How Can CIOs Gain Visibility To Provide Strategic Workforce Planning? A Webinar with CIO Jane Moran

I had the pleasure of sitting down recently with Jane Moran, the incoming Chief Information and Digital Officer for Mass General and former CIO at Unilever and Thomson Reuters, for a webinar titled “How Can CIOs Gain Visibility To Provide Strategic Workforce Planning?”

I was interested in learning what challenges organizations are facing and what is changing in how companies view their workforce from a global CIO? Jane explained that the nature of the CIO role has changed dramatically over the past decade from one that’s a traditional back-office leader running business-critical ERP and CRM systems to spending much more time on emerging and consumer-facing applications. 

Also, the business has changed, and the need to go to market is so much faster than in the past. To respond to innovation, Jane said, you need the right skill sets. Talent today cares more about working on specific projects or products versus for a given company. People want to constantly learn and hone new skill sets to respond to that type of innovation. “As a CIO, the question now becomes how do we manage this?” she said. 

Within the enterprise as a whole, digital is everywhere. People want to work with AI, digital, web services, cloud services and hosting, among others. According to Jane, organizations need expertise in all departments and a framework to manage incoming and current skill sets. “It's a challenge to balance internal and external resources and put the right teams together,” she said. “Redeployment is key as well. How do you manage that talent holistically within the organization?” 

She continued: “That turns out to be a really difficult challenge for most organizations because sometimes you bring some really great people in from the outside. And then, a couple of months or even years later, you want them back and don’t know how to engage them.”

I asked Jane how she managed this as the CIO of Unilever, a 170,000 employee/150,000 non-employee company, and the role of contingent workers in getting this done at scale. As a heavy user of non-employee labor (of the 10,000 people she managed, 6500 were third-party contingent workers), Jane said it simply could not be done without relying on them. 

“We had to bring people in from the outside to keep up with the pace of change and how the nature of consumer products changed in order to respond to that,” she said. Jane said it was also necessary to keep up with the competition. “It wasn’t just the big competitors that Unilever was dealing with, it was all of the startups around the world. And, it wasn't just the products themselves. It was the nature of the distribution chains, like the supply chain and logistics and innovation in that space. To do that successfully, we had to bring people in from the outside because we couldn't keep pace internally.”

Visibility is critical

Jane also talked about the importance of being able to manage productivity across the entire workforce. For instance, where are the skill sets going to come from? How is the work getting done? What skill sets do I need? “I could tell you a lot about my own internal staff,” Jane explained, “because we knew their skill sets and performance, and we would put all this data into Workday and we could mine that data.” But when it came to the contingent workers, it was another story.

“I just told you the percentages of my group at Unilever, 35% worked for me full-time, and 65% did not. So, it was always this problem where I didn't really know everything about my staff. When you went to a managed service or one of the systems integration partners, and they have very talented individuals that work for them, but you really didn't have much visibility to the actual detail of that stuff.

Understanding your skills mix was really, really difficult to answer and continues to be a real pain point for organizations.”

Jane also said regardless of who she’s delivering to within the organization -- a CEO, CFO, or business partners -- you need to look at the total workforce. “You need to understand what the total workforce is not just for learning, but also asking yourself, ‘Do you have gaps? Is there a skill shortage to know what is most efficient for hiring, be it external or internal.’

If you only have half of the data on your workforce, I think that's when it becomes difficult. You really need to have visibility of all the workers -- employees and non-employees. And really, they're all still employees, right? They may have, you know, a different label, but they're coming in, they're working on behalf of your company every day.”

How you treat workers matters

Jane spent time talking in detail about the visibility across the entire workforce and how companies are treating contingent workers. “I think we lose something,” she said, “because we don't manage them the same way. As our internal workforce, we spend a lot of time on systems, kind of figuring out and documenting our internal staff, but are our non-employee staff just as valuable. We don't know a lot about them.”

