How to FIX the Talent Shortage


There is NO Shortage

I started a new role in Knowledge Management and within the first 24 hours, my new boss told me that I had to replace everyone on my staff.

When I asked why,  he explained that

  1. They didn’t know Knowledge Management.
  2. They have been moved around a lot.
  3. They have a lot of experience (Understand?)

You know those moments in your life where you aren’t in danger but you still go into fight or flight mode?   I was in shock that someone would say anything like this to me no less on the first day of my new job.

So, you want me to …… let them all go?  

The answer from me was “NO” and the answer from me today is still “NO.”   This is part of the problem in large companies.  There is a lot of bullshit nonsense transformation and not enough thinking.    I refused to let anyone go and I went on to learn about this team .. my team.   They were experienced professionals that understood learning, training, performance and knowledge.  They were experts in Knowledge Management and corporate leaders including HR didn’t know it.    No one took the time to ask them and no one seemed to care.   It gets better though, not only could they do the things I envisioned for our company, they could do things that I had no idea about.   They had knowledge,  experience and ideas that far exceeded my own.   This team humbled me.

Unfortunately,  my experience is uncommon.  Most people in my position would have walked in and let them all go.   That is the truth.

The Message

Companies generally speaking don’t know who works for them.   Unless you are famous but even then, you could be forgotten and buried.   Think for a moment about your own company.   What do you know about people outside of your immediate circles? What do you know about the people you work with everyday?   Hobbies matter…  one person on my team today is an expert photographer and drone enthusiast,  one is an expert technologist including bleeding edge technologies,  some are experts in design, animals, plants, health..  it goes on.  That has nothing directly to do with their immediate job but since I know about what they can do, if I ask them to help with something or if they had an interest somewhere else in the company,  they COULD do it.

There is no labor shortage.    Companies are more willing to pay 3x for a person they believe is an expert vs pay less than 1.5x to upskill or cross train employees they already have on staff.

All of the new RPA skills are so new right?  How about … NO.     RPA the buzz is about software that does BPM in a much more sophisticated way.   Let’s call them technological cousins but the ideas and actual process may be exactly the same with the same desired outcome.   


If you want change..   If you are a leader that wants change ..    YOU have to change and YOU have to be part of change.   YOU have to stop the nonsense.

Where is the Staff?

There is a good chance.. that you have them already.   For the record though, let us say you don’t have them.

  1. University students – Can’t find work?  Link
  2. Veterans – Can’t find work? Link
  3. Minorities – Can’t find work? Link  (This link applies to woman as well).
  4. Women – Can’t find work?


Ask me about all of the talented people that I know looking for work.   The problem is with companies ignoring talent management.    The problem is that companies are reactionary.  “Oh shit, we need an AI expert.”    They don’t even know what that means.    One of my favorites was when I heard a leader say “We need an expert in development for the cloud.”   I asked what was the difference between developing in the cloud or on-premise,  and they were like “it’s too complicated to explain but there are many differences and that’s what we need, so find a cloud developer.”

The reason you can’t find what you are looking for is because you aren’t looking. 

If you want to fix the talent shortage in your company,  start by finding out who your employees are. 


Leave your brain at the door please…



Categories KM

20 ~ 20 CIO Challenges Simplify #warontalent



Top CIO issues persist because they aren’t CIO issues at all.   They are business and People issues that involve every business area.

  1. Talent Issues
  2. Innovation
  3. Speed to Market
  4. Security
  5. Automation
  6. Productivity and Experience
  7. Cost Reduction / Controls  (IT related and Business Related)
  8. Agility & Flexibility
  9. Culture
  10. Brand

A few ideas here to share..

Trust your team

If you knew everything you think you know, you wouldn’t be in the role you are in right now.  You would be somewhere else doing something else living the life of legacy.    Many leaders in these roles are hard to approach.  They don’t trust people inside their organization and they look for technical and business competency in other organizations or consultants.   They also think they are smarter and know more than they actually do.

Take the toilet as an example. As a thought experiment, would you be able to explain to someone else how a toilet works?  Most people can’t.   Oh, I know toilets aren’t IT systems.  Right they are just simple toilets.   There is a good chance as a reader that you actually don’t know how the toilet that you use every day works.    Point here is..   A business is run on collective organizational intelligence.   You are as smart as those that inform you and keep you up on knowledge and “in the know.”

If you trust your team, there is a very good change that they will tell you about the real problems in the organization.  They will tell you when they don’t know how to do something instead of doing all the guess work.


Stop Looking Outside

Hey, I get it..  you need IA, AI, RPA, RPA(I), Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud,  smarter systems, faster, faster, faster.  The board wants…  The CEO says..  The market is ..

All of that is bologna.

Sure,  we need to bring in outside expertise to do work.  Every company needs help and trusted partners.   The difference is that many leaders are always looking for answers outside.  They aren’t taking the time to learn about what they know inside.  They discount what they have in their own organizational intelligence.  They don’t listen.  Just think, in many cases you trust a stranger to tell you something that you wouldn’t trust a person that you vetted and hired to tell you.


