Talent Management for the Future of Work

Nicholas Sykes
July 21, 2016

Talent Strategy

Sourcing, Engagement, Augmentation, Training & Supplementation [S.E.A.T.S.]

Increasing Complexity of Work: The job of anticipating what’s around the corner, “frontiering,” is difficult, to say the least. Mobilizing an organization to realize a formulating vision is exponentially more challenging, leading individuals and companies to wade into the unknown. Determining and actualizing the future of work is the voyage we are all on. The difference between success and failure depends on who is following an intentional roadmap and who is meandering[i]. In the past, the storyline was that a single visionary leader could be the differentiator. Today we read more about extraordinary collaborations, high performing teams, and open ecosystems as the critical ingredient for success. See the Golden State Warriors, post-Kevin Durant, for a prominent example of the ascendance of a group power. Corporate theory reflects these shifts with contemporary concepts - tribal leadership, team of team, “holacracy, corporate ecologies, cross-functional capabilities, collective genius, and supply chain as a competitive advantage. There is no single cause/effect relationship to explain these talent trends. Environmental, economic, demographic, cultural, technological, and other factors are at play. There are macro-effects that can be clearly identified and evaluated. One such macro-effect is the increasing rapidity, plurality, and complexity of change. My business school professor Charles O’Reilly wrote “The Ambidextrous Organization[ii]” for Harvard Business Review in April 2004. In May 2016, an associated HBR article, “Both/And Leadership[iii]” was published by Wendy Smith & Michael Tushman. These articles are important and related as they illustrate, from a macro-perspective, how organizations must adapt to this new dynamic reality (O’Reilly) and, from a micro-perspective, how leadership, cultures, and employees must adapt (Smith/Tushman). The need for increased speed of decision-making and greater distribution of decision authority to the front lines and edges of the organization are required to adapt to our environment of accelerating change. Companies that get it right will capitalize on this new chaotic age, by becoming nimble like the great jazz impresarios (HBR: Yes to the Mess[iv] - 2012; Frank J. Barrett); while competitors, with less agility, stumble. Ultimately, every organization will have to cross this chasm or risk falling behind. Stated from a talent perspective, more and more jobs will have to evolve to include “ambidextrous” “hybrid” “both/and” “jazz & symphony” “meta” “complex judgment” skills. This illuminates an important and underexplored component of the future of work and links together the future of organization design, the future of skill gaps and the future of labor. We have developed an acronym to describe the needed changes to talent practices in this new reality – S.E.A.T.S.
  • S - Sourcing
  • E - Engagement
  • A - Augmentation
  • T - Training
  • S - Supplementation
Below we highlight the S.E.A.T.S. change initiatives that will enable our organizations to make the better choices in uncertainty. Evolving Talent Practices: Sourcing: To illustrate the needed shift in mindset from recruiting individuals to sourcing capabilities, I reference the differences between LinkedIn and HourlyNerd. To be clear, both organizations illustrate critical factors for the future of work and talent – networks, connections, social capital, people discovery, and digital platforms. One goes further in redefining talent sourcing for organizations. In traditional recruiting, there are responsibilities for managing relationships with target candidates and with passive candidates. Related is an emerging recognition of the need to identify potential in candidates and to initiate longer-term relationships with prospects before they have pre-requisite experiences. As innovations advance in candidate engagement and evaluation, new forms of recruiting proliferate. LinkedIn is a great digital tool to facilitate this process. It brings two-way transparency to active and passive candidates and to organizations with roles currently available and possible future roles. It increases the potential to identify 10x talents across multiple industries and functional domains via a single interface. It can even assist in hiring entire teams at once (see Stripe[v]). Not addressed is the emergence of a new candidate type not seeking full-time employment at all. This candidate has experience and a particular capability-spike that he or she offers on an on-demand basis. This enables your organization to address strategic capability needs in real-time without sacrificing quality or incurring prohibitive costs. Also, this new candidate type accelerates knowledge worker productivity, by facilitating delegation of specific tasks and projects, freeing other team members for other high priority initiatives. Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen describe the benefits in “Make Time for the Work That Matters” HBR September 2013[vi]. By decomposing jobs into more specialized components companies achieve better outcomes by allocating those components to individuals with the appropriate capabilities[vii]. Having a larger network of capable alternatives becomes an advantage. HourlyNerd exists to be that easy to use network. It is a platform that focuses squarely on this new candidate type and all the new-age use cases for businesses to optimize the productivity of their knowledge workforce. Yet, further shifts in how companies think about sourcing talent are required for this resource to be fully optimized. Engagement: We are defining Engagement to include the processes that support the New Incomes of today’s workplace. As noted earlier, increasing the degree of cohesion across a widely diverse group is a competitive advantage. Organizational psychologists, and Daniel Pink[viii], have proven that individuals are driven by the pursuit of personal satisfaction, meaningfulness, and happiness. Companies with cultures and organizational practices that facilitate mission-focus for all employees are special because of their shared purpose. While pushing beyond compensation, Engagement encompasses the need to bring equality and equity to gender pay disparities. There are trillions of dollars of efficiency gains to be realized[ix]. Companies who embrace flexible work environments, engaging cultures that incorporate fun with value systems that cut across racial, socioeconomic, demographic and other factors will reduce biases and create unique employee value propositions. Not surprisingly platforms like HourlyNerd have proven to be equalitarian in this regard. It facilitates a low-friction, meritocratic marketplace that offers remote work, telecommuting, seasonal, temporary and other arrangements that the marketplace will support. Recently, it was noted that the highest earning ‘Nerds include many women, minorities, introverts and other traditionally underrepresented groups[x]. Companies that are forward thinking will embrace this multiplicity that reflects the dynamism of the future workforce. Augmentation: Augmentation references the efforts to leverage technology, data and digital workflows to enhance:
