Talent Edge Weekly - Issue #232

Strategic workforce planning, recruiting overlooked talent pools, evidenced-based HR, micromanagement, and Dell's new return-to-office policy.


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Below is a glance at this week’s content. A deep dive follows. 

Also, check out the job cuts tracker & Chief HR Officer hire of the week.

Let’s dive in. ⬇️



My one-page framework to jumpstart discussions for SWP.

Strategic workforce planning (SWP) remains a priority for many organizations, yet practitioners still struggle to implement it effectively. One reason for this challenge is the overwhelming nature of deciding where to begin. In such instances, simple frameworks can provide invaluable guidance. This one-page visual comprises six key questions to steer SWP efforts: 1) Strategy. What is our strategic focus? 2) Capabilities. What strategic capabilities are most vital to strategy execution? 3) Roles and Skills. What roles and skills disproportionately enable these capabilities? 4) Supply and Demand. What is the supply and demand risk for these roles and skills? 5) Gaps. Which role and skill gaps present the greatest risks? 6) Actions. What actions do we take in roles and skills with the greatest risks (e.g., buy, build, borrow, automate, etc?). While SWP entails addressing more questions than these six (e.g., how do workforce plans need to shift for different business scenarios?), you can use this framework as a starting point for determining the questions you want your SWP to answer. I have included a copy of my slide in PowerPoint so you can modify it as you see fit. For more on strategic capabilities, you can check out my 2016 article, Linking Talent Strategy with Business Strategy. 


Ideas for designing a recruiting strategy to reach overlooked talent pools.

Many organizations continue to face challenges in attracting and hiring talent to meet their needs. However, as highlighted in this Gartner article, recruiting practices often overlook unconventional talent segments possessing valuable skills. A few of these segments include 1) candidates who are near or past the traditional retirement age but are still working, 2) individuals with career gaps or who have switched careers, 3) those lacking four-year degrees, and 4) individuals with criminal records. Additional examples of less obvious talent segments are illustrated in Figure 2. The article introduces a three-step framework to not only attract and recruit unconventional talent but also enhance overall recruiting strategies. They include: 1) Identify roles with the least resistance for access, 2) Empower hiring managers regardless of their DEI maturity, and 3) Address and mitigate hiring manager resistance stemming from fear. For step 1—preidentifying roles that offer the least resistance—tactics include prioritizing roles with extended fill times, low application rates, and high growth rates. The article offers questions to further assess opportunities for attracting and recruiting non-traditional talent segments.


A curated list of 4 research studies that can help inform talent practices.

As HR and talent practitioners increasingly turn to evidence-based research to inform talent management and workplace practices, here's my one-page cheat sheet with four studies on: return-to-office mandates, work-from-home impact on working mothers, performance feedback, and internal mobility. For instance: 1) Return-to-office (RTO) mandates: a study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that a) no significant changes were observed in S&P 500 firms' financial performance or stock market value after RTO mandates. b) However, Glassdoor data suggests that RTO mandates negatively affected employee satisfaction. 2) Performance feedback. In this study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers from Cornell University discovered that underperforming women receive less truthful but kinder performance feedback than equally underperforming men, signaling a need for more transparent and fair feedback practices. Scientific literature and empirical studies can help HR professionals guide their organizations toward more informed decision-making that minimizes reliance on trends, biases, and anecdotal information.


3 questions to help managers identify their tendency to micromanage.

Having a supportive and involved manager provides workers with many well-documented benefits. However, what happens when managers provide their direct reports with unnecessary or unwanted help and “micromanage” their team? Research shows that micromanagement of others can have a negative impact on things such as employee morale and performance. This new article shares three questions to help managers and leaders identify their micromanagement tendencies and avoid such behavior: 1) Are you always giving your team “advice”? 2) Do you need to approve every decision your team members make? 3) Do you consider feedback a one-way street? Regarding the need to approve every decision, the author suggests that managers should discern which stages require their input rather than intervening at every step. They can ask: What high-stakes items/tasks require oversight or approval? What lower-stakes tasks/items can be delegated or trusted to the team? Additionally, I'm sharing a bonus resource, the MIT Sloan Management Review article, Effective Leaders Decide About Deciding. It provides managers and leaders with a framework for communicating when they can be kept out of a decision, when they should be pulled in, and how requests for their feedback should be communicated.