Become Aware and Be Available

I get frustrated when leaders tell me they “can’t find the talent” or there is a “war for talent” and the market is so empty of people that have the right skills we need.  We have to pay so much to get help and these people are so rare.   Then when we find them, we lose them..

Yeah.. BOLOGNA.   Here is your problem.   You don’t know who you have in your company.  Your expert location system is broken ..  mostly because you don’t actually have an expert location system.  You may have profiles but they aren’t up to date.  Job descriptions aren’t up to date.  There is a very good chance that you have very little idea on what people inside your org can do.   On top of that, due to cost cutting, you had to “let people go.”   You could have just let go the best data scientist you had go but didn’t know it.  Many times,  companies cut people and it costs 3x to get someone in to do the job.   This is what happens.   HR doesn’t help because they really don’t know.   They are just pushing around the excel sheets with the names on them.   They can tell you about legal risks but they can’t tell you about the people individually.  They can tell you what to say and what rules to follow but they don’t tell you or encourage you to take the time to understand what the heck is really going on.

The answer is “Show Up” and I don’t mean that you personally have to show up every time but start teaching your team what that means.   You have to lead by example.  The reason people leave is because of their leadership.    The reason people leave is because they are frustrated.    Money doesn’t fix that.    Learn about being available and learn about finding ways to both technically and organizationally instill practices to discover the people in your organization.  Many tools available don’t cost a penny.   (Ask me how)

Introduce Change Management and Knowledge Management

Awareness in knowing that we don’t know is the first step.  The Dunning-Kruger effect: the unskilled just don’t know what they don’t know. This matters, because all of us are unskilled in most domains of our lives.

We need to learn and practice Knowledge Management.    If you want to learn more about KM (Here is a book by one of the best KM folks around)

The book doesn’t cost anything.. but .. if that is too much ..   You can learn somethings from

The underlying idea and premise is that we all should be able to discover (FIND) the best information and knowledge when we need it and where we need it to do what we need to do.   “The right information, at the right time, in the right context.”

Change Management..

If you don’t make the time to learn about these things, they will happen to you as opposed to you making them happen.    There are plenty of free change management resources out there.  There are practices that are proven as well.   Frankly,  the first step is realizing that you need bring these concepts into your life.  You need to learn about them and what they mean.   If you don’t.. then you will continue to go the conferences with the same problems year after year.  Listening to vendors, contractors and consultants advise you in 3 slides how they have solved all these problems for your competition and that YOU are behind.

Simplify by Allowing for Complication

Your child is getting ready for a heart transplant and you ask the doctor about the procedure.    How long will it take?  What do I need to worry about?  What are the risks? Many questions.   What if the doctor says “Don’t worry, I just read 3 slides and brought in a sub to take care of it.”   They have a process call prime, pull, press and progress.  They will come in and do some things that are really complicated and then the person (insert name here) will be ready for shipment.. or recovery.

You wouldn’t tolerate that.   You would be outraged but in business, this is what folks do.  We simplify very complicated concepts and we don’t seek to learn.   Let me be clear, I am not saying that you should know all the math involved with Alexa but I am saying you should understand what the heck is really going on and/or have advocates on your behalf that do.   How do you deal with this?  How do you solve for x?   Invest in training.  Allow for people to admit they don’t know and accept that they don’t know.   Allow for people to address complicated issues and concepts with more than 3 slides.   Allow for people to teach and encourage organizational learning and education.    Have people train each other and upskill.   Invest in current employee cross training.


I Wrote Too Much

If you are here now, statistically speaking you are a rarity.  Why because I wrote too much and I bored the heck out of people by the third sentence.  This is why there is a problem.   If people aren’t fed snippets of information in micro-transactions, they get frustrated and move on.  Unless of course it is caustic or negative or something we should argue about.    If we are going to solve the top challenges for a CIO or other leaders, we really need straight talk on these issues.  If not,  the people that “get it” will “have it” all!








Categories KM

Schrödinger’s Manager

From the desk of Mr. John Benfield


In the early 20th century, physicist Erwin Schrödinger proposed a thought experiment involving an unlucky cat in a box, a vial of poison and a device which would watch for a random particle decay. When the decay is detected, the poison is released and the cat dies. Rather than being a simple way to piss off PETA and other cat lovers, it was meant to illustrate what he saw as a logical flaw in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. The particle exists only as a probability, simultaneously in states of “decayed/not decayed” (superposition) until observed. Similarly, the entire contents of the box, the detector, poison vial and cat are tied to that observation and exist in superposition. The cat is simultaneously both dead and alive. As soon as the contents of the box are subject to observation (able to interact with the system outside of the box), the wave function collapses into one of the possible states and animal rights activists are immediately notified.


While the Copenhagen interpretation has been supplanted by newer interpretations, these “cat states” are very real and have been demonstrated at macroscopic levels, though at very small scales and without the assistance of willing or unwilling felines.

