Alex Hagan is the founder and CEO at Kienco, a Workforce Strategy consultancy working with global organisations on preparing for the future of work and aligning workforce strategy to organisational strategy. Alex and Kienco have worked on strategic workforce planning initiatives and programs in every continent except Antarctica, and their current analytics and HR Strategy consulting impacts more than 25,000 employees in 10 countries. Alex is also the co-founder of the Masterplan conference in Melbourne, Australia and Wellington, New Zealand, and serves on Faculty at The Conference Board’s Strategic Workforce Planning Academy in New York and Brussels. He has consulted with private industry, NGOs, Government Agencies, and industry bodies on preparing for the future of work, and his approach to strategic workforce planning draws together his experience and interests in econometrics, data analysis, social psychology, and futuring.
1. Most job postings cite “X” years of relevant work experience and specific education criteria as requirements to be considered for the position. With this in mind, what prior work experiences and degrees/certifications/training helped prepare you for your current role?
One of the great things about being a founder of your own company is that there’s no interview process, and you craft the role to your personal passions and experience. Making organisations more effective, more humane, and prepared for an uncertain future through workforce strategy is what gets me up in the morning. The gatekeepers and decision makers are at the client side, and they typically don’t care what degree you hold – they care whether you get results.
Having said that, I studied (and still study) broadly, incorporating business law, education, psychology, sociology, and econometrics – a diverse range of studies that appealed to my interests. That diversity of study makes far more sense in the rear-view mirror than it ever did through the windscreen.
1B. What (if any) additional knowledge or skills that you don’t currently have would make you even better at your job?
I’m always learning. I’m in a fortunate position where my clients are incredibly smart and passionate people, and I learn from them every day. I try to spend a time with people doing the “front line work” of my clients, whether it’s in policing, construction, healthcare, or mining – I can’t tell you what an eye-opener that is. I’m also making great use of MOOCs like Coursera, EDX, etc. to complete short courses from globally renowned universities.
If I had to narrow it down, I’d have to say that learning more languages, particularly expanding my knowledge of Spanish and starting to learn Mandarin, would be great for me both personally and professionally.
2. Some jobs require the incumbent to be very analytical. Others require one to be a strong communicator, and others still require traits like patience, the ability to multitask, self-directedness, comfort with ambiguity, and exceptional attention to detail. Are there any behaviors and/or attributes that you would say are essential to performing the work that you do?
At the risk of sounding un-original, all of the above are critical to my role. When you work in strategy and analytics, attention to detail and a solid understanding of statistics is essential. Being a consultant and CEO requires a whole range of behaviours and attributes that aren’t necessarily natural complements to those attributes. I must confess, I struggle with multi-tasking, and it’s something that I’m working on. I’ve found that above all, passion and humility are the most essential attributes in my role… all others come a distant second.
3. Jobs guru Lou Adler says there are only 4 job types of jobs in the world (producers, improvers, builders, and thinkers). Which type of job are you in?
By Adler’s definitions, I naturally gravitate towards being a Thinker and a Builder. Thinking alone doesn’t lead to results, and building without a masterplan is ineffective, so I find that to be a helpful combination. But I’m also a producer, improver, sounding-board, partner, inspirer, strategist, analyst, and confidant – and with respect to Lou, cynical about pigeon-holing people’s roles into only four categories.
4. Does your job involve either directly or indirectly supervising or managing people? If so, how many direct (or indirect) reports do you have?
I have both direct and indirect reports – although we are a “micro-company”, we have a global network of partners and contractors including software partners, researchers, graphic designers, and data scientists. I’m fortunate enough to work with incredibly smart and passionate people, and I believe that if you articulate a compelling vision and strategy to your team and allow them the autonomy to contribute, then management is far less important than leadership. I’d like to be seen as more of a leader than a manager, but that’s for others to judge.
5. How does what you do impact the business? Think complexity (different types of impacts) and scale (degree of impact). Put another way: Who and what would be impacted if your job wasn’t being done well, and why would it matter that they were impacted?
We’re a consultancy helping organisations develop and execute workforce strategy. Kienco is taking on a life of its’ own, but in many ways, Kienco the company is just an extension of the three founders’ passions, beliefs, and ambitions. If we weren’t executing that vision well, or if it was the wrong one, then we’d be out of business. In terms of our clients, I hope and believe that we make HR more effective, make work more inspiring, and enable our clients to create the future rather than react to it.
6. Is your job safe? Rate its safety on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” and 10 being “I’m an astronaut going into space”. If your job isn’t safe, what working conditions (specifically) make it hazardous?
My job is as safe as any job can be. From a physical safety perspective, I travel almost constantly, and the major risk is of jet-lag. From a job safety perspective, I put it this way: investors and entrepreneurs diversify their risks. Employees don’t get that luxury. As an entrepreneur with clients in multiple locations, my job is economically safer than most. I’m grateful for that.
7. Is there anything I missed that people should know about your job? Is there anything else you want to say about what you do?
I consider myself incredibly lucky to do the work that I do. I’ve worked with 10 or so of the Global Fortune 500, NGOs, Governments, and even entire industries… and I’ve been able to do that in almost every continent (speaking of which, if anyone reading this works for an Antarctic research organisation, please give me a call). One thing that has become clear to me through the years is that even when you’re “the boss”, you’re never really “the boss”. Kienco’s stakeholders are clients, employees, partners, and the people who our work affects… Which at last count was around 25,000 client employees in more than 10 countries. I might be the CEO, but I’m certainly not the boss.
In terms of workforce strategy, it’s worth noting that no matter how great your organisational strategy is, it’s the workforce that executes it. When we were in the agricultural era, those who had land owned the means of production. And when we were in the industrial era, those who had factories owned the means of production. Right now, many organisations are in a knowledge economy – and your workforce owns the means of production. Looking after your workforce is more important today than at any time in history, and a cohesive and actionable workforce strategy is critical to organisational success.
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.