Humdex Founder Caroline Brent takes us through her personal journey jumping from the corporate ladder and how the appeal of remote working for senior execs impacts younger generations.

Remote working and the long goodbye

I recently read an article by Korn Ferry called ‘The Long Goodbye’ exploring the impact of the pandemic on senior executives. It is true that the levels of stress in learning new ways of working, and the ultimate impact of job losses has created unprecedented times for many.

I however, wanted to reflect on one of the hidden impacts of the pandemic that is called out by Korn Ferry in their article. For many senior exes, and I count myself historically amongst that number, those senior positions pre-pandemic involved a great deal of international travel, an avalanche of meetings notwithstanding the plethora of ‘corridor ‘conversations that makes corporate businesses the melting pot of both small and large-scale politics. Managing all these aspects of the corporate environment effectively is usually part of the key to corporate success.

One of the interesting points raised by Korn Ferry is that with the advent of the online, rather than the physical person to person corporate world, the sheer exhaustion created by continual meetings, constant international travel, and those ‘ad hoc’ discussions have, to some extent, dissipated. The ability to lead from your home office in the comfort of your own home is encouraging some senior execs to put off retirement, extending their stay at the lofty senior levels of the corporate machine. Consequently, succession planning may then become more challenging for CHRO’s. How to keep those millennials who are snapping at the heels of their corporate bosses motivated and engaged when the stepladder to success may be extended and job availability and security becomes more of a concern for younger generations.

This is not to say that those senior execs in post are ineffective, far from it. For instance, long serving senior execs can bring, stability, calm, a sense of security and an even-handed approach to people and problem solving that is built on a deep knowledge of a business and its employees. We all need a mixture of enthusiasm and experience in our leaders that gives organizations confidence in the present and an exciting and inspirational vision of the future. A mix of youth and maturity is often a perfect mix for success. In some case it is preferable to persuade the experienced to stay longer than risk poor preparation in successors. Knowing when the time is right for change is a key succession planning dilemma for CHRO’s and for businesses in general.

In the long term it is about what is best for business and for the people in those businesses. I wanted to share my own personal experience of jumping off the corporate ladder along with some of the drivers for my own decision making to illustrate my thinking around this subject. Although my decisions were not influenced by the pandemic – they were made a few years before anybody had heard of Covid 19, I think it is still pertinent to the decisions of those senior execs who choose to stay in post longer than they may have originally initially intended.

Being a dinosaur and jumping to my second career

This is my story. I had a long and successful career in corporate business. Most of my career was spent in the manufacturing sector, and despite being female I secured a number of senior HR roles. I and my family took the opportunity to move abroad to Germany where both myself and my family were excellently treated by the company I worked for. Ultimately, I found a stimulating senior role working for an inspirational boss based in Sweden with a work content I loved. Lucky me! I was offered more senior HR roles outside the business but chose to stay where I was. I had a role I loved and was not seeking another promotion. I held this role for 8 years!

All of this got me thinking. I could probably sit in this role for any number of years until I retired or the business tired of me, but two things did not feel right. Firstly, with all of the experience I had gained from over 20 years in corporate business surely, I should put into practice what I was always preaching. If I truly believed that the methodologies and approach that I had helped create was right for business I should have the confidence to launch my own business and test my own theory around business success. In other words, would other business pay for my help and expertise, was I credible?

In my experience, it is often true that those who have spent their lives in corporate businesses have many ideas on what they and others should do to be successful – but to really test what you believe in – do you have the courage to leave and put your ideas and approach to the test in the market?

Secondly, how frustrating it must be for those below me in the hierarchy to sit underneath somebody who had no intention of leaving, did not seek promotion and was not likely to be asked to leave. Was I just blocking the chance for others and for any change that might come should I not be in that post? Both of these issues played on my mind for some time.

In February 2016 I took the decision to leave and start a business of my own. I was helped by UK private pension rules which enabled me to make my final decision with some form of financial safety net, although nothing like the pay and conditions I had been used to. I felt relieved that I left when I still felt relevant and valued and I hoped I was not viewed as a career blocker by any of my colleagues.

The change was dramatic and took about 6 months acclimatization. Previously, whenever I wanted anything – help with my laptop, appointments made, software updates, invoices sent, anything to do with using and accessing technology and merely the closeness of people and my team, everything was immediately accessible. In my new world, I had to learn and relearn how to work and how to get things done, and most difficult of all; how to re asses my place in the hierarchy of those with whom I worked. No longer was I the most important person in the room. If I wanted something, I needed to organise that myself. It was a culture shock I can tell you, but there were tremendous upsides. I could choose what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. I developed my customer skills and learned a huge amount doing that. I set my own timetable and I was so flattered and humbled by those who I had worked with in he past who came to me with offers of both work and support. I count myself incredibly lucky to have such good colleagues and friends who saw value in what we developed and trusted me and our new business to deliver for them.

