Orchestrating Strategic Workforce Planning and Organisational Transformation with Christian Fernandez


Voice over



This is the Reimagined Workforce Podcast from Workforce Transformations Australia, the podcast for people and culture professionals seeking to drive meaningful, impactful and financially sustainable workforce transformation through curiosity, creativity and data science. In this podcast, we hear from talented and innovative people making a positive difference for their people, their organisations and those their organisations serve. They share stories and learnings to help others on their path to transforming their workforce today and tomorrow. Now here’s your host, Kath Hume.

Kath Hume 00:42

Christian Fernandez is a certified professional in strategic workforce planning, employee experience, people analytics and Lean Six Sigma, with over 15 years of strategy development and execution in agile business transformation, organisation design and effectiveness, employee experience and insights and process re-engineering. A unique combination of industrial engineering and organisation development experience has allowed him to effectively advise leaders in developing roadmaps to achieve a high performance organisations through alignment of people, processes and technology that improve organisational capabilities and yield higher profit margins, operational efficiencies, return on investment and talent engagement and retention. Christian completed a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and a master’s degree in organisational behaviour, with a concentration in enterprise change management from NYU Tandon School Engineering. He has spent many years studying the intersectionality between strategy structure, people, process and technology and how to optimise these to increase organisational effectiveness, capacity and employee experiences, and has supported many organisations in their transformation efforts by leveraging Lean Six Sigma methodologies.


Christian has recently started to share his findings and learnings by speaking at HR conferences. Most recently, he spoke at Unleash America and Atlantic Health Systems, reimagining leadership on the topic of how to leverage work design to create organisational agility and design organisations that can quickly pivot. Christian co-led the organisational design practice at Prudential that enabled their three-year workforce transformation focused on work, workplace and workforce. In 2023, he joined Northwestern Mutual to lead strategic workforce planning efforts, specifically in the tech space. Christian Fernandez, what a phenomenal career to date. Welcome to the Reimagined Workforce Podcast.

Christian Fernandez 02:51

Thank you for having me today. Super excited to be here and share some of my findings.

Kath Hume 02:55

What a great mix of skills. I was looking at your engineering and your organisational development and design and thinking that Nick Kennedy, who is one of the leaders in Australia in workforce planning and he heads up an organisation called the Workforce Planning Institute, he also has an engineering background. There’s a few of them in the mix, but he always says it’s really funny to see when people are in strategic workforce planning or similar roles where they’ve come from, because it’s such an often eclectic mix of background so you’re not too similar to lots of people. Do you want to just give us a brief rundown of the career trajectory you’ve been on and how you’ve arrived where you are now?

Christian Fernandez 03:41

Sure, absolutely so. I started my career as an industrial engineer working for Nissan North America back in 2007. So quite some time ago. Basically, they had a project that they had developed in Japan and they were trying to introduce it to North America, and basically what they were trying to do was increase operational capacity within their service delivery centres by leveraging a lot of industrial engineering methodologies process flow analysis, work sampling, operational capacity, time studies all those great things that they teach you when you go to industrial engineering school. Basically, the project was centred around what we used to do. The methodology that we used to follow was we would go into their service operations, we would do an initial assessment. From there we would identify opportunities for process improvement. We would work with service technicians as well as with the service leaders within those departments and then from there, we would, six months down the road, basically conduct a final assessment and compare the initial scores up against the final scores. I learned very quickly, Kathryn, that the service delivery centres that had higher improvement scores were basically the ones that the technicians were heavily involved in improving those business processes, and the leaders were also a part of that journey and basically enabled that transformation to basically happen. What that taught me very quickly was there was a correlation between process improvement and, obviously, that human element which led me to become more interested in studying organisational behaviour and organisational psychology.


So I decided to go back to graduate school and complete my master’s degree in organisational behaviour with a concentration in enterprise change management. To tell you a little bit of story there, which is quite interesting, I started to do a lot of research. There was a couple of different programs that really caught my attention and I found this specific program at NYU Tandon School of Engineering reached out to the director and it just so happened that the director there at that time he was also an industrial engineer. So the minute he saw my application he basically said I know exactly what you’re trying to do. So we had a conversation.


His name was Dr Kaufman. He was a huge mentor throughout my career. We did a lot of experimentation throughout the courses that I took. It was just a great experience and I didn’t know to be very transparent with you exactly where I was going to take this. But what I knew is that at some point I was going to be able to connect this whole enterprise change management with process improvement. You cannot improve processes if you are not taking into account the human element. 15 years later, today, we’re calling that basically human-centered design. 

