realize simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication (thank you Mr. da Vinci) will become unstuck, will unlearn old habits, and will find that organization efficiency and effectiveness will improve! (see

Our 2013 Playbook – We are excited about continuing our search services, a unique project based approach to recruiting. We do this at the mid to senior level and support internal hiring teams to find the talent they need with an on-demand service model.

Congratulations to our own Kate Kjeell, who now leads our recruiting team and projects for the search practice.

She is celebrating ten years with S. Benjamins & Company, during which time she has been a recruiter, a project lead and a recruiting process advisor to our clients.

Training internal recruiting teams will continue this year as we have developed a flexible, virtual coaching model to help recruiters be the “strategic talent advisor” and engage hiring managers in a mutually shared process.

In the area of learning forums; we will continue our 14th year of the HRoundtable for Orange County top level HR leaders. We bring new ideas, provocative thinking and robust dialogue to a group of 25 on a quarterly basis.

We are launching a new HRoundtable for emerging leaders in HR for the LA and Orange County community, which promises a rich exchange of ideas and learning for Directors who are driving business change.

We will also test the concept of virtual meetings and introduce digital marketing, use of mobile and social mediums to connect thought leaders with our clients and colleagues.

You will see our Newsletters continue with stories about leaders being innovative, taking risks and addressing new challenges. In my quest to bring new ideas to you and “master the best of what others have figured out,” check out www.farnamstreetblog.

January 20, 2013 - No Comments!

2013 Time for Planning

Workforce Planning Presentaton2012.2013

It seems strange to me that we have been discussing workforce planning for years and few take the plunge.  Here is a presentation I have used several times with top HR leaders.  There is agreement that forecasting people needs is just like financial or sales forecasting.  It is essential as a business partner and not too late to raise this flag.  It starts with a new conversation with your leaders.  All of the reasons for taking this action are coming into play in the next few years - we have a looming global talent shortage upon us - by 2020 there will be a short fall of millions of global college graduates.  90 % of the world population will be urban and city centered and population growth will be in decline.  There is plenty of data that says Now is the Time.  Let us know what you are doing to start the wheels turning in your organization.

Published by: admin in Talent Economy

December 31, 2012 - No Comments!

We are all in Sales Now!

I remember one of my first jobs in college where I was to earn money by knocking on doors selling printing services for a local printer.  He gave me the flyers and said, "go to it." I started with the easy ones, folks I knew but after my dad and a good friend of the family, I was lost.  It was stressful to say the least. I came home and decided that whatever my college years prepared me for, it was not going to be in sales.

Needless to say, my opinion of sales back then was in line with what Dan Pink introduces as "the old mind-set of the sleezy sales person" and how much this has changed for we now all sell in one way or another.   I recommend his new book, To Sell Is Human. By the way, I have adopted relationship selling and genuine curiosity in others as we built our consulting company over the past 20 years.  I am sold.

Dan shares some amazing statistics as a result of his research that "people are now spending up to 40% of their time in non-sales, or persuading, influencing and convincing others that don't involve a purchase.  Across all disciplines we are devoting 24 minutes of every hour in persuading others.  Wow, this surprised me for sure and I started thinking about how sales has changed so dramatically in the past 20 years.

The book makes a compelling argument that we are all in sales now and we come to our negotiations with others armed with so much more data, information from our own research that this world of selling has been turned upside down.  If we are not good at asking questions and putting ourselves in others shoes, we will struggle with getting our points made or even see any change.

I appreciate that Dan does not see himself as a salesperson, but he clearly demonstrates in the examples and real case studies that sharing information and presenting new ideas is more important than selling a book.  He is all about moving others but what is delightful here, is that he starts with "what will move us" and that it starts here.  How great to start the new year with this idea that it starts with us.  Is there a surprising truth for you as you evaluate your own ability to influence others?

Published by: admin in Talent Economy
Tags: , , ,