Adecco Group’s Kathy Kane Talks Workforce Planning

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Adecco Team at SHRM

It’s SHRM Day in Atlanta, according to the city’s mayor Kasim Reed, and Adecco Group’s Kathy Kane held an early morning session on contemporary workforce planning and how HR professionals can plan for their workforces going forward.

Kane, SVP, Talent Management, at Adecco Group, started out her discussion by telling the audience that their HR strategy needs to be aligned with their company’s business strategy, and it should in fact, enable that business strategy. “You don’t make money without talent,” she said. “Everything you do should be centered around workforce strategy.”

In planning a workforce strategy, Kane said, HR professionals need to look at where they are today, what they need that picture to look like tomorrow and how do they get there. She drilled down even further and said that a workforce strategy needed to have two elements: a business focus and a workforce focus.

This business focus involves understanding your company’s business strategy. “Business strategies are going to change all the time, but the business leaders aren’t always going to think about the talent implications,” said Kane, telling the audience that the goal is to have their leaders think of them as they’re devising strategies, as alignment is paramount.

Kane also said that HR professionals need to be comfortable with financial strategies, for example, understanding where their companies are investing in growth and allocating its funds. They should also turn their attention externally, which means knowing what analysts who are covering their company are saying about their business and going on competitors’ websites. “HR people may not do this, but we must,” urged Kane.

She then discussed the workforce focus of the workforce strategy and first mentioned the need for an internal assessment of talent that could end up being “painful or surprising.” In addition to an internal assessment of talent, the workforce focus of their strategy should include an external look at labor availability, a gap analysis and then they should model various workforce solutions.

Kane then offered tips on how this workforce strategy can come together, which HR professionals can do by starting small. Some things to keep in mind:

You are creating a decision-making framework: Help your management make decisions

Metrics and analysis: You can start by picking one metric and use that to find out what you have and need, which can be used to engage your business leaders

Identify the levers: Learning and development, for instance, would be a lever to move a workforce strategy.

She also pointed out the significance of knowledge transfer when designing this action plan, i.e., who has the knowledge, how it can be shared and how long it will take. And this transfer can take place through learning and development, or even offering incentives to retiring professionals who can stay on board and share what they know with remaining staff.

Kane then shared an example of a highly sophisticated workforce planning process, but insisted that HR professionals shouldn’t feel compelled to develop something with that level of complexity from the start. But they should use the following key takeaways as a blueprint: Use a continually updated business plan; segment and prioritize your workforce; provide analytical data and information; use sophisticated software; and make sure the workforce plan resonates across the business and HR.

The benefits of such a workforce strategy could mean better alignment in the business and preparation for contingencies, said Kane. The risk of not having one is that competitors might beat you to the punch, you’ll experience employee turnover and Baby Boomers will retire without sufficient knowledge transfer.

Kane concluded her presentation with a quote: “Planning without action is futile, but action without planning can be fatal,” she said.

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