Kath Hume 06:50

Which is very, very popular. It’s funny. I think we mentioned when we were planning the book that I love. It’s possibly my favourite book, but it’s called Connect the Dots by Christian Busch. He talks about the fact that sometimes we don’t know where we’re going, but the fact that we trust the universe to guide us. I don’t think he uses that language, to be honest, but it’s more about the fact that if you look at successful people who appear to be lucky and appear to have had life just work out for them, when you track back and you look at the things that they’ve done, they’ve actually put in effort and there’s things that they’ve done, maybe not intentionally, but then they do connect the dots.


I think I’m hearing that in your story. What I really love about that story is that there’s someone else who’s also been a mentor to you and been able to guide you. I love also that you’re talking about that T-shaped human. We need that deep expertise in the technical side, but we also are not any value unless we can go and connect with other people and bring that to life. Those human skills are just so critical for life today, in our complex world.

Christian Fernandez 08:02

Oh, absolutely! Basically, I had Dr Kaufman, who served as a huge mentor throughout my career. Because of him, I started to become a little bit more intentional about the experiences and the opportunities that I was selecting to be a part of my career trajectory. I remember from there I moved on to a company called Bombardier Transportation where I learned a lot about key performance indicators. I also had a sidebar mentor who basically always would say what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done. I very quickly also learned the importance of being able to track organisational effectiveness metrics in order to be able to understand the changes and the optimization plan that you were putting together was ultimately leading to the desired outcomes based on the organizational business strategy.

Kath Hume 08:57

What I think you’re bringing is this systems approach. You’re bringing in lots of different parts of the system, but you’re connecting all of that together. Do you want to talk to us about the approach that you take from a systems perspective?

Christian Fernandez 09:12

Absolutely, Kathryn. I think there’s two key important elements that I would like to mention here. I’m always going to go back to industrial engineering. In industrial engineering, there’s this technique called SIPOC diagram diagram, which is basically supplier, input, process, output, customer. If you really think about it, like when you’re thinking about in the context of an organisation, your suppliers are basically those departments within the organisational ecosystem that are basically supplying information into the organisation. Think about your marketing organisation, think about human resources, think about the customer experience department. Who’s collecting all this data, the input that goes into the actual system itself. It’s basically all those insights, all that information that we’re collecting from either the employee experience or the customer experience are the insights that are basically telling us which are the processes that we need to transform within our organisation. Once you optimise those processes or you’ve made those changes to the actual system itself, you should be able to produce the intended outcomes, which is essentially your output. Once you have those outputs your customer experience and your employee experience whether it’s a net promoter score or however you measure it you should see those numbers significantly increase. Then that’s the feedback loop that you consistently go back and revisit. That’s to me, a systems approach and how organisations currently operate.


The second thing that I would mention too when you’re thinking about organizations and you’re probably going to laugh at this, but I look at organisations slightly differently when you look at an organizational structure, people tend to look at it from a vertical perspective.


I actually tend to flip them and look at them from a horizontal perspective.


The reason why I do that is because when you look at every single department within the organization, those are basically they each have individually, like their specific value streams In order to be able to complete certain intended outcomes that are a part of the entire network within the organization.


There’s this whole concept about network analysis and within the actual network analysis, if you really look at it, all your departments are essentially entities. All these different entities have different characteristics, they have different goals, they have different shapes, different forms, different skills that they have. But when you put them all together and I guess also to mention they also have like all these linkage points, right when it’s basically those feedback moves, and I think those are like the handoffs between the departments when you put all that network sort of together in a way that makes sense, basically what you do is you create the enterprise value chain and the enterprise value chain is basically how it’s almost like the customer journey from start to finish, and it all goes back into that SIPOC diagram. Right, it’s all really connected and that’s basically the systems approach that I’ve been leveraging and utilizing throughout my entire career.

Kath Hume 12:45

And when you take that systems approach, do you move from the supplier direction? Or can you reverse engineer it as well and look at what are the outcomes I want for the customer and the employee and then say, okay, so what are the processes that I need to do and what’s the supplier relationships that I’ve got? What are the inputs I need to put into that?

Christian Fernandez 13:05

So absolutely, I mean, I think when you’re, I always actually start from the end and I go backwards.

