How to Use a New Talent Management Strategy to Win the Escalating Hiring Wars

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“People are our greatest asset.”

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Does your company live this adage?

We’ve heard this aphorism so often we’ve become numb to its profound truth. And for many, if not most organizations they are empty words. But if your organization wants to win the escalating and spreading global battle for talent, you’ll need to ensure they mean more than that.

To win, you’ll need a new talent management strategy.

Your small business has a hiring problem

According to consulting firm Accenture, the combination of a declining workforce population and the different workplace expectations of millennials is creating a talent crisis for employers. Today’s rapidly changing technology and business environment is also adding to the crisis by widening the skills gap.

And competition between companies to close the gap is heating up. Small businesses are feeling the heat from the skills gap and also from competing for talent with larger businesses. Your company, especially if it’s a small business, needs to take this competition seriously.

When hiring new talent you can show them the many benefits to working with a small business, but you need to recognize there are also significant drawbacks. Broader responsibilities, direct impact on results, and greater recognition all stack up in the pro column, but some heavyweight factors such as job security, advancement opportunity, formal professional development programs, and robust benefits are often in the con column.

The decision between working for a small business or a large one is not black and white. You’ll lose out on great talent if your startup or SMB doesn’t directly address workplace competitiveness.

The solution to your hiring problem is a unified talent management strategy

One way for smaller businesses to compete for talent is to recognize and adapt to the changing desires and dynamics of the workforce.

Uber is not an anomaly.

The freelance economy is here and it’s growing. Forbes is positioning 2016 as the year that enterprises embrace on-demand labor. Your SMB must take advantage of the emerging on-demand workforce now before it’s too late to win in the talent battle.

Gartner, a research and advisory firm, predicts that, “By 2020, nearly 60% of HR leaders will use a unified talent management strategy for employees, contractors and freelancers.”

Unified Talent Management (UTM) is the strategic blending of ‘contingent workers’ (contractors and freelancers) with employees into most, if not all, workforce management activities such as onboarding, development, advancement, and benefit programs. Just like salaried employees they are included in mentoring and other career enhancing relationship building. They participate in company communications and use the same collaboration tools. They are invited to social gatherings and company events. In other words, with unified talent management, contingent workers become an integral part of the organization’s business and social fabric.

Gartner goes on to state:

“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 80% of organizations routinely augment their employee workforce with “nontraditional staffing,” including temporary/contract staff procured through staffing firms. The growth of the freelance workforce is on the rise, with some projections pegging it at 50% or more of the workforce by 2020. Organizations that do not expand their definition of employment beyond permanent or temporary full-time and part-time workers will have fewer choices in the talent they are able to attract and will face higher retention risk from those whose priorities are shifting away from traditional work models toward those that support highly personalized work arrangements. Yet the vast majority of talent processes in use across organizations remain employee-focused, with very limited or no incorporation of the rapidly growing contingent workforce. By treating each component of the workforce as a separate entity, the enterprise fails to capture and optimize its many advantages, including innovation, collaboration, scale and agility. As the makeup of the new workforce evolves, organizations must take a holistic approach to talent management processes across this combined workforce of employees, contractors and freelancers.”

HR software is beginning to address these workforce trends by supporting unified talent management. Companies such as Workday, Infor, SAP, and PeopleFluent are creating functionality that enables organizations to seamlessly capture contingent worker data along with employee data and explicitly include, or exclude, them from workforce management activities such as training, recruiting, progressions, and compensation.

Tips for actually implementing unified talent management

Your small business isn’t immune to these workforce trends. Providing a flexible and personal life-friendly work experience through a unified approach to talent management can give small businesses a leg up in attracting and keeping great employees.

Because, let’s face it, everyone likes more flexibility in how, when, and where they get work done. And research shows people actually work harder and are more productive if given the flexibility to blend their work and personal lives as they prefer.

Do you practice unified talent management? Is it even on your radar? If you do, is it by design or by accident?

Most small businesses don’t practice unified talent management at all, never mind employ it by design for an edge in the battle for talent.

But there is good news!

The reduced scale of small businesses provides an advantage because unified talent management is easier in organizations with less operational complexity, minimal bureaucracy, and more direct human interactions.

To best utilize unified talent management, your small business should take these actions:

  • Assess your future employment needs and anticipate how the contingent workforce trends will impact your business
    • Write down or capture somewhere the skills you will need as you grow your business
    • Examine the employment desires and trends for people with those skills
    • Anticipate a realistic mix of employee and contingent workers
  • Assess how unified talent management can impact your business
    • Match your workforce needs to unified talent management best practices
    • Assess the real business impact of those best practices in terms of hiring the right skills when and where you need them
    • Create a short list of practices that make sense for your business
  • Evaluate your work practices and HR policies for adjustments you can make to be more conducive to contingent workers and a unified talent management approach
    • Evaluate your current HR and business activities relevant to the short list of best practices
    • Complete a gap analysis to capture the needed changes to current practices
    • Prioritize those changes based on urgency and business impact
  • Structure your HR philosophy and capabilities around unified talent management
  • Position your unified talent management needs as a requirement for HR systems, technology and software selection
  • Promote your organization as one with leading edge workforce practices

And start these actions now.

Many pundits and indicators are painting 2016 as the freelance economy tipping point. And predictions that it will reach 50% or more of the workforce by 2020 is a very loud wake-up call indeed. Those small business leaders that delay addressing the on-demand workforce may see their organizations vanquished in the talent wars. Unified talent management is a strong defense against that fate.

Final thoughts: UTM is an Opportunity. Take advantage of it.

Ok, that sounds pretty dire, and why end on a negative note? The reverse perspective is just as powerful and much more positive.

For those with the foresight and fortitude to embrace unified talent management, dynamic workforce changes will provide significant opportunities to attract and gain the most out of great talent. This can propel your business to new heights.

Have you tried implementing some flavor of UTM in your business? What obstacles did you encounter? Add your experiences and tips in the comments below!

Looking for Talent Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Talent Management software solutions.

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About the Author

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Anthony Bradley

Anthony Bradley is a Group Vice President at Gartner responsible for content marketing across its digital markets businesses.

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