Increase Business Agility with an Internal Talent Marketplace

April 30, 2020

Increase Business Agility with an Internal Talent Marketplace

Organization models need to evolve to be more responsive to rapid shifts in skills, technology and business models. We have developed ideas about how to build a new talent operating model to help organizations apply the concept of the gig economy inside their firms. This model allows companies to share talent across boundaries by dynamically matching and deploying skills to work. It creates competitive advantage through an employee experience that democratizes work, facilitates learning and unleashes internal capacity. 

The Internal Network

In today’s competitive landscape, it is no longer enough to have the most appealing employer brand, or the best university relations programs or even a best-in-class workspace, because it has become less clear how we define the workforce. When new methods for competing for human resources via “talent on demand” gave rise to platforms such as Topcoder and Upwork, the idea of a workforce made up of both employees and temporary talent began to make a lot of sense. 

However, the rise of machine automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) has fundamentally transformed not only the nature of work but the speed at which it’s necessary to learn and deploy new skills that are often in higher demand than supply. This remains true no matter how an organization plans to source talent. We must challenge what we thought was novel in talent management as recently as two to three years ago. Now it’s a race to acquire skills. And just when everything seems under control, another emerging skill domain becomes both critical and scarce. Without a crystal ball, today’s CEOs and CHROs are managing their most valuable competitive resource in the dark.

Enter a new era of competitive talent deployment via the internal gig network. Rather than acquire new skills by hiring from outside, the new and disruptive reality is that competitive advantage is now based on the ability to rapidly develop and better leverage the talent supply within a company. So, instead of focusing on competing for skills that are in short supply and high demand, we suggest concentrating on what you have the power to control:

  • Bring visibility to the internal skills you have and any gaps there are (supply).
  • Learn to accurately predict what skills you might need (demand).
  • Address the speed at which you can fill open jobs and upskill current talent for new or critical skill domains.
  • Use digital horsepower—through human-machine collaboration via predictive analytics, machine learning, and automation—to accurately and efficiently match and deploy that talent to the right work, at the right time, at the right cost.
  • Redeploy and rapidly mobilize talent to address business continuity and avoid loss of functions during a crisis. 

The Core Principles

This new way of working is based on six core principles.

1. You Get What You Give
Allowing greater sharing of talent across organizational boundaries (talent mobility) can create abundance rather than scarcity of resources in an organization. Managers give away some of the time employees work to other departments; they can also get help from employees from different departments. Over time, this swapping of talent should equal out. The talent that managers are able to access this way might have a critical skill set not available from their current team members, but they don’t need to bring in an external contractor or consultant or open a position requisition to hire a new employee  for a skill that is not regularly needed. “You get what you give” is one of the most challenging mindset shifts necessary to embrace the new talent operating model.

2. Know What You Have
It’s a common problem for companies not to be aware of the skills their employees bring to their organizations. At best, they know all of their employees’ job titles. And companies don’t take advantage of existing technology to monitor skill gaps and encourage employees to acquire new skills that are important to the company. An ability to clearly identify the full range of skills within an organization allows talent acquisition and deployment to be optimized by focusing on filling strategic gaps for work that has to be performed today while planning effectively for skills that will be needed in the future.

3. Create a Learning Organization
Given that the half-life of skills is now only five years, employees must constantly update their learning. Millennials have a reputation for wanting continual career advancement.  Gaining access to micro-learning opportunities facilitates skill acquisition and career growth more quickly than yesterday’s approaches. Bite-size on-the-job learning and online learning have become the new normal for rapid skill development.

4. Democratize the Work
When employees are allowed more freedom and choice in how they contribute in the workplace, they can select work that suits them. This flexibility helps employees get unstuck from narrowly defined roles and the boredom that comes with doing the same set of tasks day after day. They are able to use the full breadth of skills they can contribute to their organizations. 

5. Create an Agile Organization
A move away from a traditional hierarchy toward more project-based teams can increase a company’s responsiveness to changing business dynamics. In today’s era of unpredictability and constant business model disruption, organizations must be designed for speed, agility and adaptability to respond to evolving business priorities and customer demands. Part of designing for adaptability is a shift away from hierarchical structures toward models where work is accomplished in teams. Using self-managed work teams and providing appropriate support structures, the management and the workforce become more fluid and responsive to business needs while remaining focused on the goals the teams are designed to achieve.

6. Bust the Functional Silos
Breaking down organizational silos allows for cross-functional collaboration within the company to foster innovation. The resulting crosspollination of ideas ensures that the product or service is representative of customers in a diverse marketplace. One of the greatest benefits of cross-functional collaboration is that employees are exposed to a different part of the business and thus gain greater insight into how the company operates as a whole.

A Talent Operating Model to Improve Agility

Now is the time to disrupt the existing 20th-century operating models and create a new talent operating model that helps companies optimize their internal resources. It is about changing the way a company operates to best use and reskill the talent it currently has. To employ talent in a different and more dynamic way, modifications are needed in all areas of the talent operating model: culture, leadership, ways of working, HR programs and processes, team development processes and so on. 

We believe the future of work will look very different than it does today. Organizations must adapt to become more agile as they shift and change based on new technologies, new skills and new business competitors. This path can create companies that are more productive and more innovative, while offering employee experiences that drive high levels of engagement and organizational performance.

Adapted from The Inside Gig: How Sharing Untapped Talent Across Boundaries Unleashes Organizational Capacity, by Edie L. Goldberg, Ph.D.. and Kelley Steven-Waiss, Publisher: LifeTree Media, April 7, 2020.

The Authors: 

Edie Goldberg, Ph.D., is the president of E.L. Goldberg & Associates and serves on the board of directors of the SHRM Foundation and the California HR Strategy Forum.

Kelley Steven-Waiss serves as Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer for HERE Technologies and serves on the board of directors of Form Factor, Inc.