Even when I’m doing like value stream mapping, when I’m trying to create the enterprise value chain or the department value chain, I always say where does the process start, where does it end, and then sort of work my way backwards to be able to say what happens within the middle. And how do we create in that middle section where you have all these different teams that are sort of coming together and adding value or adding whatever it is that they bring to the table or to the organization? How do you make them more efficient? How do you make sure that people have clarified roles and responsibilities? How do you make sure that the processes are super efficient? How do you make sure that they have the skills that they need? How do you also make sure that they have the right support from a leadership perspective and that they also have that technology that they need? We’re like we’re moving into this digital era and I think we need to start talking about organizations as actual systems, operating systems. I think that’s super crucial in order for organizations to remain competitive.

Kath Hume 14:19

I really like the technical approach that you’re taking. So in the world that I live in, sometimes when we’re doing strategic workforce planning, it’s hard to make it tangible because you’re planning so far out. So this very operational approach, but then I know that you’re applying it to the longer term. So can you talk to us a little bit? I think you mentioned and I’m not sure if this is the same thing that you mentioned to me when we were planning that you’ve got a six step process. Is that something that you do for strategic workforce planning?

Christian Fernandez 14:50

Yes, Kathryn, and I will not take credit on this if you want to basically find out the person who established this six step approach Her name is Shrata Prakash, her and I call it the organisational design practice at Prudential Financial which basically enabled that three year transformation. When I walked into Prudential, she had already put this it was almost like a little diagram together, right when she would call it the six points of engagement. And the six points of engagement were basically the business strategy, where you will work with the business leaders to basically articulate what was their go-to-market strategy, like the three to five year strategy. Then, from there, we would work with the workforce analytics team to really do some external market analysis and basically understand what were some of the skills that were either declining or emerging within the external market. How did we need to transform the actual work?


There was a missing component, right? I remember that she had developed. It was a six step approach, but when I came in I actually morphed that into a seven step approach. I think the missing link that we had was the actual work design element, right, like we weren’t really taking into consideration the work itself. The business strategy informs the type of work that you need to be completing in order for you to reach those intended outcomes that you have. And it was quite interesting, right? Because what we did is we developed the work text on it. We went department by department and we said what are the business processes that you manage within your organization.


And then we did a talent mapping exercise to basically say, within this organization, what percentage of time are people spending on which activities? And then we will map that back to the employee costs, like so, for example, if an employee said 20% of my time was being spent on this particular activity, then 20% of your total compensation, fully loaded cost, would be allocated to that particular activity. Then we would aggregate all this information based on all the different employees that had answered that they touched this body of work or activity, and then we would be able to say this is what it’s currently costing you from an organizational perspective to complete this body of work. This is how many people are touching this activity and this is what the FT Equivalent is for that particular activity. We would then have conversations with the business leaders and basically say okay, well, now that you understand this, like now that you have an inventory of all the tasks that are being completed within your organization based on your business strategy, how do you want to transform the work? And some of the work optimization levers that we utilize were basically opportunity for centralization, opportunities for consolidation of work. Wherever we had duplication of work or shadow organizations, can we either centralize these or put them together? Did we have opportunities for process simplification? Process simplification is basically process improvement. How do we make these processes a little bit more efficient so that we can create organizational capacity to be able to focus on the right activities that support the core capabilities of that organization?


From there, we would basically say, okay, these are the levers that you’re selecting from a work design perspective. What would be the impact to the actual roles? And that’s how we started to reimagine some of the roles. So, basically, if you were saying this activity is going to be either centralized or automated, which are the roles that are touching it? By which percentage? And then how would that help increase operational capacity within your organization To? Basically, it’s almost like think about it like 100 percent of a role. If you reduce 40 percent of those activities, well, how do you want to fill that bucket up? Again, it’s almost like what do you want to do with that additional 40 percent? And 40 percent within one role doesn’t seem like a whole lot right, but when you multiply that by maybe 10, 15 individuals that are completing this, all of a sudden you’ve created a ton of operational capacity and you can start really focusing on the activities that really are the activities that you should be focusing on.


From there, we would then basically move into our organizational design, and we did utilize the human-centered approach where we would form a design team. We would select a couple of individuals and we were very intentional about not keeping it at the highest level, like we did always select a couple of business leaders that were directors, new directors, repeaters but we wanted to get information from those individuals that were actually executing the actual processes and make them a part of that journey, right, like make them a part of redesigning that organization. So we would form that design team, we would do focus groups, we would do workshops, multiple sessions, redesign the entire organization, calculate basically how many F teams we were going to need. We would then take into consideration some of the key metrics from a strategic operational workforce planning perspective, I should say, and we would say, like the projected attrition within this organization is X, so we know that we’re going to have all these positions available. What do we want to do with these positions? Then we would also say, like, from a retirement eligibility perspective, how many individuals were going to retire within the next organization I mean within the next couple of years and what was our plan to basically fill in that skill gap Once we had designed that organization, we would then do a skills taxonomy where we would say OK, now that we have the organization, now that we know the capabilities that you need within your org design, now that we know the work that needs to get completed, what are the skills that you’re going to need?