Raises concerns about the potential legal ramifications of Dell’s new RTO policy.

Organizations continue to announce updates to their return-to-office (RTO) mandates, encompassing changes such as increasing the number of required in-office days, restricting specific days to work remotely, and incorporating workers’ compliance with RTO mandates into their performance reviews. One organization that continues to receive much attention from its most recent RTO announcement is Dell Technologies, which informed workers that they are being categorized into two main groups: remote and hybrid. Hybrid workers must agree to work from an “approved” Dell office at least 39 days each quarter (equivalent to three days per week). Remote classified workers, while exempt from the RTO policy, will not be considered for promotions or be able to change roles unless they are reclassified as "hybrid onsite." This new Fortune article raises concerns about the potential legal ramifications of this practice, particularly regarding discrimination under laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The policy change could disproportionately affect women and individuals with disabilities. This post is not about singling out Dell and its RTO policy. It is more about drawing attention to the multi-faceted components of RTO mandates and their potential unintended consequences. In case you missed it, here’s my document summarizing the RTO updates of 11 organizations.


More and more organizations are becoming skill-based. At the center of this transformation is a skill framework. Explore what this means in our guide.




A new 49-page report to help organizations unlock the benefits of AI in recruiting and hiring while reducing risks. It outlines considerations for organizations before procuring an AI platform, including identifying problems to solve, communicating AI usage to applicants, evaluating system capabilities, and assessing the need for employee training or resources.


Check out my tracker of announcements from a segment of organizations that have conducted job cuts and layoffs since the start of 2023.

Partial view of tracker on brianheger.com

A few job cuts announced this past week

  • Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ: AMZN). Has cut hundreds of jobs in sales, training, and the physical store tech group. The company said that a portion of the cuts are due to a shift in its focus to self-serve digital training and training programs run by external partners.

  • Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL). The company is laying off some 600 people who worked on expensive R&D projects, such as Apple's secretive electric-vehicle work, and a complex in-house project to make brighter smartwatch screens with microLED technology.

  • Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C). Has reportedly implemented a new round of job cuts in its U.S. investment bank business as part of its planned restructuring efforts. Bankers in the technology, media, and telecom space are likely to be affected.

Click here to access all listed announcements.


​​​​Merck (RAHWAY, NEW JERSEY) [NYSE: MRK]—the multinational pharmaceutical company— has announced the appointment of Betty Larson as EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer. Larson brings 20 years of healthcare experience to the role. She succeeds Steve Mizell, who is retiring after holding the post for 5 years. Larson joins Merck from GE Healthcare, where she most recently served as Chief People Officer. Before GE Healthcare, Larson was EVP, CHRO at Becton Dickinson (BD) for 4 years.

Betty Larson

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The study gauged leaders’ perceptions regarding the future importance of 32 HR and people management practices for their organization and their company’s current capability in these areas. Exhibit 5 on page 7 categorizes these 32 practices into high, medium, and low urgency based on their combined future importance and current capability scores. Strategic workforce planning remains in the top two most urgent priorities.


Did you miss the “Best of March” issue of Talent Edge Weekly? If so, check out issue #230, which includes 15 of the most popular resources from the month.


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Talent Edge Weekly is a free weekly newsletter that brings together the best talent and strategic human resources insights from various sources. It is published every Sunday at 6 PM EST.

Talent Edge Weekly is written by Brian Heger, an internal human resources practitioner. You can connect with Brian on Linkedin, X, and brianheger.com