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The 'Unbundled' Organization Will Win the Talent War

Erik Duffield

Guest Contributor

Meet Cindy. She's a chief human resources officer who has focused on building value in worker-employer relationships since she started in HR more than 12 years ago. Her motto has always been "attract and retain the best and the brightest." She was trained in a "hire-to-retire" mindset, and her talent battles were won with great succession planning, performance management, learning and development and robust benefits packages.

Then the standards changed. And Cindy, our fictional CHRO, was dumbfounded: What happened?!

Cindy perfected the HR game just as the industry was experiencing a foundational shift. Today employees no longer want to work at one company from hire until retirement and, in some cases, don't want to work for a company at all.

In order to compete in the new world of work, companies need to adopt new employee-employer models — models that will disaggregate your organization's value from your employees, define a new structure for talent and create what is effectively an "organization-as-a-service."

Great Talent Is Abundant

HR leaders operate and manage their departments with the belief that great talent is scarce. But the truth is, great talent is abundant. With crowdsourcing platforms and freelance communities, organizations can turn certain talent and skills can be turned on and off like a utility. Talent isn't owned — it is accessed.

Does that mean we're moving toward a 100 percent contingent workforce? Maybe. But for most organizations, it's not about absolutes. It's about the opportunity to engage with game-changing talent in a new way. Whether you engage part-time with an executive in search of more work-life balance or collaborate on one-off projects with a developer who has a few side gigs, don't let the talent constraints of the past prevent your organization from embracing the future.

Employee-Employer Relationships Are Changing

Tapping into the abundance of talent requires "unbundling" the typical relationship between an organization and a worker. There are six main trends that are contributing to this changing dynamic.

  • The Cloud: Employees are no longer chained to the constraints of traditional work. With cloud technology, they can work from anywhere and for anyone.

  • Collaboration: Teams no longer need to sit in adjoining cubicles to work together. With tools like Slack, Jira and GitHub, people can work and collaborate with others all over the world.

  • Validation: With social sharing sites like LinkedIn and Stack Overflow, workers can validate their competencies, allowing them to more easily pursue other opportunities.

  • Transparency: Company review sites like Glassdoor allow job candidates to get an inside look into a company's culture and employee satisfaction level before they even have an interview.

  • Education: More employees (particularly millennials) are putting a high priority on learning and career advancement. Companies including Codeacademy, Coursera and General Assembly offer online or in-person courses for self-guided development.

  • Transaction Platforms: The gig economy is real and it's here. More highly skilled workers are choosing to leave traditional work behind for freelance or crowdsourcing gigs with platforms like Upwork and TopCoder. In fact, 50 percent of freelancers say there is no amount of money that would compel them to return to traditional work.

Savvy companies will allow talent to engage on a selective basis, moving up and down the spectrum of employment: from employee to contractor to project-based.

Everyone's Value-Add Should Be Redefined

In order to operate effectively given the new spectrum of work, companies need to redefine the value they provide to workers, as well as the value certain workers offer the organization.

Workers can get what they need and want from a system of networks now, rather than from versus a single organization. Instead of promising a sturdy career path with opportunities to advance quickly, promote your company as one with a smart team, where people can learn new skills and do amazing work.

Likewise, the value your organization gets from employees will change. While you may have some all-stars who excel in every area, many modern workers will be highly-focused and their value-add will be task- or project-specific.

It's time to look at how your organization can engage with talent in a new way. Think about how to take advantage of the six trends mentioned above. Break down the nuances of your relationships and how they evolve. And last but not least, embrace the opportunities that the future of work brings.

Photo: Shutterstock

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