And then we would do a thorough talent assessment in comparison and we would be able to say like OK, 30% of your population has the desired skills of the future. Therefore, we need to start implementing upskilling and reskilling strategies. It was almost like we would take every individual when we were designing the organization. We would take them outside of the organizational structure and we would design the organization around the actual work that needed to get completed versus around people and I say this because many leaders tend to make that mistake right when they design their organizations based on the people that are currently sitting within their org structure versus the actual work itself.


And once you were able to do that, you would then go look at this list that you had of all your employees and map them right back into the actual new organizational structure the individuals that didn’t make it to that organizational structure. We tried to basically look at their skill sets and look across the entire enterprise from a horizontal perspective to say where in the organization can we leverage some of these skill sets and can we redeploy this talent somewhere across the enterprise. Once we had that, that basically gave us our strategic workforce plan right Like now. At this point you know how many positions you had open. You knew how many positions you needed to fill. You knew how many individuals needed to be upskilled and reskilled. You knew basically which roles and responsibilities were going to be changing and that would become a part of your change management and activation plan. So we would work very closely with the change management organization to activate this new organizational structure.

Kath Hume 23:13

I love how scientific it is. It is gold and I think I’m going to try and map it out when I put the show notes out. I’ll try and map it out because it just is really helpful. And when you bring it to life and explain it, I’d love to see the actual plan and the numbers and how it got implemented. One of the things I’m thinking in my mind is where did you do and this is off script, sorry, but where did you do that horizon scanning and looking at what are the potential changes in the external environment, within this ecosystem that you’re operating, that could have an influence that could then mean that you have to adapt and tweak along the way?

Christian Fernandez 23:50

Sure. So a lot of this information typically comes from either the customer experience organization or it comes from the corporate strategy organization, like they’re trying to enter new markets, they’re trying to disrupt the organization. It could also come from the technology organization, like where it’s like here are some disruptors that are going to happen within the next couple of years and we need to have a plan in place for this. So let me back up. I think those that I mentioned were more specific. Around the actual work, right Like there’s also like within financial services, there’s a lot of regulatory requirements that need to be met and satisfied. So those are some things that you also need to be paying close attention to, because they do have an impact on how your organization needs to transform and what body of work needs to get completed. Now, when it came to the actual workforce itself, we leveraged a tool called Talent Neuron.

Kath Hume 24:48

Sorry, what was that? Talent Neuron.

Christian Fernandez 24:51

And there are an external, you know market research organization that focuses on the workforce itself, right, and they give you different insights, you know insights and trends, that basically on what’s happening within the external market, and then we would leverage all this data. But the interesting thing is like when you have, like now you’re sitting with the business leaders and you have a ton of data, yeah, so you need to be able to simplify all this information for them.

Kath Hume 25:21


Christian Fernandez 25:21

In order for them to be able to react and act on this right. So we would go almost to like this process of like sanitizing all the information, just basically saying, ok. You know, I remember at one point, like you know, when we were looking at the emerging skills, I think at one point, like one report generated about 140 skills, yeah, and we said, like this is overwhelming for our business and you’re like this is not going to be something that’s going.


You know it’s not going to sit well, it’s not going to allow them to basically action on it. So we took a very different approach. Right Like and I remember like this project was actually actually given to me and and then full transparency, like I never thought skills was a part of my remit. Just because I’m more of a technical person, I’m like, oh, skills, you know, like those are like the soft things, like the fluffy things. I don’t want anything to do with that. But I started to do some research and what I basically came across was this concept of power skills.

Kath Hume 26:27

Yes. So, I think they’re probably the ones that I call human skills about. Yes, keep going Sorry.

