Why Your Talent Strategy Is the Key to Agile at Scale?

Why Your Talent Strategy Is the Key to Agile at Scale?

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. ~ African Proverb

The authors of the recent HBR article Agile at Scale make compelling arguments for why executives at leading enterprises should push their companies to become more agile.

In our experience working with leaders at 30% of the Fortune 1000, we’ve seen the importance of leaders reflecting agile principles in their own work, resourcing critical business initiatives with silo-busting teams, and thoughtfully sequencing agile rollouts as critical ingredients for success.

1. This isn’t just about innovationit’s about how your company works.

The article focuses on agility to drive innovation, and innovation teams are indeed promising places to pilot. We believe that this transformation to a more agile workforce need not center on innovation. It’s about getting work done faster, better, and more efficiently. Companies we see deploying an agile workforce effectively take the most important initiatives at the organization and use agile workforce concepts to deploy the best resources against them, regardless of where those resources are. This is consistent with the authors’ notions of removing bureaucracy and breaking through silos, and not just for innovation — indeed, for the most important work at the company. One leader at a Fortune 50 company framed it this way to us: agile lets his business operate more like a nimble flotilla of ships than like a large and lumbering tanker, which is especially important in rapidly-changing business conditions. It’s about prioritizing speed.

2. The days of Talent Acquisition are over. It’s time to think about Talent Access.

The article touches on the importance of changes in talent acquisition and motivation needed to support agile at scale. Reconsidering incentives, the role of managers, and performance management are all key. And we believe that this is just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. Companies where we see successful agile workforce roll-outs stop building their talent strategy and infrastructure around talent acquisition (synonyms: purchase, possession, procurement) and instead build a competency in talent access (synonyms: connection, approach, introduction). This fits well with the idea of agile—which rests on the notion of engaging the right quantity of the right talent for a specific, well-defined mission. That does not always require a full-time employee—it just requires the right person with the right skills at the right time. Yes, talent will always include some portion of people with a company badge, and an agile workforce enables companies to engage employees in a more effective way. But it also includes the broader world of talent available to a company—freelancers, alumni, consultants. An organization should consider those options alongside employees and engage the best skills for the job to be done.

3. Ignore labor demographic trends at your own peril. 

Shifting from talent acquisition to talent access is consistent with the way the world is already working. People beyond the borders of your company are working in a more agile way, and leveraging technology tools that make it possible. You’ve probably noticed many of your colleagues are choosing to work more in a more agile fashion outside your organization. This isn’t just about commoditized work; in fact, many of the very best people — think those with the most niche skill sets — are choosing a different way of working. For enterprises with skills gaps across their organization, losing these talented people is untenable. To maintain access to them (which may include keeping them full-time, or may not), you need to change how you do work inside the company to provide a similar experience to what exists outside.

4. Invest in the proper infrastructure, or agile won’t work at scale.

As the article highlights, modularizing workstreams is important. That is difficult to do without technology. How are you modularizing work? How are you accessing and matching the right skills at the right time? How are you tracking outcomes? How will you do that across your entire organization? Without the right enabling technology, you may miss the mark. When you bring those tools into your company and allow people to engage projects they otherwise didn’t have access to, value results.

Imagine an internal version of the gig economy that enables you to discover and engage the skills and interests of your employees across the far-flung reaches of the company… What would it mean to your high-performers—and to your company—for them to be able to raise their hand and apply their talents on projects across your business? What would it mean for your organization to better understand the competencies that exist within the company, and to have visibility into the skills your colleagues go outside the company to engage?

5. Start small, think big, move fast.

As the article mentions, starting with a full-scale transformation to become radically agile is unlikely to lead to success. Starting small is critical. We also believe that small pilots must be designed with the end in mind. As you roll out tests in your organization, consider what you need to learn about what it would take at scale. We’ve seen companies start with pilots and think they’ve learned what it takes to scale, without realizing that there are fundamentally different implications for a scaled solution that can’t be tested in a smaller, controlled environment. If you’re still reading this and have ideas we haven’t considered, we’d love to hear your thoughts! And if you want to discuss further, we’re always happy to talk.Read more aboutCatalant’s take on workforce agility or download our recent research,Reimagining Work 2020.

Imagine an internal version of the gig economy that enables you to discover and engage the skills and interests of your employees across the far-flung reaches of the company

What would it mean to your high-performers—and to your company—for them to be able to raise their hand and apply their talents on projects across your business? What would it mean for your organization to better understand the competencies that exist within the company, and to have visibility into the skills your colleagues go outside the company to engage?

