We were at HR Tech 2022 and got a chance to sit down with Russell Klosk, managing director in Accenture’s strategy practice, talent and organization where he runs the global workforce planning practice.

What do we need to differently to level up our HR game? Talent acquisition is important, but what about talent creation? You don’t need to hunt for talent when you have the resources to up-skill your employees. Find out what Russell has to say about workforce planning.

Quotes from Russell:

“I can and I’ll start by saying it’s not workforce management. We’re not talking about labor scheduling and how many people do you put at how many cash registers in your supermarket. That’s important to be certain, but that’s more transactional and near term focused.”

“When we talk about workforce planning we’re trying to get a perspective on, what does my workforce need to look like over a given time horizon? So a year from now, three years from now. If I get into the strategic elements of it, five, seven, nine years from now and we’re basically building capabilities that look at it at the job level, at the skill level that allow you to do modeling to say, what if I do this, If I use contingent labor instead of direct labor? What if I put bots into my process and I want to do a massive RPA play? Which jobs are going to change and just as importantly, when are they going to change?”

This HR Tech 2022 series was hosted and brought to you by our friends and partners at Gem!

Russell Klosk
Managing Director Strategy Talent & Organization Accenture Follow Follow

Introduction (00:04):
School is in session. This is RecruitingDaily Sourcing School podcast. We’re recording from HR Tech in Vegas. Thanks to our friends and partners at Gem. Sharpen your pencils and get your sourcing pants on because we have the scoop on sourcing news, recruiting tech and all the hot topics that you need to learn about. Here’s your professor, Ryan Leary with special guests Shally Steckerl and Mike “Batman” Cohen.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (00:31):
Hello. Welcome to Sourcing School. Really, really excited. This is actually our first guest at HR Tech, so no pressure on this one. Joining us today, we’ve got Russell Klosk from Accenture. Little known company. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Russell, welcome to the show.

Russell Klosk (00:50):
Thank you. No pressure first.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (00:51):
Yeah. No, you’re going to do great. It’s awesome. And we’ve been chatting before this a little nerd culture, a little business. So I want to jump in and give you the opportunity to take 30 seconds, introduce yourself to everybody so we know who we’re talking to.

Russell Klosk (01:05):
Sure. So as you said, Russell Klosk. I’m a managing director in Accenture’s strategy practice, talent and organization. I run our global workforce planning practice. I’m responsible as the sub offering lead for our HR analytics capability as well. I’m client facing, so I build Fortune 1000 companies. And basically to oversimplify HR transformation in the extreme, we’re building new capabilities for them to take advantage of the technology that exists out there and the challenges that we’re all having is wonderfully changed world of the last three years.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (01:38):
Oh yeah, don’t we know it. Awesome. And thank you for taking the time to join us. I know it’s a hectic conference filled with tons of stuff to take our attention. So we have a special guest who’s joined us both on this podcast as well as, if we can share this news.

Martin Burns (01:58):
It can be shared.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (01:59):
Oh, we have Mr. Martin Burns who is now with…

Martin Burns (02:05):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (02:06):
Martin, introduce yourself, tell everybody who you are.

Martin Burns (02:08):
Yeah, I’m Martin Burns, RecruitingDaily officially and I am special, need to wear helmet special, but thank you for that at least. Yeah, I joined on Friday, so three days ago, I guess. But I’ve known the team here for forever. I’ve known William, everybody else and Noel, Ryan, et cetera. And I’m joining to serve as editor in chief or managing editor, whatever my title is of recruitingdaily.com. So all the content planning, strategy, et cetera, talent management as well as building us some new business lines for the organization. So a of couple things.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (02:42):
Beautiful, beautiful. Good. Got a packed house here. So question Russell, I know we’re talking about sourcing. You do workforce planning. We were talking about this before we jumped on about how those things should be better integrated and they’re not. So when talking about workforce planning for anybody who’s listening who’s maybe hardcore sourcing or hardcore recruiting and maybe doesn’t understand the full scope of what workforce planning looks like at these enterprise companies you’re dealing with, can you give a quick synopsis?

Russell Klosk (03:10):
I can and I’ll start by saying it’s not workforce management. We’re not talking about labor scheduling and how many people do you put at how many cash registers in your supermarket. That’s important to be certain, but that’s more transactional and near term focused. When we talk about workforce planning we’re trying to get a perspective on, what does my workforce need to look like over a given time horizon? So a year from now, three years from now. If I get into the strategic elements of it, five, seven, nine years from now and we’re basically building capabilities that look at it at the job level, at the skill level that allow you to do modeling to say, what if I do this, If I use contingent labor instead of direct labor? What if I put bots into my process and I want to do a massive RPA play? Which jobs are going to change and just as importantly, when are they going to change?

