Overcoming Total Workforce Challenges in 2020

Ardent Partners has championed the effectiveness of total workforce management for years and validated its impact: “The very simple argument for building or developing a total workforce management program can be stripped down to a primary advantage: the contemporary talent supply chain is diverse, multifaceted, and spread across numerous sources (both legacy and fresh), and the businesses that can effectively find, engage, source, and ultimately manage this talent under a centralized program will be awarded the visibility to execute far superior business decisions in a real-time manner.

Total workforce management as a viable enterprise strategy is certainly a reality, however, the inner workings (capabilities and competencies) of such a program are deep and complex. The underlying structure of such an initiative is usually wrought with functional, technological (i.e. integration), cultural, and strategic shifts, which all contribute to a development plan that is near impossible to implement within a short time span.

The reason that today’s “blended workforce” is more of a reality than ever before is because the contingent workforce is a valued, high-impact cross-section of talent that can drive incredible results for businesses that tap into these on-demand, top-tier skillsets to get work done. As the average contingent workforce utilization rate approaches half of the total workforce, the need for a total workforce program becomes both more critical and more obvious.

But, building a program is far from an overnight process; businesses require talent acquisition acumen, access to the proper tools, willingness to “blend” both contingent workforce and traditional human capital management approaches, and, most critically, access to total talent data to enable more informed workforce decision-making.

HR’s Path to Total Talent Management

The HR function is well-positioned to implement the core strategies and capabilities inherent in a total workforce management program. In fact, the majority of HR functions today already have some of the core tenets in place (see Figure 2 below).

Figure 2 - Total Workforce Competencies

The majority of HR leaders are currently leveraging consistent and standardized processes for both onboarding (72%) and offboarding (64%) all types of talent, fundamental pieces of total workforce management.

With traditional and non-employee workers so prevalently “mixed” on short- and long-term (as well as critical and non-critical) projects and initiatives, it is crucial that businesses enact the proper processes to bring all workers onboard, up-to-speed, and offboarded correctly when assignments end (removing access to systems, keeping engagement options open for the future, etc.).

Advanced Competencies for Total Talent Management

While the majority of HR leaders have implemented the baseline capabilities and strategies required for total workforce management, the future of such a program hinges on more advanced approaches. As show in Figure 3 (below), within the next two years, these competencies will be firmly implemented in the majority of HR functions.

Figure 3 - Advanced Total Workforce Competencies

HR leaders understand that total talent data is critical over the long haul. Visibility into total talent includes more than just surface-level information regarding the volume of workers (and the types of workers) in various engagements across the entire organization. Managing a truly blended workforce requires deeper intelligence, including data related to fully-burdened costs (which includes application and facilities access), total pay rates, true skillset intelligence, and much more.

Over the next two years, 92% of HR leaders expect to have access to total talent data, no doubt as a direct result of their desire to glean information from a variety of talent-led systems, including HRIS, VMS, ATS, and more. In an age when the blended workforce continues to grow at an impressive rate (and, especially as worker health and safety is of the utmost importance from tracking perspectives), HR leaders will require total talent data from their core workforce management systems; solutions that can provide this data in quick and accessible fashion will enhance the overall viability of total talent intelligence.

Also, “total talent acquisition” capabilities will continue to evolve over the next two years. Many business leaders insist that total talent acquisition is an impossible practice, given the rigorous compliance ramifications in the contingent workforce arena.

However, at their core, the total talent acquisition strategies of 2020 should focus on ensuring that there is the best possible alignment between a need/requirement/job/project and available talent, no matter its source. Total talent acquisition strategies require true collaboration between procurement and HR; they also need a baseline integration of human capital and contingent workforce technology to understand the best approach for a new role or project.

Today, direct sourcing remains a key focal area for both HR and procurement executives; this strategy, which entails the power of an employer’s brand to drive access to “known” candidates (silver medalists, alumni, vetted contractors and freelancers, etc.) as a means of building an on-demand “bench” of available talent that can be engaged without rigorous recruitment or talent acquisition processes. In essence, direct sourcing can be considered a vehicle for total talent acquisition (or “total talent engagement”).

HR’s Impact on the Blended Workforce

Businesses today view the agility of their overall operations and culture as inherently linked to the talent they employ, no matter the source of that talent. After all, talent is what drives success.

As shown in Figure 4 below, 62% of all HR leaders expect to implement a total workforce management program via centralized and standardized operations for managing all types of talent by 2022.

Figure 4 - Total Workforce Future

To be clear, the adoption of total workforce management today is very low (only 8% of HR leaders currently have this type of program in place). However, HR lives in a “high-impact” zone when it comes to business agility; with the proper tools, systems, and thinking (as well as executive support), it can lead the total workforce revolution into reality.

The human capital function has long been a driving force in “people management.” As contingent workforce programs transformed from commodity-led focus to a talent-led one, HR’s influence could be felt in how hiring managers measured the success of their core staffing suppliers, vendors, and agencies, and also how core procurement leaders added additional “talent quality” metrics in non-employee workforce management. HR is primed for this next journey.

HR’s unique position within the enterprise allows it to influence the workforce through its talent acquisition and recruitment acumen, and, its level of agility. As the non-employee population continues to grow, HR must play a pivotal role in how these workers are managed and drive value across the greater organization.

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