Building a Talent Ecosystem

Open Source Talent

An open source approach for recruiting today’s employees can deliver a competitive advantage.

By Antonis Christidis

Across the globe and across all industries, business leaders are facing the challenge of competing for digital talent to ensure their organizations are ready for the future of work. This is especially the case as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and ever-evolving forms of automation shape tomorrow’s business landscape.

But in order to attract the right talent to successfully compete in the digital world, organizations must think beyond traditional sourcing approaches. Refining previous tactical recruiting initiatives will no longer do the trick. Instead, the labor marketplace calls for a new way to find and source talent by embracing collaboration, sharing, and community-building. This is a concept best described as “open source talent.”

And this approach is quickly growing in popularity. According to the 2018 Open Source Jobs Report released by The Linux Foundation and Dice, hiring open source talent is a priority for 83 percent of hiring managers—an increase from 76 percent in 2017.

Today, companies looking to tap into the same talent pools as tech giants and dynamic startups with unique growth opportunities face significant recruiting challenges. Traditional organizations are asking how they can identify and attract new digital talent while competing with prestigious giants and disruptors—as well as with everyone else.

But competition for high-demand talent is driven by more than just technological necessity. As companies transform their business models into more customer-centric, integrated operations, they need people with the ability to facilitate these changes and those who can help them collaborate in more agile ways.

The scarcity of this kind of talent is exacerbated by changing demographics. What employees expect from their employers and jobs today is different from previous generations. Although personality traits haven’t fundamentally changed, certain values have.

Open Source Talent Strategy

Whereas previous generations tend to place a slightly higher value on security and tradition, millennials are more motivated by personal happiness, achieving life aspirations, and recognition. They demand higher degrees of autonomy and flexibility, more versatile career paths, a stronger emphasis on work-life balance, and a more defined sense of purpose. These workers are also increasingly vocal in their expectations of work arrangements that put them in control of their busy personal and professional lives.

As a result, new recruiting propositions need to become more experiential and appeal to an increasingly complex and diverse talent ecosystem. But at its core, the war for talent assumes that each company has exclusive ownership of top talent. It describes a zero-sum game where the win of one company is the loss of another. In other words, an employee of one company cannot work for another without changing employers.

Although this is still the case for many jobs, in an era of shifting focus from ownership to access and the sharing economy, a more fluid mindset will give employers an advantage. In markets where changing demographics and skills requirements make top talent increasingly scarce, smart companies are looking for innovative ways to access talent.

These dynamics will gradually change perceptions about the need to “own” talent, and the focus of the recruiting function will evolve from acquisition to curation. The fluid pipeline of the future will be built by organizations that embrace the principles of open source talent: collaboration, sharing, and community-building.

These principles are straightforward. An open source talent strategy calls for building a more successful, broader, higher-quality talent pipeline by collaborating across employers in the recruiting process. It means expanding the existing talent base and leveraging talent ecosystems by sharing employees more effectively within and across companies. The goal is to increase the effectiveness of the future talent base by becoming part of the communities where these employees exchange ideas, learn, and develop critical skills.

Still, organizations can’t expect to succeed in an open source talent market without becoming an attractive environment for the talent they require. To become such an employer of choice, organizations can implement four key imperatives:

  1. Create an experience that allows employees to live and work “in the flow.” Employees want a seamless, unified experience across work and life enabled by constant connectivity and intuitive interfaces. Companies should be willing to actively learn and crowdsource ideas from existing employees and associates—just as they do when designing for customer experience. This will create active engagement and encourage current and potential employees to shape the workplace together.
  1. Leverage knowledge and personalization. Every interaction becomes a valuable data source. Understanding both the surface needs of employees and the fundamental drivers of their behaviors will help companies build more personalized propositions that align with and support a greater purpose. Such personalization is crucial for attracting top talent.
  1. Align the employee value proposition with the interests of today’s workforce. It’s time to rethink the fundamentals of HR, such as the annual salary review or the annual performance cycle. These processes were designed in an era that has little in common with how we live and work today. Yet, to a large extent, they still form the basis for how people are managed. The most successful employers will challenge these norms and redefine people management with “people” and not “management” as the driver.
  1. Be authentic. A successful talent value proposition delivers a unique sense of purpose and a differentiated career and well-being experience, all while offering competitive compensation and benefits. This needs to be fully in sync with the company’s vision, business strategy, and operating model—a stark contrast to how most companies operate today.

In addition to reevaluating their value propositions, today’s agile, innovative organizations are developing new talent acquisition models that reflect the digital age and the digital orientation of the talent they seek. Some are recruiting through automated screening platforms using self-filmed video interviews uploaded by interviewees. After the video is evaluated by machine-learning software, successful candidates are referred to in-person interviews. Other technologies allow new recruits to sign contracts on smart devices, and tailored applications enable the initial onboarding process.

That’s a good beginning but there’s still a long way to go. New, successful talent acquisition models will be built on collaboration, sharing, and community-building. In an era of new possibilities, the war for talent will only be won by adopting this new mindset and embracing the concept—and the competitive advantage— of open source talent.


Antonis Christidis is a partner in Mercer’s career business.

Posted September 17, 2018 in Talent Acquisition

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