Christian Fernandez 26:34

Correct, but, but basically what we did with the power of skills in order to simplify for our business leaders, we categorize them into three different categories. And we said these are the leadership skills yeah, that are essential for the entire enterprise. Then I worked with Wagner Denuso, who’s another mentor of mine as well, and you know he was. He was also like one of those individuals that the very innovative right, like he just wanted to like continue the testings and he said why don’t we just call them team effectiveness skills? And I was like you know what? Like, we’re moving into into an era where, like organizations are required to work in a more agile way and therefore, you know this composition of teams that need to come together. So categorizing that into team effectiveness skills makes perfect sense. Yeah, and some of those team effectiveness skills are, you know, your basic project management skills, you know data skills, trying to think which other skills? Right, but we listed about 10 different skills that fell into that category. And then, for the leadership skills, which I mentioned earlier too, we’re like we did a focus group with about, I want to say, like 10 or 15 business leaders of the organization and we said, ok, here’s all the skills that we have for the future. What do you think are going to be the leadership skills that are going to help us transform our organization? So we categorize the leadership skills.


We then had the team effectiveness skills and then we were up against a massive challenge, right? The technical skills, yeah, the skills that were basically more intrinsic or more specific to the actual business units themselves. So what we did is we developed an approach where we went into every single department and, based on the work that they were completing, we said what were some of these technical skills that we need to have? We started to create an inventory of those skills. We created dashboards, we had a talent marketplace that was basically recording all this information and then from there, they had individual dashboards where they were able to forecast from a skills perspective. So now our talent planning process was slightly changing. It was changing from a work perspective to more like a skills-based planning organization perspective. So that’s been the approach that we’ve leveraged, which I’ve seen work, and I think simplifying in for a business leader makes a huge impact.

Kath Hume 29:11

Yeah, and I often think of the role of a strategic workforce planner as a conductor. So they’re actually the people who have just bringing people along and advising them of when they need to come in and when they need to, when they’re no longer required at the moment, and it all builds a harmonious plan and outcome that works for everybody, because everybody’s had a contribution to it. Can you give us an example of when you have applied it and the impact you’ve had?

Christian Fernandez 29:42

Sure. So I mean, I have a couple of different examples. I could probably speak about three different examples. There’s one that’s really one that I kind of like always share with a lot of business leaders or with a lot of people that ask me about my experience in this field, and it’s the one with project management organization, where we worked very closely with them to say, ok, what is the purpose of this project management organization within the organizational context? And they hadn’t really defined themselves, like they didn’t really knew who they wanted to be or what value they were adding to the organization, and maybe I’m not saying that correctly. I think they had an idea of the value that they were bringing to the organization, but it wasn’t cleanly articulated.

Kath Hume 30:27

Articulated yeah.

Christian Fernandez 30:28

Yeah, correct, and when we worked with the business leader there she basically just said the way I see this organization, it’s like a theater organization. So what we’re doing with this org is basically we’re taking individuals and we’re upskilling them through exposure in project management and then we’re basically aligning them to some of the skills of the organization. So they were thinking slightly futuristic and what we did there is we basically we changed their entire operating model, and I’m not sure if you ever heard of the Helix operating model, but the Helix operating model is super interesting and what it does is it divides the organization into two constructs. One is the value creation, so it’s basically one part of the organization or one leader within the organization is heavily focused on creating the value. And then you also have the skills component, where one leader is responsible for making sure that those skills are being developed within that particular organization. I love it so.


And they still had direct reports, because essentially every employee needs to have a reporting relationship and they need to have a home, they need to report to somebody, somebody who’s using the performance management, like all that stuff.


But once we were able to separate that, articulate the vision, help them really understand what were some of the skill sets that were being developed within this organization, then all of those project managers were very quickly able to not only attain the experiences that they needed, gain the skills that they needed, but then we were also able to leverage them.


And then that operating model became slightly different. There was an intake process where these two business it was actually three business years we structured it to the point where we had the value creation manager, almost like a resource planning manager, for lack of better terms and then the skills person and these three individuals would come together. They would look at the scope of the actual project and they would say these are the outputs that we’re looking to generate from this particular project. The resource person would basically say these are the individuals that are going to be available, given the project time and the completion, and then the skills leader would basically be able to say well, I need to make sure that this person is getting exposure to these skills, I need to plug in him or her into this particular project, and then they would be their coach throughout the entire project itself.

Kath Hume


Excellent. This builds such a good learning culture too, I would imagine. I think that on a day-to-day basis, I do a bit of work in L&D around performance zone and learning zone. So when do we actually need to be on target, on track, to be performing at our best? But then when are we able to relax a little bit and do a bit of that trial and error and fail fast? So I think that what I’m hearing is you’re doing that at scale or at an organisational level. So we’ve got areas where we’re delivering value, but we’ve also got opportunities to say about how we’re building our capabilities to ensure that we’re going to continue that into the future. I really I hadn’t heard of that, but I’m definitely going to go and look at that up.

