In today’s competitive landscape, companies need to develop fresh approaches to managing talent by leveraging new technologies and responding to changing business models that redefine employment relationships.
When new methods for competing for talent on demand gave rise to platforms such as Topcoder and Upwork, the idea of a workforce made up of both employees and temporary talent began to make a lot of sense. These talent platforms provided a new way for companies to increase their speed, flex their capacity and reduce costs associated with hiring full-time talent for short-term or intermediate needs.
However, the digital transformation so many companies are experiencing today is resulting in the need to deploy new skills that are often in higher demand than supply. This remains true no matter how an organization plans to source talent. We must challenge what we thought was novel in talent management as recently as two or three years ago. Now it’s a race to acquire skills. Talent operating models need to evolve to be more efficient in their use of human capital and more responsive to the rapid shifts in skills, technology and business models.
With unemployment at an all-time low, organizations cannot afford to leave any talent asset untapped. However, it’s often overlooked that, before taking up their current positions, people had other roles, industry experiences, skills, and interests. Most human capital management (HCM) systems categorize employees by job titles, not skills, though many systems link static job descriptions with requisite skills for those job titles. Even this simple organizing system is flawed, because quite often employees customize their job titles for niches they’re in, making common jobs difficult to compare from a systems perspective. For example, a sales manager becomes a “fine wines sales manager,” and a software developer becomes a “hacker” or “QuickBooks guru.”
This difficulty aside, most employees are much more than their job titles. They bring past experiences and current passions (both personal and professional) that reflect different skills and abilities they can contribute to their organizations, even if those skills aren’t applicable in their current role. For instance, to determine how many web designers a company might have, you would have to get beyond those individuals with “web designer” in their job titles. Some people are self-taught web designers and design websites as a hobby or for personal projects. To answer this question, you would need to survey the skills of these employees to know what talents they possess, regardless of the positions they have today.
If employees are more than their job titles, how do you improve the visibility of your company’s talent, and what can you do with this increased visibility? What can you learn from the gig economy, and how can you apply some of that knowledge to your company? Most gig workers find their work on talent platforms (such as Upwork, Toptal, Guru, and Fiverr), where those looking to hire an individual search a database of people who have specific skills for certain projects. The gig workers on the platform enter their skills and interests into the database. The talent platform then matches gig workers with opportunity providers. By mirroring such a system internally, organizations can gain greater visibility into their own talent.
In today’s constantly changing business environment, organizations need to gain an in-depth understanding of the talent they have to leverage all of the skills inside their companies and to create strategies to transition employees to new kinds of work.
Let’s start with the first goal: better leveraging of the talent you already have. We need new technology and processes to enable organizations to gain insight into the skills their employees have. This would provide greater insight into the complete set of capabilities within the organization beyond the bounds of job titles or résumés. Furthermore, this technology must be dynamic to add new skills as employees grow and develop. Today, we would argue that LinkedIn profiles may be a more up-to-date profile of an employee than a company’s internal database. This is because individuals are encouraged to update their profiles as they gain new skills. By knowing the skills resident within the company, organizations can better utilize those skills when and where they need them.
Now let’s address the need for strategies to transition employees to new kinds of work. Every day we’re inundated with articles addressing the shifting business landscape and the quandary many organizations face of what to do with their current workforces when, because of technological advancements in the workplace, existing skills become obsolete and new skills are needed. When a company is undergoing significant strategic shifts, it is particularly important to gain greater insight into all of the skills in the company. There is simply not enough talent in the labor market for some of the in-demand skills today (e.g., data analytics, machine learning and/or artificial intelligence) to meet the growing needs of companies. Companies need to identify what skills the existing talent has and who has foundational skills that can be built on to develop the skills needed for the future of work.
Given talent shortages, firms need to figure out how to build their own talent. Reskilling the company’s employees for the future of work is one example of the Business Roundtable’s redefinition of the purpose of a corporation, which now includes serving customers, employees, suppliers and communities in addition to shareholders. Investing in employees and the communities a business serves is critical to its long-term success. When skills become visible, any organization can then manage both its supply as well as the demand for such talent through requests on projects or open requisitions. Armed with this information, an organization can create talent strategies to close the supply-demand gap and prepare for future strategic shifts.
By gaining visibility into the hidden skills, capabilities and aspirations of their employees, organizations can more rapidly and cost-effectively match the right talent to solve real-time business challenges. They can also tap into discretionary effort from a highly engaged workforce by allowing employees to work on those projects that best match their skills and interests. The future is about connecting people with opportunities for micro-learning and personal growth and fully leveraging all of their capabilities so that they can lead more fulfilling careers and companies can maximize their investment in talent.
Employees today want new and different experiences. Yet most jobs are so specialized that people get stuck doing the same work over and over again, which leads to boredom and disengagement. Opportunities to work with different colleagues on different projects are exactly the type of dynamic learning experiences today’s employees seek. When employees are exposed to new leaders, work with new team members or are able to use their skills in a different context, there are constant opportunities for learning and growth. Not only are new challenges presented in those work teams, but employees also learn from different leadership styles and from their coworkers’ knowledge, skills and experiences.
Given that today’s millennials demonstrate impatience with the speed of learning in a traditional job trajectory, we need to develop new approaches to provide continuous learning opportunities. With recently developed technological capabilities, there are new ways to provide diversity and choice in work rather than rely on traditional training or job rotation programs. Providing employees with a diverse set of experiences in which they can craft their own paths will likely attract the best talent. There is pressure to create an employee experience like that of a free agent inside an organization, because the barriers to free-agent or contingent work are low and because people are demanding more diverse work, greater choice and the opportunity to rapidly acquire new skills.
By participating in short-term, part-time projects, employees get to learn while doing real and important work for their organizations. We are strong promoters of the idea that at least 70% of learning should come from on-the-job experiences. We just use the term job a little bit more loosely. When employees are allowed to opt-in to projects where they can learn a new skill set, use a currently underutilized skill or simply work in an area they’re passionate about, they’ll exert more discretionary effort.
We strongly believe that companies can increase their performance and results by creating an internal gig network which will boost both productivity and engagement in their organizations. Rather than acquire new skills by hiring from outside, the new and quite disruptive reality is that competitive advantage is now based on the ability to rapidly develop and more effectively deploy the talent supply within a company.
Continue the conversation with the Hitch team to find out how to deploy this new talent operating model in your organization.