Talent Management: Securing Access to Quality Talent Through System Boundary Permeability


This post explores how we can better secure our access to quality talent when our organization’s ability to do so alone is inadequate.

By inadequate, I mean the organization is ill equipped to retain access due to its operating characteristics. Hence this is not about dealing with organizations who are deficient on how to respectfully and  appropriately  make use of their talent.

A 5 February, 2011 article in the Vancouver Sun titled “Pooling People Balances Work Cycles”, page D12. highlights such a practical approach.

The article considers how Business A has an accountant who has no work to do (over the next little while). Business B is in urgent temporary need  of a highly skilled accountant. The creative TM option here is to create a lend and borrow arrangement between A and B. In fact there is an emerging business that facilitates these sort arrangements one of which is called PoolingPeople.ca.

Here is a circumstance where we are focusing on the purpose of TM (including securing appropriate access to needed talent) and less on attracting and retaining needed talent (conventional TM view).  Our organizational boundaries are being looked at in an open or permeable manner – its just not about employees.

This concept is not entirely new. I recall a number of years ago reading an article on how in the aeronautical industry  in the US that when one firm won a contract its work would increase dramatically. Hence, other, competing firms work would in a parallel manner drop off. The emergent practice was to lend workers back and forth over time as workloads shifted within the industry. The result was to keep the pool of critical skilled people in the general area (California I believe).

I also recall reading about one firm who needed skilled stone masons, but on a seasonal basis. The firm’s dilemma was how to keep people in the occupational area when it was only able to offer seasonal employment. The firm was able to make arrangements with another organization who had a need for the same talent but in the first firm’s off season. The benefits were two-fold:

  • Was able to retain access to the skilled talent when they seasonally needed it. Recruiting costs were reduced and a ready pool of talent was at hand.
  • Because of the significant “returning” numbers the firm was able to make fast initial productive use of the skilled and experienced talent. This meant people could begin on assignments very quickly and this helped with revenue and profitability.

A variation of this might be where an organization has the need for a sophisticated level of talent at a senior level but is limited within its organizational activities to provide the necessary hands on learning. So the firm may hire the recent graduate (say engineer) and after a few years of technical growth reach the quandary of how to further develop the individual to the more senior level?

One possibility is to always hire from the external market when the senior roles become vacant. What else can the firm do (it is unable to develop the internal talent within)? An option is to arrange with another organization (who is able to provide the necessary work experience) the lending of your partially developed talent. Then when the senior role becomes vacant, there is the knowledge of where a quality applicant resides.

Are there “logistical” issues? Are there U&R issues? Yes. But there are U&R issues with not doing anything. And, where there is a will, there will be a way. If the role is a critical one (e.g., technical officer in this example) then it can very well worth it. Obviously there has to be some form of well understood arrangement between the two firms.

One commerce area that I have often wondered about is smaller businesses and retail/service chains where part time work is the norm. Often there is a business benefit in keeping some level of continuity in skilled people. Yet the tyranny of close margins and the prevalent business models of having to rely on part time workers makes this difficult. Could some form of pooling amongst some of these businesses (e.g., stores in a shopping mall) be a workable solution. I have not heard of anyone trying and finding it unworkable.

Have you heard of any such similar example?

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About 123stilllearning456

As a management consultant I am passionately interested in talent management and risk/uncertainty issues. In the area of talent management I propose that we seek strategies that look beyond the staffing/employee centric frames of reference. I have been frustrated at the "closing down on possibilities" by these more conventional staffing/employee centric approaches. I have been impressed where people have found systematic solutions to their talent management issues by going beyond the conventional approaches. In the area of risk and uncertainty, I am interested in making this topic relevant to more normal decision making situations. My conceptual foundation is to use the micro-economist's fixed/variable cost theme. I also think it is important to look at these issues for people through their emotional and psychological lens. As a premise I think risk and uncertainty only exist where there is a person who cares about possible events and its consequences. Hence, risk and uncertainty are social based concepts (no sentience, no risk and uncertainty). A major influence on my thinking in this area is Nassim Taleb of "Black Swan" fame. This BLOG provides me with an opportunity to express my thoughts on topics that interest me. As this is an online diary, content is more important to me than polish. I apologize if this distracts from readers' enjoyment and learning. Still I find this a useful way to live up to my namesake, learn more from others and hopefully provoke creative thoughts and ideas in others.
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