Christian Fernandez 34:06

I mean, it’s been around for quite some time, but I did some research and I don’t recall I think it was the next colleague of mine who basically mentioned that at one point and I remember this person had basically communicated and I was like, wait a minute, this might work, let’s test this within this organisation. And it was super successful. They’re still leveraging that operating model and it’s allowed them to basically upskill and reskill talent across the enterprise and we deploy them wherever they’re needed. Now the second example, Kathryn, that I think I want to share because this one is like very near to my heart.


Right Like I worked with this business leader in our retail advice solutions organisation and we also took a very systematic approach. Right Like we worked with her to basically say what are some of the hypotheses that you have within your organisation? And you know, she was recently appointed as a leader of this particular team and she knew like her budget was staying flat, so she didn’t have additional funds to basically go out there and hire additional headcount, so she needed to basically create a more efficient organisation and find opportunities for improvement within her current organisational structure. So we worked very closely with her. She believed, or she basically suspected, that within her organisation there was additional capacity to accommodate additional work. And then the third hypothesis that she had is, you know, she didn’t think that people were spending the right amount of time on the right activities.


So we, from there we went and we basically said, okay, let’s do an activity analysis, leveraging basically, you know, activity analysis that I mentioned earlier. That’s been super powerful. We developed the work taxonomy of some of the business leaders. What we found is, after we did the whole talent mapping exercise, is there were a lot of inefficiencies. There were about AFTE equivalent within her organisation of work that was not a part of her core capabilities. So, you know, there was like learning and development activities, supervisory activities. There was just like a ton of, you know, activities that basically did not belong within this organisation and they were taking time away from focusing on the core activities right, and the core activities of this organisation was selling and servicing clients.


So we very quickly said, like we were able to quantify it based on that work taxonomy that we had. We said this is the FT equivalent, this is the cost that is taking you. And then there was a negotiation process, right, because within that we said okay, you know, we found some learning and development activities that were being conducted there. I want to say it was probably about for FT equivalent, but we also knew that within the learning and development organisation some optimisation was also taking place. So we brought both business leaders to the table to have a discussion. The learning and development business leader basically said I can absorb this work, but instead of taking four FT’s, I’m going to need to take at least two FT’s. And then we worked with the finance organisation from a budgeting perspective to reallocate some of those funds and some of those positions back into that organisation, which left her with about six additional FT equivalent in operational capacity. Excellent, to be able to focus more time on selling and servicing clients and increase revenues within her organisation.

Kath Hume 37:58

Yeah, that’s a really good example of how, taking that strategic view and just, I think too, sometimes in organisations we just keep doing things because that’s how we’ve done it and we forget to refresh and go back and check and say, really question, and I think we also just get used to status quo. So I think it’s really good to have that data and the science behind those conversations and to be able to match it with. What I really like is you can also translate that into dollars, which is where you’re going to get traction in those conversations with your business leaders, I’d imagine.

Christian Fernandez 38:36

I’ll completely agree. The minute you start to speak dollars, I mean, you have full attention from your business leaders.

Kath Hume 38:44

So can you tell me, is there things that you’ve learned that other people could benefit from knowing?

Christian Fernandez 38:50

Absolutely. So there are a couple of things that I would probably say I’ve learned. Number one I think it’s transformation is here to stay, and long gone are the days of, like you know, designing organisations that are going to be static for the next seven years. I think organisations need to get super comfortable with the fact that. You know, in some cases we even speak about changing organisations on a three to five year horizon, and I think we have to get comfortable with the fact that we might have to make slight adjustments every year Based on, you know, some of those external market forces that are happening. So I think, again, as I mentioned, transformation is here to stay. We need to become super comfortable with the fact that strategic workforce planning is now transformation. So that’s one thing that I would say that the second thing that I say I’ve learned throughout this entire career journey is basically, people will adapt to change.


We often assume that you know we’re going to hit so much resistance, and I do understand that. You know, from an employee experience perspective, we can also cause a lot of employee fatigue if we don’t manage that change correctly. But at the same time, like if you look at it from and going back, reverting back to the whole systems approach. Right like people nowadays have iPhones, they have Android, they’re constantly receiving you know systems upgrades within their actual phones. Applications are consistently changing and, you know, initially people may have some sort of reaction. It’s like, well, that button isn’t necessarily here where I was used to having it, now it’s changed, or the look of the you know application has changed, or whatever the case might be. But within a matter of you know, maybe minutes, people adapt to that change. So I think we need to embrace change and, again, we need to get comfortable. We need to be adaptable and flexible when it comes to that.


