How many times have you been surprised to learn that a co-worker has a particular talent or set of experiences you knew nothing about, despite working with that person every day for years? If you’d known that Robin was an expert carpenter, you would have asked her help or advice with a past home project or two. Now that you have that visibility, you can bet you’ll turn to Robin the next time you have a carpentry need.
Now apply that same thinking to the workplace and imagine that your company had an inventory of all of the skills of its employees… beyond just what’s written on their resumes or job descriptions. You’d be able to address emerging projects faster and more effectively, particularly when they require skillsets outside of those traditionally used at your organization.
Companies (and managers) that don’t have visibility into the vast collection of talents and skills among their existing workforce are truly operating at a massive disadvantage. Hitch Founder & CEO Kelley Steven-Waiss and her co-author Edie Goldberg, Ph. D. talk about the incredibly powerful benefits of Talent Visibility in “The Inside Gig,” their future-of-work.
“If we are more than our job titles, how do we improve the visibility of our talents and what can we do with this increased visibility? What can we learn from the gig economy and how can we apply some of that knowledge to our own companies? Most gig workers find their work on talent platforms (Upwork, Toptal, Guru, Fiverr, et cetera) where those looking to hire an individual search a database of people who have specific skills needed for certain projects. The gig workers on the platform have already entered their skills and interests into the database. The talent platform then matches gig workers with the opportunity providers. By mirroring this system, organizations can gain greater visibility into their own talent.
In today’s constantly changing business environment, organizations need to gain a more in-depth understanding of the talent they have to both better leverage the skills they have inside their companies and to create strategies to transition employees to new kinds of work.
Let’s start with the first part of this—better leveraging the talent we already have. The new talent operating model presented in chapters 1, 9, and 10 provides a way for organizations to identify and analyze talent based on skills, not job titles. This gives companies a greater insight into the complete set of capabilities resident within their organizations beyond the bounds of job titles or résumés.
If Kathy’s organization reduced its investment in marketing and shifted more resources into innovation via its engineering team, it could possibly avoid laying her off and she could pivot to an engineering role. Or more likely, perhaps a short-term project might arise that requires her engineering talent and most of the existing engineering staff are overcommitted already. It is possible that Kathy might enjoy a short-term, part-time project to use her engineering skills in addition to furthering the marketing expertise she gains in her current role.
Transitioning Employees to New Kinds of Work
Now let’s address the need to create strategies to transition employees to new kinds of work. Every day we’re inundated with articles addressing the shifting business landscape and the quandary faced by many organizations trying to figure out what to do with current workforces when skills become obsolete and new skills are needed because of technological advancements in the workplace. Gaining greater insight into all the skills in a company is particularly important when that firm is undergoing significant strategic shifts.
For example, in 2015, John Chambers, at the time CEO of Cisco Systems, wrote about his company’s shift from routers and switches to cloud computing and the IoT.3 In February 2017, we interviewed Ian Bailie, who was then senior director of talent acquisition and people planning operations at Cisco. He spoke with us about the importance of gaining visibility into the company’s talent during its transition to the IoT. Bailie said, “We needed to gain a better idea of the skills, knowledge, and expertise of our employees. Cisco is going through a big transformation, and we are moving away from our core expertise. When we look at the external labor market, there are not enough of the skills we need to succeed in our move toward the Internet of Things. The idea of laying off people with the old skills and hiring people with the new skills we need is not really a viable option. We needed to minimize laying off talent by reskilling people for the future of work.” Gaining visibility into the skills Cisco currently had gave the company insights into who might be able to make the transition to the newly required skill sets and thus who it should prioritize for reskilling to grow the talent needed within the organization.
While Cisco is a specific example of a company moving away from core expertise to a new area of focus, it is more and more common for organizations to experience shifting technologies, platforms, and areas of attention based on evolving business needs and new strategic priorities. For many employees today, their future jobs haven’t been invented yet, an indication of how quickly the workplace is evolving. We can’t assume we can lay off employees with the old set of skills and then hire employees with the necessary new skills. There are just not enough people with those hot, in-demand skill sets available to satisfy all companies as they move to big-data analytics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and so on. Given this talent shortage, firms need to figure out how to build their own talent if they want to compete successfully.
When skills become visible, any organization can then manage both its supply of them 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 needed to thrive.
By having visibility into the hidden skills, capabilities, and aspirations of their employees, organizations can more rapidly, and cost effectively, assign the right talent to solve real-time business challenges, while also tapping 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, personal growth, and the ability to fully leverage their entire set of capabilities so they can lead more fulfilling careers and companies can maximize investment in talent.”
To learn how the Hitch platform can help you can unlock the talent visibility challenge at your organization, contact us to set up a free assessment call or meeting. You can also visit www.hitch.works and register to download a free chapter of “The Inside Gig.”