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Does the Open Talent Economy Need a Fence?

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These days, the people who do an organization’s work don’t always work for the organization. Is this open relationship good for business? Or would business be wise to keep some boundaries in place?

More and more, when companies need people to do a job, they aren’t relying solely on full-time employees. Instead they’re balancing the workload using a mix of full-timers, part-timers, and just-in-timers, often contractors and freelancers who can reside anywhere and who come and go as needs change. It’s all part of a new economy, where access to talent can be more important than ownership of talent.   

While some companies readily open their doors to new sources of talent, others are more comfortable relying on people within their own four walls.

Explore all sides below by clicking on each button:

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  • My take
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Interesting idea, but not something we need to worry about.
We’re not a global company, or in an industry that needs to balance talent in this way.
We don’t think we’ll have a choice.
We might not be ready to change, but the world is changing around us. Globalization, mobility, social networks—they’re the new reality and they’re making our current talent practices obsolete.
Our current talent practices are working just fine.
We’re quite comfortable that our talent model works for us. We have the people we need to carry out our business strategies, and we’re not hurting for talent.
What works today probably won’t work tomorrow.
We’ve seen how quickly our business strategy can become obsolete—the financial crisis of 2008 showed us that. We might have low turnover now, but as the economy recovers, employees will likely start moving again. We can’t afford to be talent-poor.
Even if we wanted to open our talent practices, it’s a hard sell.
We’re conservative about how we run our business. It seems too risky to rely on people for critical roles who aren’t really part of our company. Our board would never go for that.
It’s no harder than having to explain poor ROI.
People-related investments are our company’s biggest expense, and naturally we’re expected to show positive returns for that investment. It’s a bigger risk to cling to a talent strategy that may not be able to support our business strategy and desired results.

My take

Andrew Liakopoulos, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP

It stands to reason that the sweeping trends reshaping so many aspects of business would also be affecting talent strategy. Globalization, technology, mobility, social business, analytics—these topics fill the pages of business publications, and all can have implications for how talent is acquired and developed, how people work with one another, how workforces are managed, and more. The opening of the talent economy is both a natural result of these trends and a deliberate response by organizations seeking to support a more global, agile, and innovation-driven business model.

We find today, and are likely to find for many years, organizations positioned along a continuum of workforce options in their talent practices. Toward the closed end, talent consists of full-time employees fixed on the organization’s balance sheet, or perhaps employees on a related balance sheet, say that of a partnership or joint venture. At the midpoint, talent includes employees who reside on someone else’s balance sheet, such as contractors. Moving farther along the continuum, we see organizations that embrace the use of “free agents,” hired to do specific, temporary projects. Finally, we see organizations fully embracing an open talent model, where people provide services for free, either independently or as part of a community. A great example of this would be a consumer electronics company that has no need to staff and maintain a Help desk because its users provide answers and troubleshooting for free via online forums and user groups.

Where should your organization be on the continuum? Of course that depends on your business, its needs, and its goals. But we foresee a time when all businesses will need to embrace some level of openness in their talent practices—the changes in who we are demographically and how we live and connect with one another are that pervasive. If you believe there’s no going back, that today’s megatrends will not be reversed, it’s time to think about how to move forward and embrace new thinking about talent and how to put it to work.   

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