The third thing that I would probably mention is human-centered design. Right Like, we spoke about that earlier. Making sure that employees are a part of that transformation process is crucial to any transformation, not only in the sense of transforming processes, but also designing your organization and also being part of that strategic workforce plan. Right Like you’d be surprised how many solutions come from the employees that are actually executing the work.

Kath Hume 41:28

Oh yeah.

Christian Fernandez 41:29

I mean, they can tell you right off the bat. These are the skills that we need, this is a technology that we need. These are the people that are, you know, super capable, like they can even assess themselves. So I do think that we’re going to start to move into more like a team assessment approach versus like if you look about, you know, changing the performance management system. I think, moving forward, it’s going to be like a team performance management approach, where you’re scoring the team versus the actual individuals, and that’s not to say that you’re not going to, you know, basically give individual contributions the merit that they deserve. But I think what you do when you start to assess teams versus individuals is you also create, you know, collaboration within the organization, and collaboration creates effectiveness. And the last thing that I’ll say, in quoting Wagner De Nuzzo one more time, clarity creates capacity. So, within organizational design the power of that, which organizational design is also crucial to your strategic workforce plan once you create clarity, you’re also creating operational capacity within the organization.

Kath Hume 42:50

I can see a beautiful blend before all of those things. So you said transformation is here to stay, that people are adaptable, that human-centered design is a great way of finding solutions, because the people who are facing the problems have the great knowledge of how to solve them, and that clarity is so important. So, the way I see it, your clarity is also linked to your purpose. So people clarity, we know, is really good for people’s wellbeing and so if people are clear on what’s expected of me, then that’s really reduces that any anxiety and stress that they might experience and improves the psychological safety. And then being asked to be involved also then helps with that change that you were talking about. Because if people can see the why and the how they’re going to be on board and they’re going to well, they’re more likely to be on board because they’ve had buy-in and they’ve had that opportunity to be involved and then that transformation is going to play out.


Because I would also think you’ve built relationships throughout that human-centered design process and built those that collaborative capability. So is that last beyond, whatever the project is that you’re implementing to ensure that that’s got longevity and sustainability. So you’re building that almost learning culture and learning organization throughout those processes that you’re talking about, which is so important in the world that we’re living in. It is so constantly changing. I love those four call-outs. I’ll definitely put big bullet points and bold texts around those in the show notes. So my last question is what I usually ask upfront, but you specifically said that you would like to talk about this at the end. So, Christian, what does your reimagined workforce look like?

Christian Fernandez 44:47

Sure, so I think the reimagined workforce and I may have touched a little bit on some of these things as we were having this conversation I think people are going to be required to work in teams. Performance management is going to be in a team-based approach. I also look at the workforce like automation is going to disrupt a lot of the things that we’re doing within our organizational context. I do suspect that the government, at least within the United States, is going to have to step in and put some of the solutions in place.



Christian Fernandez 45:22

I hope so too. Right, because otherwise we start to lose a little bit of that human element. But I do think we need to get a little bit more comfortable interacting with technology, interacting with robots, because eventually that’s going to happen. And when you look at that disruption that’s happening within the organizations, I like to look at it more from the skills perspective. What are the skills that are going to be required in order for us to interact with some of these machines or with these robots, whatever you want to call them? And some of those skills is like we have to be adaptable, we have to be flexible, we have to problem solve, we have to be able to interpret large amounts of data, we have to be able to navigate ambiguity, we have to be able to solve really complex problems and not necessarily get overwhelmed with the amount of data that we have and the amount of information that we’re receiving. But we also need to be able to make sense of that information right, because we’re living in an era where we have access to so much information that it can also be overwhelmed, because our brains can only tolerate up to a certain amount of information. So, being able to make sense of what’s critically important.


I think it’s what’s going to start to transform our organizations and I think those are going to be some of the skills of the future. I will also say that some of those basic skills, where it’s like outcome management, those are still going to remain right, because if you’re a part of organization, like, you still need to be able to execute, you need to be able to produce certain results, you need to be able to have empathy, like all those core leadership skills. I’m not sure that they’re going to change as much, with the exception of being adaptable, being flexible, making sure that you’re also inclusive, right, like, if you look at the demographics within our population, like things are changing. We have, you know, 2020, we have five different generations.