  • Employee productivity
  • Employee engagement, assessment and evaluation
  • Group workflows, team productivity, and processes
Advances taking place in data sciences, human-computer interfaces and artificial intelligence offer an opportunity for humans to produce at levels unimaginable before. It requires a meta-design process that identifies and capitalizes on the required process and service design innovations. For example, the Internet of Things is facilitating gains in the manufacturing sectors. Smart sensors, smart robots, learning systems are proving to be hardworking companions of today’s advanced manufacturing staff; not their competition. Thinking about augmentation for the uniquely human skills of your workforce via advances in technology is the future of work. New operating models and workflows are driving increased margins from new product & service development. The full integration of human & computer capabilities will unleash unimaginable possibilities. The criticality of STEM training and re-skilling for staff must be addressed. Training: Every organization must become a continuously learning organization. Robert Kegan illustrates developmental practices that align organizational development with human development in “An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization[xi]”. In the future of advanced knowledge work, learning must go beyond functional and domain subject matter. The focus is on inside-out development. This includes developments that expand our worldviews addressing unconscious biases and exposes limiting thought patterns. As we deal with more situations that are 1 of 1, or frontiers, prior knowledge has less and less value. A strong ability to think critically, to construct new mental models on the fly and to create new meaning narratives for others becomes the key 21st-century skillset. The increasing use of resilience as a key success factor is illustrative. New programs are being created that will train for experimentation, entrepreneurial mindsets, negotiation and real-time improvisational skills, complex decision-making simulations, and others. Organizations are evolving to see themselves as a continuing education resource for staff. Going beyond refunding classes taken off-site; businesses are evolving to be the university/classroom where staff can learn and get feedback via real-time interactions and mobile analytics. As The need for more complex, inter-disciplinary skills will increase. Organizations will turn to growing the needed capabilities, as the option to hire will not exist given the shortage of adequate talent supply. Consider the situation of Uber when attempting to scale across over 100 cities. The appropriate role of City Launcher and General Manager did not exist at other companies. The combination of needed skills was highly ambitious and highly unique. There was no option to hire an experienced City GM. The firm iterated and built a program to identify candidates with potential and to develop them into these complex new roles. Supplementation: Supplementation takes the Sourcing change initiative a few steps further. This is a pro-active effort to identify and maximize adjacent talent resources to further business success. Applicable resources include partners, suppliers, customers, coalitions, and other potentially broader and looser networks. Below is a diagram from Deloitte University that illustrates the increasing types of talent resources that businesses can integrate into operations. As our domestic economy clusters around regional specializations[xii] more ecosystem-based relationships and resources will become available to your organization. For example, The Hidden Genius project operates multiple facilities for training youth on technical and STEM skills across Oakland and San Francisco Bay Area. The team is less than 5 people. Hidden Genius benefited from a Harvard Business School consulting fellowship to get strategic advice from MBA students. They receive volunteers from prominent funders like Google, Facebook, Pinterest. Partnerships with local school districts enable them to leverage facilitates and to design a seamless experience for all participants. This is one example of an organization that operates with the strength of over 100; yet has a staff of less than 5. This is the reality for many forward-thinking companies who understand the value of Supplementation. Below is the Deloitte University talent diagram[xiii]   A Call to Action: The machine will not lead us into the future. It will enable and augment the future we desire. Human-centered has to remain our religion; not only abundance, comfort and consumption. Talent organizations, learning organization, adaptable organizations will Lead and Disrupt[xiv] (Charles O’Reilly) by staying focused on human capabilities, human fulfillment and talent management for the Future of Work. We hope this outline provides some illumination as your organization advances into the frontiers ahead. Sources: [i] https://hbr.org/2014/10/what-peter-drucker-knew-about-2020 [ii] https://hbr.org/2004/04/the-ambidextrous-organization [iii] https://hbr.org/2016/05/both-and-leadership [iv] https://hbr.org/product/yes-to-the-mess-surprising-leadership-lessons-from-jazz/10225-HBK-ENG [v] https://stripe.com/blog/bring-your-own-team [vi] https://hbr.org/2013/09/make-time-for-the-work-that-matters/ar/1 [vii] https://hbr.org/2013/09/make-your-knowledge-workers-more-productive [viii] http://www.danpink.com/books/drive/ [ix] http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/employment-and-growth/how-advancing-womens-equality-can-add-12-trillion-to-global-growth [x] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/place-business-world-where-women-minorities-can-marisa-goldenberg?trk=prof-post [xi] https://hbr.org/2014/04/making-business-personal [xii] http://www.clustermapping.us/ [xiii] http://dupress.com/articles/the-open-talent-economy/ [xiv] http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=50401  

About the Author

Nicholas Sykes

Corporate Strategist and solution architect to support your Organizational Performance programs; encompassing Strategy, Finance, Data and Operational practices. Highly committed to leveraging process, talent, data, technology and creative thinking to drive outcomes.

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