5. Start small, think big, move fast.

As the article mentions, starting with a full-scale transformation to become radically agile is unlikely to lead to success. Starting small is critical. We also believe that small pilots must be designed with the end in mind. As you roll out tests in your organization, consider what you need to learn about what it would take at scale. We’ve seen companies start with pilots and think they’ve learned what it takes to scale, without realizing that there are fundamentally different implications for a scaled solution that can’t be tested in a smaller, controlled environment. 

Who Is in Charge of Driving Organizational Change?

Who Is in Charge of Driving Organizational Change?

Jul 3, 2017: Weekly Curated Thought-Sharing on Digital Disruption, Applied Neuroscience and Other Interesting Related Matters.

By Chuck Leddy

Curated by Helena M. Herrero Lamuedra

Change is about the complex interactions between people, processes and systems — and the people component of that “change triangle” is often the most challenging and the most important.

A great Harvard Business Review article, HR Can’t Change Company Culture by Itself, makes the point in its title, explaining: “True culture change means altering the way the organization lives and breathes. It shapes the way people make decisions, get their work done, what they prioritize, and how they interact with colleagues, clients and customers.”

The way your people think about change is a big part of your culture, but everyone from the top down must be in the business of managing change. The capacity to change in order to meet ever-evolving market and technological needs is where competitive advantage lives today, both for organizations and for talent. So the obvious question suggests itself: Who “owns” organizational change?

All Departments Must Collaboratively Drive Change

Organizational change is a business imperative that can be led from the top, but effective change cannot be imposed from the top. It only happens when everyone (all employees in each department/functional area) understands the reasons for the change, believes in its necessity and modifies their behaviors to sustain the new way of doing things. This process needs to happen both in the minds of people and across the entire organization.

As organizations analyze and meet their talent needs, for instance, adopting a more blended approach, HR will increasingly become a strategic partner with financial, IT, legal and procurement leaders. An Ernst & Young report makes this strategic partnership clear: HR, finance, IT and procurement leaders will each, “Bring insight and analysis…in a way that helps the business to strike the right balance between building, buying and deploying talent to support the business strategy.”

HR must be involved but so must other business areas such as finance, procurement, IT/technology, operations, legal and sales. When it comes to change, culture matters, but so do financial incentives, leadership communication, investments in talent and systems, skills development/training and more.

The Example of HP: IT, HR & Procurement Collaborate to Transform Global Sales

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report offers a fine example of interdepartmental collaboration to drive business change. HP, the California-based technology company, drove change by reinventing its sales culture and fostering a workplace ecosystem that supports high-performing sales behaviors for its 6,500 global sales employees.

HP took a multidisciplinary and systematic approach, which involved several areas of the business beyond just sales, including technology, HR, procurement, legal, and finance and using its own data to assess sales behaviors for the entire organization. What HP actions led to sales? What actions had the most impact on what customers, and why? Could these actions be scaled across the global sales team? By analyzing the complex intersection of sales behaviors, activities, competencies, compensation and outcomes, HP gained actionable insights that led to a more effective sales team.

As Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report explains, “The findings from this multifaceted analysis has enabled HP’s top sales leaders to make ‘culture commitments’ at their global sales meeting in an effort to begin to transform the company’s sales culture.” HP is doing more of what works and less of what isn’t.

Workforce Management and the Blended Future: How HR Works with Procurement

The future of work will be a blending of full-time employees with on-demand external talent that companies can access on an as-needed basis using digital platforms. Easy access to on-demand talent allows organizations to remain agile as they meet their fast-evolving talent and business needs.

As author and keynote speaker Jacob Morgan explains, “The gig economy has transformed into highly adopted technology-based human capital solutions that connect nimble and innovative enterprises to a network of independent business professionals. Leveraging the gig economy gives businesses a chance to access a broader talent pool than with a traditional workforce model.” What’s more is that they can do it in a cost-effective and timely way.

Clearly, HR needs to play a big role in talent acquisition, but they can’t do it alone. Procurement, for instance, will also be a crucial component in any strategic partnership to acquire talent. While HR and the business identify specific talent needs they wish to bring in, procurement adds business value by understanding how to buy solutions (whether it’s talent platforms or accessing the talent itself) that contain costs and optimize efficiency.