And then when we start dealing with some of the recruiting metrics, it’s one thing for the first day of the fiscal year for a recruiter to get a thousand open racks dropped down their head and everybody does it, absolutely everybody. It’s something else if the same thousand racks are spread out and it’s 250 a quarter and you know which jobs are going to be. It allows you, one, to have less of a recruiting team that can be more proactive and, two, to focus your dollars where they’re going to help you build these pipelines. And you can model that against contingent labor and other things and say, for example, say you have a recruiting process that isn’t as effective as you need it to be and you have 90 days to fill or something like that.

Well, if I need to hire 250 people and I know it’s going to take me 90 days to fill each of those racks and I need them sooner than that, then I can have a contingent labor curve that would trail off in 120 days, 130 days. And that way I can still get my work done.

So basically with workforce planning we’re doing the same thing that finance has always done and we’re putting in the line manager’s hand the ability to make talent decisions based on what is the workforce capable of today, what do they need to look like tomorrow and what am I going to have to do to do that?

Now, the execution is actually in the talent management and the recruiting and the employee development in the succession, all of those other things. But you’re putting the models behind it and that what if analysis to plan for three years ago, right? No one did it. Well, I stand corrected. DOD had a plan, they didn’t think of it as a pandemic, they thought of as an attack, but no one did it. But there’s no reason they couldn’t have, the technology, the capability was there and we should have learned because in 2008 no one did that either but they could have, right?

So what we’ve seen though, 14 million open jobs, 4 million people available to fill them, none of them have the right skills. This reality of the world we live in is all of a sudden this thing that has existed basically since the Visigoths got hot and it got hot because the technology and the algorithms finally caught up to where I can do it affordably for a line manager. I can go bottoms up. I don’t have to put it everywhere. I can put it in one function or one division and still get plenty of ROI and change the way I do business.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (06:02):
Yeah, [inaudible 00:06:05] cutting out on my side. Sorry about that. Was cutting out on my mic. So a lot of stuff that I heard in there and I want to take some of that and dissect it. So one of the things that I heard, obviously, workforce planning sounds to me like a combination of technology and process. It’s not one or the other.

Russell Klosk (06:23):
And governance. It’s all three.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (06:25):
Okay. Talk to me about the governance piece.

Russell Klosk (06:27):
So workforce planning is an operational construct at the end of the day. You’re trying to solve your problems in your SCO and or organization. How do we do business? How do we make what we make? How do we do our R&D? How do we sell it? How do we deliver it? HR’s an enablement mechanism. For it to work, HR needs to own the technology. They have to drive common process so I can roll it up, so I can formulate my recruiting budgets, my sourcing budgets, my training budgets, whatever it might be. But you’re actually looking at the business and saying, the machine says that you need to hire 15 people, but the way we actually do business, I actually need to hire 17 because fifteen’s never worked because. And there’s an element of storytelling in there.

With all due respect to HR business partners, the good ones certainly know how the business makes money. That’s not the same as doing the job. You need someone in the business that’s doing the job you’re trying to write the workforce plans around.

So what we find is in the governance there’s a COE of some sort in HR, small one, and someone’s got to run the technology, of course. But the workforce planners themselves, they end up being rotational assignments within the business. So you take one of your engineers off the line for a year and a half and make them your workforce planner. They get a rotation through HR, they become a better leader for it and you have someone that’s answering the questions for the projects that understands how they work.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (07:42):
Wow. If you could see my face just now, my eyebrows just raised up to my scalp. The idea of taking the day to day in the trenches user practitioner and making that person kind of the SME, if you will, is that a practice that you’re seeing more and more companies going to or even companies that have been doing this for a while?

Russell Klosk (08:06):
Yeah, the ones that do it well do it that way. There’s a practical aspect to it here. So one of the things you missed is finance is involved in this too. So there’s this annual finance capacity planning exercise, which in my head, count budget be next year. Workforce planning done is usually updated on a quarterly basis but it’s a report to get the finance answer with much more granularity than they’re used to having. And so they’re in there.

And then we’ve all worked in big companies. In big companies, the accountants run the show and HR is an overhead function. And so for HR to go out and say we need to hire 30 people because we’re going to do workforce planning for our 500,000 person workforce is a heck of a hard sell.