However, I believe that I’ve uncovered a practical macroscopic example that’s occurring every day in Corporate America.

Let me provide you with one of many real life dialogs that started me down this path:

SM (Schrödinger’s Manager): “Maybe we should look at moving everything into the cloud”

Me: “We’d love to see that as an option. It would reduce our infrastructure costs and help simplify the environment”

SM: “We’re not moving to the cloud.”

Me: “But you just suggested…”

SM: “We’re not doing that. Why are we talking about this?”

What I would have attributed to simple cognitive dissonance, I’m now starting to see as a brilliant management strategy. Like our Cat-in-the-box, Schrödinger’s Manager exists in a continual state of superposition until observed by someone outside of the system (their boss). This allows them to exist in all possible states and, by extension, keeps all downstream decisions and activities both “aligned”/”not aligned”. Everything contained within the organizational “box” can be temporarily protected from observation and, therefore, from accidental collapse of the wave function into a decision.

When an observer (generally someone above the level of SM) comes along, the interaction causes the collapse of all of the possibilities into a consistent system of aligned or not-aligned decisions and fired, not-fired, punished and not-punished conditions. SM, however, appears to the outside observer to have always been in the state that’s observed when “opening the box”. They’re perceived as brilliantly insightful for having perfectly anticipated the observer.

While this is great for SM, the individuals sharing the box with him are left trying to function within a system of continual uncertainty. While it leaves possibilities open, that also means that both failure and success exist in superposition and there is no outside observation or interaction to help guide behaviors. If anything, feedback is specifically designed to maintain that delicate entanglement and ensure that there are no accidental decisions that will collapse those possibilities.

So how do we mitigate this phenomenon?

It’s really quite simple; Trust.

When an Observer (senior leader) trusts an underling like Schrödinger’s Manager with a decision and implicitly agrees to support those decisions, they shift the role of Observer to that person.

By trusting people “in the box” to make decisions and communicate openly with others outside of the box, the trusted take on the observer role and they become empowered to collapse probabilities into realities.

Trusting people does mean that you have to relinquish some control and power. But a good manager will have prepared their people to handle that responsibility and accountability…. and doesn’t that beat being a dead cat in a box?



No TED Talks @ Work

@Work Entertainment

TED (standing for Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.”

I enjoy TED talks..

I love listening to TED talks.  I enjoy the stories and the style.   I have good recall on many of the talks and in some cases,  it changes my life or perspective.    In most cases these talks are designed to make us think and feel.  People remember the talk because there is emotion wrapped into the story.    This is a far cry from the HR videos designed to deter us from making mistakes in harassment or hostile work environment in the office.

If you don’t know what a TED talk is.. take a look at this

That was a great one..

Not @ Work

A few years ago as part of a change management activity I suggested we do “TED talks” for our employees.   As a result, nothing good happened.  TED talks are written and spoken with passion and purpose.   There is something organic feeling about a TED talk.  It is something that is honest or at least feels honest.  There are plenty of lack luster TED talks out there but there is a style here that is almost like making music or a play.

TED talks

Use Anecdotes: If you can’t connect the anecdote to the current content and it isn’t emotionally connected, it is a waste of effort.

Rotate:  Weaving in entertainment and content and consistently looping it back in. 

Share New Info:  The information has to be new and fresh, even if it is a fresh take on an old thing.  It has to be new!

Have Passion:  HAVE PASSION

The ideas are “ideas worth spreading”  This is the kind of thing that drives a person to share the video or discussion with others.   It becomes personal and it is new even if it is old.

Corporate La La

When watching a TED, there is a good chance that you were introduced to the talk by someone sharing it with you.   A few months ago,  someone shared an Apple video from 1987 that was fascinating to watch today.

This video is TED worthy almost by itself.

The reason is that it is new, compelling and it emotionally touches some part of you.  It came from a source that was not “approved by corporate communications.”

There is a level of authenticity involved, even if you don’t agree with the content.  I believe that the person speaking is authentic.   In a corporate situation,  it is much more complicated.    If you come to listen or watch a TED talk with a closed mind from the beginning, there isn’t anything that can be said to pull you in a different direction because we need proof.  Most TED talks address some kind of research.

If your CEO is talking about how he researched that all figs have wasps in them and so we all need to understand the concept of “mutualism.”     You would potentially walk away scratching your head.   (Yes, figs can have wasps in them.)

These talks have to be authentic and if this is the first time you are ever hearing someone from the C-level come out to speak with you in the TED format, there is a reason or driver for this that is questionable to anyone.   Corporate leaders should speak often to employees but this format is made for a purpose and people will need to believe before they receive information that these are “ideas worth receiving and sharing.”



Testing You ..

Name 3 CEO’s or any C-level people that you believe should do a TED talk or have possibly done TED talks.   Were any of them your CEO or C-level person?   If not,  why?

There are many ways to communicate with employees, start by writing and showing up more.  Become present in the lives of your employees.   TED is for ideas not for companies to build relationships with their employees…  think about it.


Categories KM