Thinking Ahead of the Tech Curve
By Bill Hatton
Market watchers expect non-employee talent to comprise about 50 per cent of the workforce in upcoming years, and that’s one reason 95 per cent of organisations currently see contingent labor as crucial to executing their business strategy. Those statistics come from supply-management research firm Ardent Partners.
That means the future of talent management will require visibility into a mix of contingent and permanent talent, along with specialists such as statement of work (SOW) workers, and will further require use of technology that needs to be more and more integrated, such as VMSs, ATSs, etc.
The promise is great: Being able to see and manage all the human capital available in an organisation, as well as that talent which can be obtained, for the projects the companies need to accomplish, when they need to accomplish them, and manage them the whole way.
That’s the idea, a holistic vision. Where is the market now? HRO Today Global asked the regional heads of APAC and EMEA for leading global outsourcing firm Pontoon Solutions, for their opinions on the total talent market (TTM). Here are key points they made:
Rishi Kapoor, President, Asia Pacific, Pontoon Solutions, Singapore, first notes that APAC is not one homogenous markets – “different countries, different flavors” – and that total talent management has been discussed for at least the past seven years.
“An all-encompassing MSP and RPO offering complete with a technological solution – that’s still not there yet, in terms of the technology being available on the client demand having fully materialised,” Kapoor says. “Will we see this materialise in the next few years? Absolutely, yes.”
Historically, TTM has been over-sold and under-delivered, Kapoor says. What works better is a realistic approach, acting as a consultant to clients. “We provide a roadmap in terms of what’s available today, how we can solve your talent needs from a global management perspective – be it the requirement for a contingent worker or be it the requirement for a permanent worker.”
The goal: Get the clients prepared for the next phase, “When all the technology pieces come together.”
Zain Wadee, managing director of Pontoon U.K., London, agrees.
“The technology piece is still a hindrance to total talent management really taking off and becoming operationalised,” Wadee says. “The technology used for onboarding and managing contingent workers is not joined up with the technology that’s used to find and then onboard permanent colleagues. There’s a gap. Until one of the big players on both the VMS and ATS side make that happen, we’ll have barriers to actually get beyond the desire to talk about global talent and really make it happen.”
In the meantime, clients are starting to think holistically and act holistically. “We have seen some clients who have started to embrace a more ‘joined-up approach’ to recruiting,” Wadee says – especially in financial services, banking and insurance. “These organisations are looking at talent as a holistic requirement rather than just only looking at their permanent workforce.” (In the U.K., the contingent workforce is about 30 per cent of the total.)
A holistic approach allows companies to choose workers for the right reasons – not to fill immediate needs that could have been predicted, but instead work more strategically to manage the workforce.
“If you look at your contingent and your permanent hiring as being in two buckets, and your entry-level/graduate hiring as a third bucket, you start to make solid decisions,” Wadee says.
“On the contingent side, you don’t have to panic because you have to fill a current role and you go to the contingent market and you probably overspread, and you don’t necessarily have the right build-up of knowledge and certain skills.”
Over-use of talent pools becomes self-perpetuating. Especially in the banking, insurance and financial services sectors, clients are taking a more over-arching approach to balancing their workforce. That way, genuinely temporary work or project work goes to contingent labor and possibly SOW workers, but with the more holistic approach, the talent that needs to be developed and remain within the organisation does so, Wadee says.
There’s a trend of similar thinking in APAC, which is where a candidate’s market and talent is particularly in demand. Unemployment in Singapore itself is 2.8 per cent. Companies often feel pressured to ask themselves if they should be organising themselves around a contingent worker strategy or a permanent-worker strategy, Kapoor says – and TTM offers a better option.
“Bringing it all together makes complete sense, because then you can have a holistic talent pool,” Kapoor says. You can select the “gold medalists” for the permanent positions, and select the most-qualified contractors for contingent positions. “Silver medalists,” especially recent university graduates can begin as contingent, and then build skills and prove themselves for a permanent position.
“Is that available today: No. Is that a benefit that clients are looking for? Absolutely, yes,” says Kapoor. “The talent landscape in the region has different variations, different flavors, by different countries in the region, but absolutely all-essential and all-critical for all of them to have this holistic map.”
One example: For a large telecommunications company, Pontoon runs the RPO in nine regions; five countries total. In the past six months, Pontoon has moved recruiting permanent staff to addressing their requirements for contingent workers.
“We have this holistic talent pool where we’re looking at recruiting the permanent workers and also looking at addressing the contingent workers,” Kapoor says. “And that talent pool is all administered, governed, controlled by our recruiters. So we’re able to make recommendations, go back to hiring managers and say you probably didn’t like this candidate – they were second best – how about you consider them for a contingent assignment? Because you have the talent that’s scarce, but if you can make that leap and not just be stuck with ‘I need a permanent resource. Be open to exploring contingent assignments with these workers, then you’re actually bringing in that talent into the organisations much faster and in a much more efficient way. ‘And it’s operating today. And once the technology’s all ready, then it obviously falls in very seamlessly.”
How It Works
Wadee offers this example: In EMEA, one large insurance company had become very reliant on freelance contractors for certain technology practices. They struggled to recruit from the experienced permanent candidate market in their geography.
“They were concerned that not only were they spending more than they felt they should, but that knowledge was going to go out their organisation, or not be passed through to their organisation, because it was all in the hands of freelancers,” Wadee says.
Pontoon used a “slightly different” solution. “We recognised that going and buying from the market wasn’t going to be the solution,” Wadee says. “What we built for them was a programme of looking more at the graduate market. It was a build model, where we brought in fresh graduates for them.”
Pontoon initially employed the graduates for a period of six months, trained them, got them fully on-boarded, and inducted in the client’s processes. And once they passed a certain level of accreditation, Pontoon transferred them over and they became permanent employees of the end client.
“What we were able to do over a period of about a year was then basically phase out all of the contingent or freelance contractors who were operating in that space, because the [end client] had a fully trained, on-boarded and inducted workforce who were absolutely bought into the culture of the organisation,” Wadee explains. “They wanted to be part of the fabric of it for the long term. Also, apart from the motivation and talent that was bringing, it was a much more cost-effective solution and one that the organisation felt gave them more security around some of these key skills that were core to their particular digital strategy going forward.”