I asked Jane if she thinks this dynamic is because of a fear of treating them well that's historically based on compliance and co-employment risk concerns, and shared that, at Utmost, we’re starting to see a change in how executives are responding. 

“Let's not kid ourselves,” Jane responded. They are already part of the team. Let's offer them a good experience if for no other reason that project-based rockstar you want, you want them to come back. You absolutely do. And honestly, I mean, we're all human beings. We should all treat each other with respect, and there's something to be said for that. Understanding more about these non-employees that come into our organizations and treating them the same is important. So is giving them the same information, providing them with training programs -- all those kinds of things we want to offer them because teams that collaborate well together, are treated better, are much more creative, and much more productive. It benefits the individual as well as the company.”

Jane continued: “I think it's important if you manage people well, they will manage well for you, and you can't manage what you can't measure. If you have no data on these individuals, that ability to manage them just sort of gets lost.”

The criticalness of access

Before beginning her new role as CIO for Mass General, Jane was a contractor herself for almost a year with Cisco and several other clients and experienced some of the negatives of being an extended worker. 

Jane said the same holds true for organizations when they on/offboard contingent workers. “When people come into our organizations, we need to know what they're working on. As technologists, we need to know when they leave and we need to know that for many reasons. One is our cybersecurity controls and our audit and compliance, especially to key financial applications which a lot of contractors work on.”

Is a VMS enough?

I talked about how a traditional VMS only captures a fragment of that contingent population, leaving a major blindspot when it comes to risk, compliance, and visibility. ​​When an audience member asked Jane about already having a VMS that manages their hourly workers, so isn't that enough for visibility into all the work, Jane said definitively, “No.” 

“Yeah, I know there's a lot of VMS systems, but I don't think it is enough. We talked a little bit about skill sets and projects, and what I'm finding is, it's really helpful to know within an organization the projects that you've worked on, both as an individual and for the company itself. You also need to know the people within the organization you've worked with, I think that's a really important component and most VMS systems don't capture. They don't capture that history. I know in a number of those systems, I wouldn't know who that person worked for and the history if it changes. A VMS has a limited scope and doesn't track that history, but it's also a fraction of the workforce.”

Jane went on to talk about how many contingent workers are coming in under SOWs and other outsourced relationships, causing additional concern about risk and visibility. Without one system to track and manage the entire workforce, it happens. Jane agreed, adding, “Transparency and visibility drive the best, most positive behavior.”

Advice for future CIOs

As we wrapped up the session, Jane was asked what advice she’d give to future technology leaders when it comes to the workforce. She said it goes beyond rate cards and security and comes down to access that technology can support. 

“Visibility to people, systems, financial access, role changes, and cybersecurity concerns, checks and balances, and division of responsibilities -- it’s all important.  The positive driver is making it easier to get the job done. I think if you have the right processes in place and the right technologies, I think that's super important. Technology isn't just in the IT department anymore. Understanding where the talent is -- internal and external and bringing that view together -- is important. 

I was so excited about Utmost because I think you are getting to the heart of providing that visibility. There's so many advantages to that. It's not just cost savings, it's about transparency. I think there's the benefit to the worker and the organization of having that transparency.”

Finally, Jane said, is understanding the business problems you're trying to solve and where the business is going as a whole. She said she has a sticky note on her computer that says, “Talk less, listen more,” to remind her to be a good listener.

If you want to check out the webinar in full, watch below or click here


About Utmost

Utmost Extended Workforce System is the talent-focused, next evolution of vendor management software. With Utmost, enterprises gain full visibility into their extended workforce. This enables data-driven talent decisions across HR, Procurement, Finance, and IT. The software enhances the productivity of workers, hiring managers, HR partners, and staffing firms while ensuring compliance. Utmost was founded in 2018 by industry leaders Annrai O’Toole, Dan Beck, and Paddy Benson, and is backed by Greylock Partners, Workday Ventures, and Mosaic Ventures.

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