Talent Acquisition Simplified: How To Revamp Your Talent Pool
We started to hear about the War for Talent in the 1990s, and we still hear it. But it means something very different now.
There’s no doubt that the right people in the right positions remain crucial for business success, but the process to dip into the talent pool has changed. It goes beyond a simple move to online platforms, such as freelance consultant platforms . There has been a fundamental change in the thinking about talent - and its acquisition, development and retention.
The traditional approach to talent was designed for the industrial world of the past century. It just does not work in the digital age, where flexibility, agility and innovation are king.
Talent in the Digital Age
In the 1990’s, talent and highflyer were synonymous. And talent management was really succession planning. The focus was on finding talented employees and somehow keeping them happy so that they did not go to your competitors and would take over top positions in the future. Executives were evaluated on their talent mindset and the opportunities they provided for these employees.
This focus on highflying individuals sometimes encouraged narcissistic behavior. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “What the Dog Saw”, describes the downfall of Enron, and attributes it to the culture where the needs of the stars became more important than customers and shareholders. Enron’s philosophy at its peak was, “The only thing that differentiates Enron from its competitors is our people, our talent.” Gladwell asks, “What if Enron failed not in spite of its talent mind-set, but because of it?”
Today, that has changed. Talent management is a more generic term, referring to the identification of human capital needs and planning to meet them. The focus is on putting together high-performing teams rather than finding super-star individuals. And, if we are to use Netflix as an example, the goal is to have top performers in all positions, not just a few individual stars. There is no place for talented jerks or prima donnas.
Along with this change comes the realization that skills rapidly become obsolescent. So, no matter how hardworking, loyal or skilled an employee has been, there’s a possibility that there’s no longer a place in the team. Netflix respectfully offers generous severance packages to these employees.
This means that old-fashioned succession planning is also obsolete. It was always an inexact science, with in-house talented employees being groomed for some position in the future, often only to find when the time came that they weren’t quite right. But this is almost impossible today.
To understand this, we have only to look at the number of jobs that have been either replaced or completely changed by technology, and at the numbers of jobs today that did not exist ten years ago. An HR Manager in charge of succession planning would have needed a crystal ball to get anyone groomed for positions like Social Media Manager, SEO Manager, App Developer, Podcast Producer or Telemedicine Physician!
Trends in Employment Models
Another fundamental change to talent management is that companies are no longer looking for lifers, who depend on the company to provide development opportunities together with regular steps up the promotion ladder. Now, companies are looking for just-in-time skills. Increasingly, they are turning to the online consulting marketplace to access the skills that they need when they need them.
Along with this comes a move to the gig economy, a free market system which allows independent workers to engage with organizations for short term employment. These workers include freelancers, consultants, independent professionals and temporary workers, and they have been around for some time. But technology, and particularly online freelance consultant platforms, have dramatically lowered the barriers to entry. The statistics are difficult to confirm, but it would seem that 20 – 30% of the working age populations of the USA and the EU participate, either to supplement their incomes or as their primary source of income. Most have no intention of returning to full-time traditional employment.
It sounds like the trend to the gig economy and the trend to just-in-time skills are made for each other.
The good news for organizations is that they now have the luxury of choice in their hiring practices. They can choose a full-time employee, either from within or from outside, or they can bring in a contingent worker – a freelancer or a consultant - depending on the circumstances. And they can rely on technology in the form of freelance consultant platforms to assist them.
Here are some criteria to consider:
- You’re confronting an issue you haven’t dealt with before: This might be the time to bring in an expert who has dealt with this type of issue multiple times in a variety of companies. Independent consultants usually have specialized skills, honed by exposure to different organizations.
- You want to implement a major change: For example, you may want to introduce e-commerce to your current retail offering, or you want to expand your advertising strategy to social media. These changes are going to need both technical expertise and skills in behavioral change. Again, this may be a time for an independent contractor who will guide you through the change – and also transfer some skills to your current staff.
- You need long-term support in your management team or have ongoing work in a particular area of your business: The nature of freelancers and consultants is that they are temporary and suitable for projects that, while they may be complex, have a due date. For a long-term need, it is probably better to hire a full-time employee, and provide training if necessary.
- You have a project and your current employees either don’t have the skills for it, or they don’t have the time to take away from their current responsibilities: A consultant can provide a service that is backed by a specific set of skills and previous experience in the area – and can be 100% focused on your project.
As for any business decision, there are pros and cons for hiring a consultant rather than a full-time employee.
The major pros for using consultants are that you pay only for work done, you have no overhead costs, you do not have to provide training for required skills and you have access to objective perspectives. And, of course, if you are using an online freelance consultant platform, you have access to an extensive talent pool.
Cons are that consultants may have other commitments and may not be available whenever you want them, you are not guaranteed that they have the skills they say they do, and you may not be able to closely manage deadlines and the quality of work.
Freelance Consultant Platforms are the Answer
One of the hallmarks of success in leading companies today is digital speed. They operate faster, whether they are reviewing business results or allocating resources. Hiring the right people quickly fits right in here – and is facilitated by freelance consultant platforms. The online consultant marketplace drastically extends the talent pool and makes it possible to hire top consultants that exactly match your needs in a fraction of the time that it might have taken before.
Revamping your Talent Pool in the Digital Age
So, the war for talent continues. The good news is that, while technology has changed, the workplace and its skills requirements, it has also provided the answer for talent acquisition: the online consulting marketplace has thrown open the talent pool, and online freelance consulting platforms have made it easy to find exactly the talent you need.