For HR to say we’re going to hire three people. We’re going to build this capability and then each of the businesses that wants, it’s going to have to hire one in their budget where the money is made, that’s a much easier sell from a practical point of view as well.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (08:58):
Yeah, getting the executives or getting the business and stakeholders involved earlier than later is kind of what that sounds like. Martin, any thoughts on this?

Russell Klosk (09:08):
No, it makes sense because you’re getting buy in. They’re committing into it early in and they gave us… I’m too far away from the mic. They have more skin in the game and they’re usually the ones asking for it. I would love to say HR comes to the table and says, “We can do this for you,” on rare occasions. Usually it’s the business going, “You’re not meeting my needs. This is what I need.” And HR at least being smart enough to go, “Okay, we can do that. Let’s figure out how we do that.” HR becomes the enabler but not the driver.

I mean, a good HR department today, and this is what I love about sourcing because it’s always been the most strategic of the HR functions even at its most transactional because without them, it doesn’t work, but a good HR department today is data driven. It’s analytics, it’s a business partner the same way finance has been for decades. I think we’re finally at a point where most of the HR practitioners that couldn’t make the pivot are no longer in the profession. But we’re still learning how to do it as a profession. It’s a different skill. It’s a different muscle.

The days of I went into HR or personnel, if we go back, I went into personnel because social work doesn’t pay very well but I want to do this. Those days are long behind us and it’s all data driven. And so what can you do with that data? Whereas finance has been saying that for decades. This is what you can afford. Look, here’s a dashboard.

I usually draw this example. There’s two types of companies at their most basic. There are fast follower companies and there are those that want to be absolutely out front inventing the world. And both models can be very highly successful. Microsoft is a fast follower company. There’s no arguing with the results. Google’s a fast follower company. There’s no arguing with the results. Switch to life sciences and J&J and Merck want to be our Pfizer, they want be out front, right?

Wonderful models on both sides. So how do you take that and apply it into an HR department and apply it into a sourcing function and say this is what we can actually do with our talent? Or if you want to do this thing in your business plan, this is what we have to change them to. And in some cases it’s training and in some cases we just got to switch it. But it’s an informed, data driven decision as opposed to just, yeah, we’d like to be the best at this, so let’s go hire some people and we’ll be the best at this. Let’s just work harder.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (11:26):
So I have a final question because we’re approaching the end of our time here. And you brought up the idea of sourcing. We talked about this a little bit beforehand and that integration into the business units. Based on your experience working with all these enterprises, what do you think a successful or the most successful way that a company can integrate workforce planning in sourcing? Because to your point, most are not doing that well.

Russell Klosk (11:50):
No. So less than 10%, and that might be optimistic right now. This is something people are spending a lot of money on. So that’s going to go up because the world caught up and they need to. And even in a downturn, even if the hiring wave slows down and we’ve passed the point, there’s not enough people, the demographics are what they are. And so we can have a recession, we’re still going to have open jobs, which we’ve never had before.

So the best place that this can interface is where that workforce planner and the recruiting team… And recruiting teams are typically assigned to functions or business units. It’s not, hey, you just do everything. Some exceptions. But we’re there talking to each other all the time because workforce planning done well, you update it quarterly and you say, what did I think would happen? What actually happened? Let’s adjust. And then you get this five year rolling projection.

And you put weights on different things and the recruiting team is out there in the real world and they’re going, “Yeah, I know our days to fill is 45, but you’re looking for a unicorn and it’s going to take longer than that. And so you should build a workforce plan that says 180 days and let’s figure out how we’re going to do the work.” And vice versa, to my earlier example.

My job as a recruiter is astronomically easier if you tell me what I’m going to have to hire for the next year. Can I do it exact? No. But can I get 80%? And then if you win the lottery tomorrow and you don’t show up for work, that’s still going to happen. I’ll deal with the one-offs, right?

Mike “Batman” Cohen (13:10):
We hope so.

Russell Klosk (13:12):
But the 80% is still 80% and that’s an astronomically more operationally effective recruiting function. And recruiters get yelled at a lot like, what have you done for me lately? It’s not their fault. One person can only source so many things at a time, can only run so many people through. For all the automation, and there’s a lot of it, it’s still a relationship at some point. Someone’s saying yes because they like the recruiter and they like the hiring manager.

I can automate all kinds of pieces on the initial sourcing and some of the screening, but at some point that relationship still needs to exist. I want my recruiter spending time there. And so if they work closely with the workforce planning, they get to spend their time there.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (13:54):
Okay, I love that.

Martin Burns (13:56):
I know we’re getting close to time here, but where does L&D come into play as far as taking the pipeline and kind of retraining it so it’s ready to go?