Three messages for Senior Executives

So, what is my point? During the pandemic, most senor execs have been forced to become acclimatised to the technology that allows you to work at a distance. In the move to my own business becoming self-sufficient in this aspect was probably my greatest challenge. For senior execs I want to deliver three messages:

1- Firstly, if you have an idea you believe in, it might just be worth thinking of a second career and using all that excellent knowledge for the benefit of others. After all a key leadership skill we are always talking about is courage and it takes some of that to voluntarily jump off of the corporate gang plank. You have achieved one of the key milestones by being able to function remotely, the rest is down to you and your ideas.

2- Secondly, if you love the business you work for, and I definitely did; then think what is best for them. Senior and experienced senior exec can bring great business value, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ here. My biggest fear was being seen as a blocker and a corporate dinosaur.

3- Finally, the sense of freedom and achievement that I have gained from being part of the concept and launching of Humdex - workforce analytics had been both a steep learning curve and probably the most fulfilling and exciting thing I have ever done.

If you read this article and want to know about Humdex, what we do and about me and my thinking please click the following link. Alternatively, you can contact me via LinkedIn, I’d love to know your views and experiences.


We work hard at keeping up to date and informed on the latest trends and news affecting the world of people analytics, diversity and inclusion & strategic workforce planning. If you would like to know more about the work we do, then please contact us.

Author -Caroline Brent

Subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter for more insights, news, light reads and trends here.


A look at the relationship between Data and Diversity, plus a new partnership announcement with Adecco UK and Ireland

Proven impact

Diversity and inclusion is no longer a “nice to have’, but is a key business driver for success and a demonstrable and quantifiable catalyst in productivity, innovation and workplace attractiveness. In response to a growing core of evidence on the tangible benefits of D&I, plus the clear spotlight in recent politics and its importance as a factor for millennials and gen z who are entering the world of work, many companies in 2021 are highly motivated to get to grips with their D&I status.

As much as this is, and often devolves into, an emotional issue, those companies succeeding know that meaningful gains and changes to D&I are made by leveraging information and data analytics. Dean Stoecker in a Forbes article writes:

"Diversity and inclusion needs to be a CEO-level priority. Whether by gender, race, age or any other factor, a diverse group of people brings unique experiences, perspectives and ideas to the table. In a data-driven business world, the insights that come from the discussions around that metaphoric table—be it in the board room, conference room or lab—can lead to the secret sauce that takes products or services from good to great."

This short article will briefly discuss how data analytics can benefit your D&I agenda, why C-level support for D&I leadership is essential for any meaningful impact, then spotlight the company Adecco and how its D&I commitments for 2021 are a strong demonstration of best practice.

What gets measured gets done

A favourite phrase here at Humdex “what gets measured gets done”. Too long has D&I activity been driven by the success of a competitor, or is based or on ‘what feels right’ rather than on data driven analysis. Data analytics should play a big part in establishing D&I milestones and informing how these can be successfully reached. Nebulous targets devoid of a solid understanding of both a company's internal but also external environment [their current status and potential], will effect a company negatively and can cause stagnation, resentment and a lack-lustre response in the business. Conversely clear, data-based, attainable yet aspirational targets will focus efforts, create clear lines for accountability, and offer up the opportunity to celebrate success.

“We need to have an evidence base for D&I. That’s why it’s not just important to set D&I goals and targets but also to measure progress and success."

Olivia McEvoy, Using data for evidence based action on Diversity and Inclusion, Ernst & Young — Ireland, 9 Aug 2019

Often D&I targets are set to a default 50/50 for representation or “better than last year”. Businesses can often find themselves at the mercy of targets like these which have no factual justification for their creation. For example, there may not be the same number of female engineers or IT professionals as males in your geography or business sector, making a 50/50 ratio highly unlikely in the short term, frequently resulting in a cycle of failure to reach goals or aspirations and wasted time and resources. Without good quality data, D&I discussions can often feel quite emotional and personal, making effective conversations difficult and progress slow and painful. Our recent research published in the report "Humdex Next Generation HR" ascertained that the majority of C-level or equivalent leaders would welcome HR ‘as a driver of company strategy” bringing with them that data to help make decisions “based on facts and figures” [see fig.1]. So not only do senior managers want important strategic input from HR but they also need input to be data-driven, which will effectively mitigate some of the emotion from the picture at the core of all D&I initiatives.

The following tables from our recent report show that firstly; business leaders want HR to both focus on D&I and to be able to think both analytically and strategically ( Fig 1) . This is mirrored by the data from HR professionals themselves, who clearly see the need for more data driven thinking ( Fig 2.).


Fig. 2

Data analytics, such as these provided by Humdex, help to provide an unbiased, fact-based foundation from which to understand a company’s “as is”, effectively laying out the market situation, in order to then produce powerful options/pathing for future business strategy.

