This interview with Dagmar Christianson, Head of Workforce Transformation at ProFinda, explores the best practices for resource optimization, and the lessons learned through her work with ProFinda’s marquee clients.
What role do the partners and engagement managers tend to play in resourcing?
They are the people who potentially stand to benefit the most from resource optimization, which can drive up utilization rates in business by ensuring that people are matched to work quickly, and also drive up project quality levels by ensuring people are matched to work effectively. Unfortunately, all- too often leaders are working within siloes and prioritizing their own business unit, which leads to inefficiencies overall. So for a transformation like this to be really effective, they need to be incentivised to resource-share and facilitate mobility. If the entire operating model doesn’t incentivise them to do anything other than protect their P&L and keep control of their best people, you can improve resourcing practices, but you aren’t going to achieve full-on resource optimization. Workforce members need to feel comfortable doing things such as expressing interest in a role – things that could be seen to challenge the old “command and control” style of working. So senior stakeholder buy-in is really important, to create than environment of trust, and to truly transform the core resourcing workflow, you need everyone working towards the same goal.
How can technology drive more equitable resourcing?
The workflow for allocating resource can prompt the resourcing manager and engagement manager to provide a reason for a decision. So you can start to understand not just who is being allocated to what, but why, and cross-reference this directly with the matching scores as a sense check. This creates an audit trail of decision-making around resourcing, and a lens on the equitability of opportunities being offered to workforce members. With this kind of data, resource managers can become a bit more like proactive workforce planners, with a strategic view on how work is being allocated across the business. This can inform EDI initiatives, business efficiency projects, and many aspects of the talent agenda.
Roles are offered up to employees through a marketplace – can there be any unintended consequences?
So, it’s a spectrum, and there’s a balance to be struck between the old style of linear career progression, and the more fluid style of having a marketplace of opportunities that people can autonomously navigate. You don’t want a total free-for-all where everyone chooses all their work, and you don’t want the other side where there is complete command-and-control with zero visibility. The thing is, If you only post a tiny subset of your total demand on the system, the level of engagement will be lower and you’ll lose the trust of the workforce member. The more you use it, the more valuable it becomes to the individual user logging on. That’s when you can really develop an active marketplace that is valuable to engagement managers and workforce members alike. The role of the resource manager, with the help of ProFinda is to orchestrate that balance so that people get matched to the right roles, and there is a healthy balance of career autonomy, stretch opportunities and inclusive experience, alongside utilization, project requirements and business needs being met. That is optimization.
What are the best resource management functions doing?
They tend to have the highest level of executive stakeholder buy-in. They have the COO saying “we can’t go on staffing projects the old way… something has to change”, and that creates a burning platform and an energy to really drive a transformation. For those that aren’t fortunate enough to be in that scenario – making the case for resource optimization, building trust and stakeholder buy-in, and elevating the role of the resourcing function in the eyes of the C-Suite is a top priority.
What are the biggest hurdles to overcome with a resourcing transformation effort?
From a technical perspective, we are often having to navigate legacy systems that are really out of date, and out of sync with each other. This means there isn’t one single source of truth for resourcing, which is critical to establish in order to realize value in supply & demand reporting and skills matching. We leverage bidirectional integrations with systems like SAP SuccessFactors for profile skills data, and CRM systems for data on work demand, so we reduce a lot of effort on the users. It helps the system become very embedded and easily used. There’s an element of data transformation pre-work that I recommend to ensure all demand and supply is in the same place to create a single source of truth.
On the human side, legacy non-integrated systems leave resource managers scrambling to flip between platforms, making it difficult for them to make informed decisions. When you’re trying to stamp out the shoulder taps and informal resourcing practices that lead to bias and sub-optimal resource allocation, resource managers need to be armed with the data to do their job and manage stakeholders effectively. Those informal resourcing behaviours are really, really hard to break, but if you can, you can can make resourcingmore equitable and transparent and start to shrink that gap between what the business wants and the individual needs.
What can be done to challenge outdated behaviours when it comes to resource?
In simple terms it means getting the process integrated and comprehensive enough that the norm becomes “I don’t get a resource, unless I put the request through ProFinda”. The project would sit empty if they go outside the best practice process (i.e. phone call or email) – and that needs to be enforced. So part of that is around best practice integration design, making it as tight and occlusive as possible, with no easy work-arounds outside the system. The workflow needs to be designed in a way that makes sense for everyone, is user-friendly, and there is not reason to go outside the system. There is significant change effort with any technology transformation, but behaviours around resourcing tend to be so deeply embedded that it takes a lot of effort. The frequency of communications needed and the expectation management required can be underestimated. This needs constant reinforcement to help the change take place, and the clients we have that have made the most progress towards resource optimization have put a lot of thought and effort into the change communications across different user groups.
How do you encourage people to make the changes necessary for resourcing to become more effective?
One of the biggest challenges to navigate is the balance of carrot and stick to make this successful, and everyone involved needs a really strong “what’s in it for me”. For a workforce member the carrot might be “I want to be able to see transparently the opportunities across the organization and where I can progress” – and having their use of the system considered as part of their performance review and ongoing coaching conversations. For engagement managers it may be “I want to resource projects more quickly and effectively to increase utilization” – and their use of the system again can be considered when evaluating their utilization efficacy.
The trouble with incentivisation and linkage to reviews and so on, is that the ”stick” tends not to get enforced. For example, validating the skills on your profile to ensure they are accurate and up-to-date, is a simple and highly automated task – but if people don’t login to do it – the quality of profiles will suffer. We do as much as we can to automate the input and the maintenance of the individual profiles to create minimal effort for the workforce member – some validation and input is required, but it’s really light touch. The stronger the profiles and engagement are the more value you get out of the system, and the more matches get successfully made, which creates a positive feedback loop. You need that really strong baseline layer of quality for resourcing to flourish. So maintaining profile quality needs to be a regular piece of compliance that is monitored – the same way you would monitor completion of mandatory training. That needs to be held to account with practice leaders.
When ProFinda is tied to annual objectives and it becomes a key part of coaching and compliance conversations, the value increases exponentially. We even have some of our most progressive clients who are now associating use of ProFinda with compensation and benefits as they advance their journey towards a skills-based organisation (SBO).
What role should the resource manager ideally play?
When the technology is in place to automate some of the old manual tasks that used to form part of the role – the resource manager can take a more active role in employee experience managing and expectation setting. ProFinda can show you the hotspots of who is being staffed and where, and this can uncover whether talent hoarding is taking place, if there are underutilized groups, or if there are people whose work experience isn’t aligning to their preferences and they are becoming flight risks. As an experience manager, it’s important to use this as a career management tool and help match people to work that is beneficial for their development. At present, with legacy systems, resource managers are not always equipped with the data to advocate for an employee seeking a stretch assignment, or needing exposure to a new area of the business. So, armed with the technology and data to augment and inform their decisions, resource managers can really make a difference and add value to the employee experience. They need to be change champions and career orchestrators who optimize the fit between people and work.
Thanks for reading our interview with Dagmar Christianson!
Overcoming these resourcing challenges to ensure that the right people are matched to the right work, and enable resource optimization across a business has historically been very difficult. That’s why ProFinda is designed to find the optimal team or person for any work assignment in seconds. If you’d like to learn more about resource optimization, and what ProFinda can do to help – get in touch!