As HR leaders and practitioners look to establish or modernize their HR and talent strategies, the options can be daunting.

Talent management, as a practice, continues to move at a fast pace – in fact, "modernizing the workforce" is the top strategy CEOs are relying on to ensure their organization is future ready1.

There are countless concerns, challenges and approaches across the talent spectrum – all of which are meaningful and relevant to different leaders and organizations depending on where they are and where they want to be. As I travel across the country meeting with HR and talent leaders to help them evaluate and build their company's talent strategies, there are three points that consistently come up in conversation. These topics are a mix of concerns about today's tactical processes, as well how to embrace emerging practices and trends.

So called "best practices" can be downright confusing.

Yes, yes, yes! What we hear touted as "best practices" – from our peers, industry experts and vendors – can be both practical and confusing. How do you know if you are focused on something that may prove to just be a passing trend in the marketplace?

Does seeing what other companies are doing create a sense of pressure to make the same changes to your own processes? I often talk with leaders to help ensure their talent strategy addresses the bigger issues facing the business, without getting caught up in the cycle of "hurry up and change." But this becomes a fine art of balance – because on the other hand, if you are too slow to change some of you practices, you may lose some employees.

As you find yourself surrounded by trends, best practices, innovations and fads - how do you know where you stand? And more importantly, how do you decide where you should focus? As Peter Drucker so famously said, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."

Recently some HR leaders have confessed to me they fear they're measuring the wrong things. And there is a sincere desire to become more proactive with measurement and benchmarks to ensure they are focusing on the right areas. Plus, they want to be sure they are capturing the data that fuels real insight for their business leaders. This is where the fun begins – when I get to work with organizations to make sure they aren't just reporting data to report data, but creating a way for their talent strategy to be a source of value for the business.

Just how broad should my talent network be?

For a long time, we've been hearing that by 2020, 50 percent of the workforce will be in gig-type jobs. We're almost to 2020, and for most organizations that isn't the case – yet, that doesn't discount the potential impact this growing part of the talent network holds for organizations. Recent research, The Global Study of Engagement from the ADP Research Institute®, shows high levels of engagement among gig workers – something many organizations are continually looking to improve among their workforce.

We have to consider how multi-dimensional our workforce can be, with employees working multiple jobs that could be a mix of full time and part time.

Our labor market is only getting tighter, and I'm working with many companies that are struggling to find talent. I am increasingly hearing that contract workers are affecting how recruiters are changing their talent acquisition strategy. That strategy now includes multiple generations, varied worker types, a mix of demographics and more geographies than ever before. I'm seeing highly skilled older employees who want to work part-time, want benefits and do not want to fully retire start to move into the gig category – a reminder that gig-type jobs aren't limited to one narrow generation or skillset.

One of the biggest concerns that emerges when I connect with HR leaders is the issue of how contract workers are managed throughout the company. I see a very mixed bag of approaches. There is also an inconsistent approach to who drives this gig worker strategy. Depending on needs or budget it can be HR, the business owner or the hiring managers.

A related side note: It's important to recognize how today's digital technology not only allows gig workers and remote workers to be a rich talent resource for companies, but it also brings with it the demand for modern methods of wage payments.

"Workers want faster and more convenient access to their pay. The current pay delivery system of direct deposit and paper checks doesn't fit with how workers today want to manage their money. Our phones have replaced cash and paper checks, but traditional pay delivery is still based on a bank account," said Doug Politi, President of ADP Compliance Solutions.

"The key is adding choice of payment. Those who want direct deposit and paper checks can still get them, while others who prefer paycards or digital accounts like Wisely by ADP and Venmo can use those instead.

"In the Evolution of Pay study by the ADP Research Institute®, more than 60% of workers surveyed said if an employer offered more payment flexibility, it would make a difference in whether they would accept the job offer." Pay delivery methods can therefore impact a company's talent strategy.

Yep, the robots are here – so, now what?

You hear it and see it everywhere, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are now a reality in HR and talent management – but what is the impact on today's talent model and where do we see it bringing value in the near future?

I see a convergence of talent and technology, one where talent strategies need to consider technology roadmaps. Nowhere is this becoming more evident than with AI and machine learning.

"AI can — and should — serve as an assistant to humans," says Marc Rind, Chief Data Scientist and VP of Product Development at ADP DataCloud.

"Insights gathered from organization data are expected to help HR leaders approach their duties in new ways and address lingering issues that are better suited for AI. In this way, data will increasingly allow decision-makers to focus on priorities and assignments that call for a more human touch."

Then the real question becomes how to integrate those technologies where it makes appropriate business sense – it can't merely be a check the box effort. I see departments starting to use components of these new technologies to solve for an immediate problem, but may not actually solve for the bigger challenge or drive the intended outcomes. So, the first place to start is by asking: Are you using it because it is hip or seems to be a quick fix?

This brings us back to the notion of focus introduced at the beginning of this article. Are you using AI (such as chat bots) to quickly address an issue but at the cost of delaying tackling bigger challenges like brand or turnover problems? I've seen some innovative leaders who test new tech solutions while still staying on top of the biggest issues. This is a real challenge for talent leaders, so it is exciting to see how some organizations are striking the right balance.

Ready to dive In?

These are just of a few of the topics we'll explore during an honest and interactive virtual discussion on July 18 (no slides!): Deconstructing Talent Best Practices to Find What Really Works. I'll be among a panel of industry experts, led by Trish McFarlane, sharing our real life stories of working with organizations as they navigate how to create their right-fit talent strategy.


1. Agile or Irrelevant: Redefining resilience. 2019 U.S. CEO Outlook, KPMG.

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