Russell Klosk (14:05):
So in the models, ideally you’re doing it skills. You can certainly do it at a job level, but the deep deeper you can get. I put automation into my finance department. Fairly common thing that’s going on right now. I have 14 people in that department today. Three years from now when that goes live, I’m going to need six. And here’s how the job’s changed. And so there’s two questions that get asked. Instead of these 10 skills, you need these three that overlap and these seven new ones. And not just which ones do you need, but when.

Because we’ve all gone through training and then you don’t get to use it for a year and then you got to go through the training again before you can use it. So L&D comes in there and it also comes into we started to see the shift. You hire toward aptitude instead of specific skillset.

So can I pick up the fifth generation language? Can I pick up the sixth generation language? How fast can I do it? As opposed to, do I have 10 years of coding and C++? With that aptitude shift, there’s always going to be a learning curve. And so I need clear identification and visibility to what skills do you have? What skills do you need? When do you need them? And L&D becomes a key function of, I know it’s your first day, fill out your paperwork. Now get over there because we got to train you how we do things.

Martin Burns (15:10):
I’m also curious on that same kind of note is, should we start looking more for folks who have unique skills to learn? Should that be required by the ability to learn new skills?

Russell Klosk (15:21):
Depends on the company. Depends on the job. But as a general rule, yeah, I would say aptitude to acquire new skills. It used to be you could do the same thing for five years and everyone would put in a new system and then you change everything. Cloud doesn’t work that way. It updates once a quarter. The world’s moving faster than it ever moved and it’s not going to slow down. The one constant, it’s going to go faster and faster.

My boss used to say you have to reinvent yourself every three years. Now she says 18 months.

Martin Burns (15:46):
Every three months.

Russell Klosk (15:47):
In some ways. So it depends on the job. But yeah, I think there’s this massive shift, hiring toward aptitude rather than traditional experience.

Martin Burns (15:56):
Yeah, I agree. In my mind as a recruiter, that should be one of your key requirements.

Russell Klosk (16:02):
And it’s a little harder to quantify and therefore it’s a little harder in the-

Martin Burns (16:06):
It’s squishier.

Russell Klosk (16:07):
Yeah. So it’s not impossible, but it’s just a little harder in your screening process. And so you make those a little bit more robust and you go after it a little bit.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (16:17):
[inaudible 00:16:15]. Awesome. Thank you again for your time. I always like to end this way when I’m talking to someone, which is there’re going to be a ton of people listening to this. What is one thing that you would want to leave them with?

Russell Klosk (16:29):
I would leave them with the old motto of if you’re going to do 100% percent anything, 80% of it is plan the work, work the plan. That’s the strategy. It’s not about the strategic elements of where should I invest? It’s create the ability so that I can plan and I can pivot and I can model out in real time what’s likely to happen if I do that. Because then it’s informed and it’s not… People think these things are incredibly complex and you need massive analytic capabilities. You don’t. You need to spend a little time and a little money to get these things to work, but we’re not talking tens of millions of dollars. We’re not.

Three, six, nine months. You can get this stuff up and running and your ROI is inside of six months after it’s up and running.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (17:11):
Wow. Wow. Measure twice, cut once.

Russell Klosk (17:13):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (17:14):
Awesome. Well, thank you again. I really appreciate you taking the time. We will get you out of here. Y’all, let’s hear it for HR Tech and Russell.

Sourcing School Podcast

Ryan Leary

Ryan Leary helps create the processes, ideas and innovation that drives RecruitingDaily. He’s our in-house expert for anything related to sourcing, tools or technology. A lead generation and brand buzz building machine, he has built superior funnel systems for some of the industries top HR Tech and Recruitment brands. He is a veteran to the online community and a partner here at RecruitingDaily.

Michael Cohen

Mike “Batman” Cohen is the Founder of Wayne Technologies, a Sourcing-on-Demand and Recruitment Training Organization. Wayne Technologies On-Demand Sourcing is a revolutionary approach that provides the most actionable data available, is based on deliverables – not time, and is based on access to more recruitment tooling than any organization worldwide.

Shally Steckerl

One of the pioneers of the sourcing discipline, Shally is the Founder and former President of The Sourcing Institute, where he has helped numerous F500 and mid-market organizations train and develop their talent sourcing capabilities for nearly 20 years. When it comes to innovative approaches to candidate search, Shally literally wrote the book. He is the author of the industry-standard textbook “The Talent Sourcing and Recruitment Handbook” as well as “The Sourcing Method: Tactics to Find Unfindable Talent.”


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