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The Open Talent Economy

Human Capital Trends 2013

Managing talent used to involve at least a few certainties. You knew what roles you needed to fill and where you could find the talent to fill them. When people worked for you, they came to your building in the morning and left at the end of the day. You could see and interact with them. And they could see you.

Today things are different. Changes on a global scale have upended these familiar patterns, and talent and employers now seek each other out, on more equal terms, from anywhere in the world. The evolving workforce is a mixture of full-time employees, contractors and freelancers and—increasingly—people with no formal ties to your enterprise at all. People move more freely than ever from role to role and across organizational and geographic boundaries. Global markets and products, driven by rapid innovation and post-digital disruption, seem to demand new talent models that can be rapidly configured and reconfigured. Businesses expect agility, scale and the right skills to be available faster than ever—in real time.

Welcome to the open talent economy—a collaborative, transparent, technology-driven, rapid-cycle way of doing business. What the open source model did for software, the open talent economy is doing for work.

What could this all mean for business and HR leaders? It could mean challenging core assumptions about how people enter the workforce, how they work together and how to develop their potential. It can also mean devising new operational frameworks that allow organizations to embrace those changes instead of falling behind.

While traditionally, companies have focused on the talent and workforce within their organizations and on their balance sheets, increasingly companies are expanding their talent networks to include “partnership talent” (employees who are parts of joint ventures), “borrowed talent” (employees who are part of contractors or outsourcing relationships), “freelance talent” (independent, individual contractors) and “open source talent” (people who don’t work for you at all, but are part of your value chain and services). This trend will ultimately rewrite what the term “workforce” actually means.

What’s driving this trend?

The tectonic shifts driving today’s open talent economy are present around the world and in almost every industry and sector. They are fundamentally changing the structure of talent and work.

The emergence of a global talent market across an increasing number of fields and disciplines is opening the world to new ways of acquiring, developing and managing talent and work. The open diffusion of ideas, practices and technologies—and above all, people—lets different parts of the world influence and depend upon one another in new ways. While global time zones can present challenges when colleagues want to collaborate simultaneously, the availability of voice and video over IP (VoIP) make it possible to see, hear and share documents in real time from your notebook, or your smartphone.

Technology is the foundation of the open talent economy. When people can learn, share and work anywhere in the world, our traditional talent assumptions can open for review. The growth in computing speed, storage and power is making global, real-time collaboration possible in almost every discipline. One example is the growth of smart machines driven by advanced algorithms. Or, the remarkable elasticity of resources like free webmail and cloud storage. Moore’s Law holds that computer power doubles every two years. A lot of growth lies ahead.

Technical and social mobility can decouple talent from physical geography and defined markets. Today’s critical workforces are freer to work where they want, making career moves more seamless—and potentially more frequent. For their part, organizations tend to expect people to be productive while on the move, which requires new skills in balancing priorities more than ever before. Easier access to development resources is making vertical moves easier too, for both people and organizations.

Social business
The open talent economy is above all a human movement, where people can connect, share information and spread community. It is the greatest open-source app, shifting power from the traditional organization to dynamic networks. Organizations now must use social media not only to innovate their talent brands, but also to connect and deploy people who relate to the organization in widely different ways.

In the past 20 years there has been an explosion in the growth of the education sector at most levels around the world, especially in emerging markets. The rapid growth of pools of talented manufacturing, services and knowledge workers around the world continues to reshape global talent networks. We are witnessing a new wave of innovation, driven in part by MOOCs (massive open online courses): Leading universities are making high-quality courses, taught by world-leading professors, available to tens of thousands of students around the world.

Rather than looking only at historical data to make decisions, employers can now use data analytics for both predictive and prescriptive purposes. Those who can effectively mine large pools of employee and business data for hidden insights and apply them in a meaningful way, will have a competitive advantage in the open talent economy.

Read more about this trend.

Meet our authors

Andy Liakopoulos, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP
Jeff Schwartz, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP
Lisa Barry, Partner, Deloitte Consulting LLP

This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

As used in this document, "Deloitte" means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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