Sourcing talent and creating the capacity to do so takes an interdepartmental, cross-functional approach. As individual business areas identify their on-demand talent needs, HR should be working with IT, procurement, finance, legal and other business functions to meet those ongoing talent needs.

The Need to Experiment and Learn

Agility is largely about the ability to learn and apply lessons moving forward. The goal of organizations should be to learn fast and in a way that doesn’t break the bank. An obvious course might be to set up pilot projects that involve a blended workforce. How will you find the on-demand talent you need? How will you manage and blend this talent? How will you integrate it into your overall culture and project needs? Learning starts with good questions like these, and then implementation of the experiments that begin to offer feedback and answers. This feedback supports continuous learning.

Agility is a mindset that must be supported, as change must be supported, by people, processes and systems acting together. Silos are anathema to building agility, not just departmental silos. The better the business areas coordinate their functions as they pursue change, the more agile the organization becomes.

In today’s business landscape of uncertainty, volatility and constant competitive pressures, readiness for organizational change is essential. If you’re slow and flat-footed, you’re already facing huge disadvantages against nimbler, more adaptable rivals. Successful organizations are ones that can learn, work in agile ways and access and leverage talent to meet ever-evolving market needs.

Capitalizing on the new world of work requires new mindsets and capabilities.

Capitalizing on the new world of work requires new mindsets and capabilities.

Jun 19, 2017: Weekly Curated Thought-Sharing on Digital Disruption, Applied Neuroscience and Other Interesting Related Matters.

By Rob Biederman, Catalant

Curated by Helena M. Herrero Lamuedra

Digital disruption is forcing companies to think about talent in radically new ways. Even the longest-lived brands are finding that new technologies and changing consumer preferences have compelled them to access talent in ways that were unrecognizable a decade ago.

Companies will not succeed in today’s rapidly changing business environment if they rely solely on full time employees. Companies must now focus less on the fixed supply of in-house people and more on the capabilities they need to get work done. Those that are able to easily access and manage skilled, independent workers will be able to unleash fresh energy and thinking inside their organizations.

Flexible talent-access platforms are enabling this new world of work, making it easier than ever before to bring in the right skills for the right project at the right time. These platforms can connect highly skilled people with the companies that need work done.

But making the most of flexible talent-access platforms is not as simple as adding a solution into an existing organization. Organizations must be built with this new world of work in mind. Old ways of thinking and working designed to support an internal-only workforce need to change. Winning in the future will require a rigorous approach to accessing and managing independent workers.

It’s a fact: Most great people, ideas and capabilities lie outside the walls of any individual organization.

Companies will simply not succeed in today’s rapidly changing business environment if they rely only on the relatively small number of people who happen to wear that company’s employee badge. Organizations need to develop an “outside-in” lens on talent.

Many organizations still look at talent the old-fashioned way: a job description, a search, an internal hire for a full-time position. Increasingly, however, smart executives are viewing talent as a much more flexible and connected resource. For a particular deliverable, need, or project, their default way of thinking focuses less on the fixed supply of in-house people who can handle the work and more on the capabilities they need to get the work done and how they can best access those capabilities.

Companies that adapt to this new mindset will be able to take advantage of capabilities wherever they are located. They will access new markets more readily than in the past. They will enjoy newfound agility in seizing strategic opportunities. They will quickly tap into new ideas and unleash fresh energy and thinking inside their organizations. In short, they will win. Those companies The Organizational Mindset of the Future that don’t capitalize on changes in the workforce will miss out on new opportunities, take too long to seize existing opportunities, and ultimately fail to innovate. Winning in the future will require a deliberate and systematic approach.

Independent work is no longer confined to certain professions like writing, accounting, and graphic design. Now a range of highly qualified and specialized workers are finding it attractive to work whenever and wherever they want. These elite workers are experiencing many of the same privileges that freelancers have long enjoyed: increased flexibility, more dynamic work lives, higher take-home pay. And in turn, many large companies are seeing the advantages of accessing this on-demand talent pool whenever and wherever they want.

Researchers have looked at the size of the independent workforce in different ways. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that 40% of the workforce has contingent jobs—defined as those workers without traditionally secure jobs, such as freelancers, temps, and contract workers. Today, one-third of the U.S. workforce does some freelance work, according to a survey commissioned by the Freelancers Union and Upwork. An Intuit study estimated that by 2020, 40% of American workers, or 60 million people, will work independently.

Economists Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger found that American workers in alternative work arrangements, including temp workers, increased by 9.4 million from 2005 to 2015, or a 67% jump. Significantly, that’s the entire net growth in employment over that period.

