This article was updated on August 5, 2018.
Talent agility — or the ability to juggle workforce needs to continuously replenish organizational skills and expertise — is a vital characteristic for organizations that want to remain competitive in a tight job market. The workplace and the business world are continually changing, and businesses regularly need new skills and expertise to build or maintain success. For most organizations, that is contingent on having workers who possess the requisite skills and expertise.
As a result, to stay competitive, most organizations must consistently add new people with specialized skills or continually train existing employees to develop new skills. But employees today want to work wherever and however they want, according to the ADP Research Institute® (ADP RI) report, The Evolution of Work: The Changing Nature of the Global Workplace. In response, employers should look to make it easier for them to work flexibly and take international assignments, which can also fulfill younger workers' desire to experience new and different places.
Savvy employers are constantly working to balance the changing needs of employees, along with the workforce and competencies needed by their organizations.
In the past, organizations would look to hire employees for the long haul, and when new skills were needed, the organization provided training. This traditional model assumes that the right employees can be found in the employer's local area, and that employees will be interested in learning whatever skills are necessary as the business changes. However, that practice is inconsistent with the current realities of a changing workforce.
Today, technology has opened up a whole new world of potential employees with different skill sets and the ability to easily hire workers from around the world. Additionally, workers are more interested in doing work that matters to them personally and adding skills that interest them than remaining with one firm for the entire length of their career, according to ADP RI.
The Turnover Approach
Based on these new realities, today's organizations should undertake new approaches to keeping talent agile. For some, the ideal approach is to pay employees a nice salary for their skills as long as they meet the organization's current needs. This approach doesn't promise job security and may require layoffs at times, but it allows businesses to hire the skills they need ad hoc. While this on-demand approach to hiring talent doesn't necessarily build loyalty, it works for many modern workers who are uninterested in long tenures and more interested in building their resumes and careers with various projects and experiences that matter to them.
Another approach is to maximize global mobility by seeking the right employee from anywhere in the world — or sending the right employee anywhere in the world. This can keep talent agile while allowing an employee to develop their skills in other areas of the business. This helps employers retain internal knowledge and skills and lets employees feel that they are changing their careers more often, rather than being trapped in one role.
The Freelancer Approach
Some organizations have found that embracing the growing workforce of contract workers can supplement their own staff with people whose skills are needed, when they're needed. By hiring contractors or freelancers, these businesses can achieve the talent agility they need without being committed to the workers as employers. They can benefit from work and skills but don't have to worry about laying off workers when a project is complete or new skills are needed. The contract workers also benefit, as increasing numbers of people are interested in creating their own careers as self-employed workers who move from one project or commitment to the next.
Some organizations have found ways to combine the benefits of freelance workers with the loyalty of employees. For example, Intel has an in-house program called Freelance Nation, which includes employees who have signed up to work on a project basis. These employees can request to work on specific projects and negotiate their own schedules. This program offers the best of both worlds — the employees still have a salary and stability, but they have the autonomy and freedom of being a freelancer. "Freedom and adaptability are at the core of Freelance Nation," Intel notes. As a result, employees are happier and more engaged, which also benefits the organization.
HR leaders who are willing to develop flexible approaches to talent management and provide avenues and policies for talented workers who crave agility should be able to amass the talent their organization needs to continue to evolve and remain successful.