I was recently at a Atlantic Health System we imagine leadership conference and we spoke about this and it was quite interesting because there was a topic and I forgot her name, but she was head of research at Corn Fairy and she discussed a very interesting topic that we have that I think most of us you know we don’t even speak about this, right, but it’s the effect of menopause in women within the actual workforce, yep, and that’s you know, it’s something that’s not spoken about, like how many women actually need the workforce because of the effects of some of these things, or they don’t, you know, they don’t feel comfortable having these conversations with their leaders or what you know, and I’m probably not the right person to be talking about.

Kath Hume 48:19

But good that you are, because I mean, let’s make that conversation normal Alison Hernandez, who was on the podcast late last year I think she was the last episode last year, but she does a lot of work in the looking after the older workers and saying they’ve still got lots of value and actually in our organisations they’ve got the relationships, they’ve got the organisational knowledge, they. But we lose so many of them sometimes because we’re not willing to be flexible. Sometimes you know they want to start transitioning out of the workforce, but slowly. We don’t give them that option. But there is so much that we can do for this group who are often overlooked. And it frustrates me sometimes because everyone’s calling, you know, talent shortage, talent shortage and I think is it or is it just that we’re not utilising all the people who are in front of us?

Christian Fernandez 49:07

Right, especially in a time where we’re speaking about inclusivity, right? Yep, we’re saying we want to be super inclusive, but it almost seems like we’re only being inclusive of the newer generation. That’s right. How about you know, the older generation and I can speak about this, right? Like, I have a really diverse team right now and some of them are women and some of them are, you know, in their menopause stage, and we speak about this very comfortably, right? Like? I mean, it’s become something where, like, I’ve had to educate myself, yep, but it’s a way to support and to be, you know, inclusive, like we can’t forget about, you know, those individuals that also made significant contributions to our organisation and to the process of where we are today, right so?

Kath Hume 49:54

Oh look, I could. This topic alone. I could keep going and going, but I won’t Because we have gone well over time, but it’s been a very, very good and useful conversation. But thank you so much. Would it be OK if we put some contact details into contact you?

Christian Fernandez 50:10


Kath Hume 50:11

And if people wanted to connect with you, how would they do that best?

Christian Fernandez 50:14

So I think the best way to connect with me is through via LinkedIn. Yep, you can find me. You know Christian Fernandez is my name. I currently work for Northwestern Mutual Strategic Workforce Planning. You can probably type that in the search box and you should be able to find me.

Kath Hume 50:29

And I will put it in the show notes, which are on our website and the podcast page. So, thank you. I really appreciate your time and appreciate that we are living in very different time zones, you being in New York and me being in Sydney, Australia. So thank you, and all of the time that you’ve committed to preparing and having conversations with me for this episode, I really, really appreciate it. Thanks so much, Christian.

Christian Fernandez 50:53

Absolutely, Kath. Thank you very much for having me. I really appreciate this and I look forward to possible additional conversations in the future.

Kath Hume 51:01

As do I. That’ll be great. I’d love that. Thanks so much, Christian.


More to explore

Solving the rural health workforce challenge, one community at a time with Dr. Cath Cosgrave

Dr Cath Cosgrave works closely with communities to implement the Attract Connect Stay framework that has achieved significant improvements in retention of rural health workforce, with eight out of 10 reporting within six months their intention to stay for the medium to long term. Dr Cosgrave has a deep passion for addressing rural access inequities and resourcing challenges. She’s dedicated to supporting rural communities to become thriving and sustainable places to live and work.
She supports communities to understand the evidence base behind the program and helps them to develop a program that meets their specific needs.

Transforming Business Performance through Strategic Workspace Design with Melissa Marsden

Melissa Marsden is a workplace dynamics strategist, reimagining work environments to drive high performing teams. In this episode she explains how she blends her expertise in interior design and human behaviour to create fit for purpose workplaces that enable people and organisations to thrive.
Melissa takes us through her process of how she develops a thorough understanding of the organisation’s purpose, the type of work that is performed and how the workplace can be purposefully designed to facilitate that.

Empowering voices to optimise potential and satisfaction with Lisa Carlin

Lisa Carlin has delivered, designed or mentored clients in over 50 transformation projects over her extensive career.
She empowers professionals to drive change by bringing others along with them on the journey.
In this episode, she describes her alternate approach to strategy development and shares the framework she applies to achieve success.