Total talent is designed, not prescribed.
By Tierney McAfee
Total talent management has been a trending topic for more than a decade, but in spite of this, adoption remains low. One of the key reasons? Many organizations don’t understand what it means to truly adopt this approach in the first place.
“From a services standpoint, it is commonplace for organizations to view total talent as a blended approach of RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) and MSP (Managed Service Provider),” says Yates Baker, the vice president of client solutions at Sevenstep, a leading global outsourcing provider of RPO and MSP services. “But that’s a bit narrow in thinking, like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.”
The RPO and MSP products were built years ago to address separate needs: RPO providers traditionally managed full-time employees (FTE), while MSPs would oversee an organization’s contingent workforce, including temporary workers, contractors, consultants, and freelancers.
“As an industry, we really need to take a step back and realize that the two things were created in silos for specific needs and you can’t just join them together and call it a total talent solution,” Baker says.
Instead, he continues, we must take a more holistic approach to total talent management—one that is based not on prior product designs but on strategy, and that will be fully integrated and prescribed to a client’s specific workforce needs.
Companies have much to gain from shifting to this improved strategy. The typical siloed approach to total talent management can negatively impact company culture, employee engagement, and overall productivity. Many organizations with otherwise strong company cultures and employment brands are failing when it comes to extending that employment brand to the contingent population, Baker says. And it starts right at the door in some cases, where contractors must distinguish their status with different color badges than their full-time counterparts.
At Google, for example, there are strict rules for how full-time employees should treat temporary, vendor, or contract staff—which make up more than half of the company’s workers. Contractors are denied simple perks like company T-shirts; they aren’t allowed to attend team off-site events or all-hands meetings; and they must wear different-colored badges identifying themselves as contractors, according to a report from The Guardian.
“Historically, the contingent labor population has been looked over in terms of understanding that these employees are just as critical and in fact, at times, even more critical than any other workforce population,” Baker explains.
Although this HR hierarchy may have worked in the past, the global workforce is changing too rapidly for such an approach to stay the status quo. The so-called “alternative” workforce has gone mainstream: According to the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, there are 77 million “formally identified freelancers,” in Europe, India, and the U.S., and that figure will only continue to rise. In that year’s global survey of 11,000 business and HR leaders, 50 percent of respondents reported a significant number of contractors in their workforces; 23 percent reported a significant number of freelancers; and 13 percent reported a significant number of gig workers.
“If you are still viewing your labor population as defined and siloed, you’re going to need to make some culture changes within your organization,” Baker says. “Contingent employees need to be treated the same way through the hiring process as FTE talent. They need to have a positive experience both throughout the candidate phase but also as they enter the organization as an employee.”
Once an organization begins to look at talent holistically, a wealth of benefits emerge, perhaps most notably in the vital areas of candidate and employee experience.
“Experience has become critical across industries. I often refer to it as the Amazon effect,” Baker says. “Everyone wants an amazing user experience and instant gratification, just like when you’re ordering something from Amazon. We now look for that type of experience across all spectrums of our life. The employee experience and candidate experience are no different.”
Strengthening candidate and employee experience through better total talent management ultimately creates more engaged and productive employees, which leads to better business outcomes for the organization, Baker says.
Another benefit of a true total talent approach is the ability to build a stronger internal employee pool that integrates contingent talent with FTEs. Many companies understand the importance of identifying their employees’ skill sets, knowledge, and strengths, but they also tend to overlook a significant portion of their workers when cultivating internal talent pools, Baker notes.
“If you move forward to become an organization that is truly adopting a total talent approach, now all of the sudden within that internal talent pool, you have access to the contingent workforce population,” Baker explains. “By understanding all of your employees and where their strengths and knowledge lie, you can more quickly address internal business needs, and do so at a lesser cost. You’re not always left looking externally for talent. The talent comes from within.”