Independent workers represent 22% of the workforce of the 200 largest companies, according to a survey by the Aberdeen Group. Half of executives plan to increase their use of freelancers over the next three to five years, An Intuit study estimated that, by 2020, 40 percent of American workers will work independently.

Nearly a third of HR professionals surveyed by PwC plan to hire a diverse mix of people on an affordable, ad hoc basis based on the concept of working multiple part-time jobs in a “portfolio career.”

A growing number of independent workers are highly qualified, often highly experienced professionals like business consultants, marketing executives, financial experts, and lawyers. Many are people in or nearing retirement, as well as people who want to enjoy more control over their lives and take advantage of new and interesting opportunities. Twenty-nine percent of employees in China, Germany, India, the U.K., and the U.S. surveyed by PwC want the chance to take control of what they do, and when they do it.

Independent professionals are increasingly being engaged to do strategic, high-value-add work requiring deep expertise. Realistically, the key experts that many companies need to remain competitive are unwilling or unable to work in many standard corporate settings.

They change jobs frequently, every three years on average. They have different goals, such as greater flexibility and less rigid workplaces. At the same time, and for the first time, five generations are working together.

As the workforce ages, companies will need to get organized and creative about how they continue to tap into this highly experienced population.

Companies are accessing the supply of independent workers because of challenges they face in finding the talent they require. They are also responding to rapid changes in the workforce. Forty percent of U.S. companies can’t fill the positions they need, estimates the McKinsey Global Institute. Analytical, engineering, and management roles are the hardest to fill. By 2025, 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled, according to a study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte Consulting. The Boston Consulting Group found that labor shortages will be common across 25 major economies from 2020 through 2030. As a result, $10 trillion in GDP will be lost because companies cannot fill the jobs available or create enough jobs for their workers.

Using independent workers can feel complicated and onerous. Managers aren’t sure they can find the quality they need from external workers. They believe—often correctly—that talented independent workers are difficult to locate. They don’t know how to best assemble the right mix of internal and external resources. They worry that independent workers will be difficult to manage, and that their investment in getting them up to speed will be lost. When they do try to use external resources, managers struggle to define a good scope of work, reach contracts with people, and get them paid.

In the workplace of the future, however, there will be little difference between “us”—that is, “our” employees—and “them”—people who do not work in-house for the company. The “war for talent” will be transformed. Acquiring and developing the best in-house talent will not be the only goal—accessing and making great use of talent, wherever it exists, will also be vital.

Organizations that focus on systematically moving to this new world of work will see its benefits more quickly than those that move in this direction piecemeal or in response to competitive pressures. As with any such change effort, it is best to approach the initiative with a well-defined, leader-driven, intentional plan – a purposeful “future of work” initiative.

Measured against the tremendous variety of unique talent that exists around the world, every business, no matter how successful, has limited and narrow capabilities. There are simply not enough skilled employees inside a company (or for workers interested in permanent positions) to accomplish everything that an organization wants to do—even if it creates a fun-filled working environment and offers great salaries, benefits, and perks. Indeed, even the most forward-thinking “future of work” initiatives will prove ineffective at alleviating the root causes of employee discontent: a lack of flexibility and personal meaning.

In addition, with talent shortages in many fields and many parts of the world, even the biggest firms can’t acquire enough workers through the usual hiring channels, or even through “acquihiring,” or buying emerging companies for their people rather than their products or services.

Finally, demographic changes are altering how people view their lives and careers. Those individuals who can offer the most to a company often want to work when they want, where they want, and with whom they want—and they also want to work on varied and interesting projects. They are motivated more by what they are working on and less by the organization they work for.

Smart companies will become more agile at accessing labor pools outside their four walls. But doing so requires a shift in both mindset and operations. Ultimately, the new world of work requires executives to completely revise their relationship with talent.

For those companies that navigate this transformation, the payoff will be substantial—not just in terms of new growth opportunities, but also in terms of new efficiencies. Those that successfully navigate this change will be able to think more broadly about the business.

They will be exposed to best practices from people who have thought about tough problems in different contexts. They will be surrounded by fresh external ideas that energize internal people and push their thinking. They will be free to move into new areas of the world that they otherwise couldn’t have considered if they had been focused on trying to find the perfect worker located near their offices. As a result, they will enjoy more flexibility and a greater number of strategic options.

With the right approach and leadership, the world of on-demand talent promises to bring these aspirations much closer to reality.