How Winning Executives Find Value in Agile Talent Solutions and a Flexible Workforce

Chuck Leddy

In a business landscape that’s increasingly VUCA — volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous — having the “perfect” business strategy isn’t nearly enough to drive success. Technology changes rapidly. Customer expectations are evolving faster than ever. Competition only gets better, leaving more and more challenges, while the regulatory climate seems to shift overnight, bringing with it new compliance demands.

Yes, winning executives indeed need great strategies, but more important, they must be ready to change quickly in a VUCA world.

Top-quality talent is what allows you to change on a dime when you need to. If you can’t implement your brilliant strategy, it’s not brilliant at all. And just as executives must integrate agility into their strategic outlooks, they must also integrate agility into the way they access and leverage skills and expertise.

Smart executives are asking the same urgent questions, as McKinsey recently highlighted:

  • Are my company’s HR practices still relevant?
  • How can we recruit, deploy and develop people to deliver greater value to customers, and do so better than the competition?
  • Do I have the right approach to HR to drive the changes we need to make?

It’s interesting to note that business leaders are more likely to highlight the importance of developing a flexible workforce by leveraging agile talent solutions than investing in AI and automation when discussing their organization’s challenges. Technological innovation is indeed a differentiator, but talent is potentially an even bigger one. Let’s dive a little deeper.

What Workforce Agility Means for Executives

To begin, you must break down the organizational walls between internal and external expertise. The booming availability of digital tools and the growing supply of on-demand independent experts are major components of the flexible workforce, however, the even larger answer for enabling agility revolves around an organization’s own readiness to adopt and leverage these emerging solutions.

Agility means structuring your organization — its systems, processes and people — in a way that allows you to analyze ongoing needs, decide upon the best available solution, and then bring in and integrate expertise you need to drive success. Developing flexibility within your organization ensures your company can constantly and nimbly match the right skills to the right strategic initiatives.

Gaining Agility: 5 Steps to Success

The answer will depend upon your specific industry, company culture, the pace of change you face and your skills gaps. However, there are some key suggestions that apply to all organizations seeking to adopt agile talent solutions.

It begins with clearing away the legacy roadblocks, including internal structures and mindsets that view hiring full-time employees and bringing in high-priced, brand name big consulting as the only solutions. These are far from the only options, and if you simply default to them, you’re not working in a flexible way. Here’s what else you should be doing:

1. Align the Top Team and Shift Mindsets

As in all change-management processes, embracing agile talent solutions will take leadership buy-in and full, consistent support from your organization’s leadership team. You team must define success, create a plan, put structures behind it, share successes and scale up what’s working.

2. Assess Strategic Skills Gaps

As emerging skills lag behind talent, the accelerating pace of change widens your skills gaps. Don’t give up on assessing your needs and developing strategies to close them. Rather, develop a sense of which skills you currently have internally, while blending that knowledge with the capacity to close gaps as they inevitably arise. You can use expertise-scanning software to help with this step, just like General Electric and Shell have recently done.

3. Pilot Technology Tools

Start with pilot programs or low-risk projects where you can prioritize learning. Seed teams with on-demand experts, then experiment with the best tools and technologies to onboard external experts, involve them into your enterprise’s reporting and communication structures. Expect to make mistakes, integrate what you’ve learned into processes and systems and learn along the way.

4. Launch a Flexible Initiative

Launch your initiatives with a startup mentality, allotting your team the freedom to see what works and what doesn’t. For instance, deploy internal and external tools and get your team comfortable using them. The goal here is to give leaders full, borderless visibility into what skills are available, internally and externally. An unsiloed approach is vital to embracing an agile workforce.

5. Continuously Improve and Refine

Take the time to discover your organization’s true needs. Such an iterative approach comes directly from lean, flexible methodologies that prioritize taking action, collecting feedback and integrating lessons learned going forward. In a VUCA world, this may be the only approach that can deliver success.

As a final reminder, adopting agile talent solutions is a process, not a destination. No matter where you happen to be right now, integrating agility is a key to success. Your organization has to begin somewhere, sometime, so why not start today?

For more information on the value of an agile workforce, read Catalant Technology’s new  report, Reimagining Work 20/20.