What is more, building data-analytics into a D&I strategy and fostering this scientific method as a company culture can, in itself, help to produce positive D&I results. Dean Stoecker continues:

"The evolving landscape of the data science and analytics market creates an inherent need for organizations to foster data-driven cultures fuelled by collaboration and diversity, presenting an opportunity for women, and other demographics traditionally underrepresented in the technology workforce, to accelerate their careers by embracing analytic roles. As a business leader, I long ago recognized that true, authentic diversity brings a wealth of insights and is a critical factor in driving global growth and success. As with data, the more sources and points of view that are available, the richer the insights and outcomes will be."

A unifying factor

Effective D&I programmes can only prosper when C-level management co-ordinates and collaborates with its designated D&I leadership. The secret value of a successful D&I initiative is in its power to unify upper management with the business as a whole, for no D&I leader will succeed without C-level guidance and commitment.

"Without your active support and leadership, no D&I leader will succeed. But with an intentional approach from the executive team, you can create the conditions that allow everyone to thrive, starting with the D&I leader"

M. Valentine, C-Suite: Your D&I Leader Is Doomed To Fail (Unless You Step Up), Forbes, Feb 13, 2020

Fig 1. clearly shows that the time is right with ‘C’ suite business leaders calling on HR to support them, by defining a strategy built on good quality data, in their drive for diversity and inclusion.

The D&I leadership, currently, has no authority or access to guarantee that their calculated requirements for progress are favourable or indeed sustainable. This is, in part, an indication of a wider issue HR currently faces. Again the Humdex Next Generation HR [Fig.2] pinpoints the fundamental question, how can HR (and by extension D&I leadership) hope to enact meaningful change with data and experience, when they are not currently seen as a “Driver in defining business strategy” but more as an implementer of the pre-determined. This is the equivalent of having an important scientific debate where the scientist have to wait outside the room whilst the answer is decided.

Fig. 3

D&I leadership needs top down company support and authority, visably at all levels, in order to make a marked impact and effect any form of ROI. D&I leadership can lead efforts, in collaboration with the C-suite, to operationalise desired company values and ensure they are part of everyday people processes and business decisions.

“It is inseparably part of building a successful business. Avoiding it or, worse, offloading it onto a powerless D&I leader is a capitulation of your duty as an entrepreneur, businessperson and human being.
D&I is not a program, a line item or an initiative; it is an outcome of intentional high-integrity work, strong metrics and shared accountability.
D&I leaders truly want to make a difference. It’s up to the C-suite to step up and give them the power, access and tools to help the people and the business thrive."

M. Valentine, C-Suite: Your D&I Leader Is Doomed To Fail (Unless You Step Up), Forbes, Feb 13, 2020

Humdex and Adecco

At Humdex we are proud to announce that, in partnership with Adecco UK/I, we are able to offer an in depth D&I Talent Market Mapping for companies to support the delivery of a quantified and market driven approach to D&I . Our partnership with Adecco grew from the D&I analysis we provided for them, that enabled them to define and publish their own D&I commitments.

Adecco’s commitment to D&I

To prove the value of this approach Adecco is already using this methodology to define their future D&I aspirations and better operate competitively in the market. Alex Fleming Region President of Northern Europe at Adecco writes

“D&I is not only a real focus area for us at Adecco but also with the many clients and candidates we work with and represent. We have a number of external D&I partners working to provide solutions to the talent market, and we are delighted to be able to add the Humdex D&I Talent Market Mapping product to our exciting range of offers. Humdex brings quality analysis to D&I data that can be a big part of both defining strategy initiatives and in delivering clear fact based communication to stakeholders.”

We are extremely excited to be partnering with Adecco UK and Ireland, part of the world’s leading human capital solutions company, the Adecco Group. As a Fortune Global 500 company, the business skills, develops and hires talent in 60 countries, enabling organisations to embrace the future of work.

Read more about what we are doing with D&I Talent Market Mapping by taking a look at our infographic just below:

HUMDEX D & I - infographic
Download ZIP • 394KB

Find out more about how Adecco used our data for their December 2020 Equality, Diversity and inclusion commitments available here:

_ADECCO_Diversity_Equality_& Inclusion_c
Download • 2.02MB

If you want to know more about D&I Talent Market Mapping you can contact the Adecco UK and Ireland team HERE.

"It takes effort to assess employee experience of D&I, devise a strategy and action plan, deliver on its ambitions and then measure the results."

Olivia McEvoy, Using data for evidence based action on Diversity and Inclusion, Ernst & Young — Ireland, 9 Aug 2019


We work hard at keeping up to date and informed on the latest trends and news affecting the world of people analytics, diversity and inclusion & strategic workforce planning. If you would like to know more about the work we do, then please contact us.

Author -Scott Brent

Subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter for more insights, news, light reads and trends here.


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