Talent wars will decide the winners and losers in the next decade. Getting access to great talent and unleashing motivation and discretionary effort are arguably the most important jobs for leaders in all areas of every business and government agency.
This is especially important and challenging in the IT and digital domains, because the “artist formerly known as the IT organization” is evolving rapidly as new technologies take hold. In particular, CIOs tell us that data scientists, security experts, and enterprise architects are hard to find.
To win the talent war, companies need to change. Through our research at DXC Technology’s Leading Edge Forum (LEF), we have identified eight breakthrough talent management stratagems that most organizations aren’t doing — so almost none have mastered — but that hold significant promise. Four relate to accessing talent, and four to unleashing talent.
A. Talent-as-a-Service – Use crowdsourcing platforms like Topcoder or Kaggle to access talent that may not be available in the enterprise, commonly for projects but conceivably for operations too. This allows you to access talent that you may not have or need permanently, and you don’t even have to find it – it finds you! Learning when and how to use Talent-as-a-Service requires practice as well as guidance from those experienced with the crowdsourcing platforms.
B. Bring your own team (BYOT) – Hire whole teams at once (also known as lift-outs). These teams ideally have been through the forming-storming-norming-performing cycle a few times, work together well, and have a balance of skills and styles. There is lots of evidence that teams like this have a very short on-ramp to value, though you need to manage us-and-them culture issues carefully.
C. Incubators/accelerators/catapults – Create or sponsor an organization or space that supports startups. This offers privileged access to fresh talent for learning through osmosis, and maybe even hiring/acquihiring (see next item). You must be clear about why you are participating, and set up to maximize that benefit – for example, rotating internal staff through the incubator.
D. Acquihires – Buy companies (often startups) with the primary goal of acquiring their talent. This must be handled intelligently because the “assets” can walk out the door at any time! It is important to know whom you need for the transition, and whom you want for the long term. More generally, all M&A best practices apply here, including deciding quickly and communicating clearly about any integration challenges.
A. Reverse mentoring – Have junior or less tenured people mentor senior or more tenured people, on digital tools and 21st- century work practices. This brings fresh eyes to issues, helps more senior/tenured people learn new work practices, and fosters helpful skip-level relationships. Using social contracts to manage expectations and focus relationships is helpful.
B. Internal talent marketplaces – Let people choose their work and supervisor (after some interviewing) rather than assigning people to work. Managers lose the automatic right to “own” staff. The core benefit is that talent finds the areas it has passion for. It is important to manage the process transparently so that people don’t get disenfranchised if they don’t get what they want, and so that you understand imbalances in demand and supply quickly.
C. Self-managed teams – Manage teams as atomic units (rather than managing individuals), and let teams control how they work, choose their tools, and allocate work to individuals. It involves keeping teams together for long periods and, in extreme cases, allowing teams to hire or fire their own members and develop themselves, paying teams as one unit, and letting them allocate rewards to individuals. It can unleash tremendous productivity, but you need to manage technical integration and us-and-them culture issues carefully.
D. People science – Apply artificial intelligence (AI) to one or more aspects of the talent life cycle — for example, finding candidates or the initial screening process. As part of this research, we spoke to Collaboration. AI, which specializes in finding and supporting great collaborations, and Qlearsite, which applies analytics and AI to various aspects of the talent life cycle. This is a burgeoning area; startups tell us that the clients who get the most out of this area have dedicated staff and are climbing the experience curve.
The bottom line: Talent management ain’t what it used to be. Like new technologies, we need to experiment with these breakthrough talent management stratagems and be willing to fail fast, adapt, and adopt the ones that work for us. We also need to view talent as “flows” of skills rather than “stocks” of people. LEF will continue to research this critical domain, aiming to make the next 10 years a decade of innovative talent flows.
The LEF is DXC Technology’s commercial think tank. See the full LEF report, based on a six-month study, here “Unleashing Digital Talent for Fun and Profit.”
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