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No one would argue that today’s enterprise workforces resemble their century-old counterparts, thanks to the influential forces of generational change, technology and globalization.

Yet, in many organizations, hiring and management strategies have remained stagnant—failing to keep pace with these significant evolutions.

Companies that have fallen behind in this way create a strategic opportunity for other businesses that are ready to adopt the new practices and protocols encompassed by the term “Total Talent Management.”

Defining Total Talent Management

Staffing Industry Analysts describes total talent management as follows:

“The concept of TTM integrates and engages the full range of talent sources, from traditional employees to a wide variety of non-employee workers including temporary workers, independent contractors/consultants/ freelancers, volunteers, outsourced resources, and even non-human options such as robots, drones and cognitive computing applications.”

Specific implementations of total talent management within organizations vary, as we’ll discuss later in this article. However, all of these arrangements allow enterprise companies to tap into the 1.45 billion mobile workers worldwide. This makes it possible to find the right talent for the project—no matter where in the world that worker is, or how they should be classified.

The Risks and Rewards of Total Talent Management

Certainly, one of the chief concerns companies have when considering total talent management is the issue of classification. Misclassifying workers as independent contractors when they should be employees—or vice versa—can lead to serious tax and employment law violations.

While it’s important not to minimize these concerns, it’s also unfair to allow classification questions to impede the implementation of a total talent management program and deprive organizations of the significant benefits associated with the ability to use a full range of talent sources.

When talent acquisition and engagement are managed in a holistic way, enterprise companies are empowered to:

  • Find the right talent to fill a specified need, without being restricted to a limited geographic area.
  • Forgo costly and time-intensive onboarding processes for full-time workers on projects that don’t require full-time coverage.
  • Free up overhead capital and enable both organizational flexibility and competitiveness by retaining talent on a per-project basis.

The decision of whether or not to pursue a total talent management approach is one that must be considered on a case-by-case basis. If your business’s talent requirements fall neatly into traditional full-time roles, or if limited innovation in your industry minimizes the risk of disruption from more nimble competitors, pursuing contingent work arrangements may not be for you.

However, if you find yourself facing shortages of specific talents, labor pool limitations or the need for greater flexibility in project-based hiring, looking beyond standard hiring practices to tap new pools of contingent workers may be the right choice.

Launching a Total Talent Management Initiative

The first question any company must consider when pursuing a total talent management approach is the issue of legal liability. If you intend to retain freelancers, contractors or other non-traditional workers, it’s critical that you settle your classification and compliance questions before moving forward.

Upwork Enterprise can answer these questions for you through the Upwork Enterprise Compliance service, as can your internal HR or legal team, or a qualified third-party compliance service that’s familiar with remote and contingent work practices.

Moving to a HR environment that engages different types of workers requires exploring three primary considerations: access to talent, technologies and processes.

Access to Talent
Understanding the benefits of accessing non-traditional labor is one thing. Actually finding qualified talent is another challenge entirely.

Several options exist, each with its own pros and cons. For instance, you can:

  • Partner directly with individual freelancers (for instance, by reaching out to a Ruby on Rails developer you find by Googling “freelance front-end web developer”).
  • Contract with traditional temp agencies that specialize in different types of remote or contingent work.
  • Engage a solution like Upwork Enterprise that provides fast access to in-demand talent and custom talent pools.

If you intend to work with contingent workers, you’ll need a solid technology plan. Ask yourself the following questions to get started:

  • How will I manage day-to-day communications with contingent workers?
  • What tools and technologies can I use to share assignments and give feedback?
  • Will any of my new workers require access to sensitive company data? If so, what documentation and systems will I need to maintain confidentiality and data security?
  • How can I use technology to facilitate positive team dynamics between workers in multiple locations (and potentially in multiple languages)?

The talent source you work with may have solutions to facilitate some or all of these needs. If not, it will be up to your team to put them into place.

Think about the way you currently engage new talent; how you communicate expectations, reporting structures, company culture and more. Consider other processes you have in place, from time tracking to vetting and paying.

Depending on the type of contingent workers you bring on, it may be appropriate to incorporate some, all or none of these processes into your new relationships. Thinking through them in advance will help you make the transition to a total talent management environment as seamless as possible.

The Future of Total Talent Management

According to Upwork, 77 percent of HR managers believe that companies that don’t evolve their hiring strategies are at a competitive disadvantage.

Despite this, data gathered by Staffing Industry Analysts and ERE Media suggests that the median usage of non-employed workers in 2015 was just 16 percent.

There’s no better way to evolve your hiring strategy (or to surpass competitors who aren’t yet embracing the potential of contingent talent) than to adopt a total talent management approach. Doing so at this early stage offers the potential for both cost savings and hiring flexibility.

Smart HR leaders are taking notice—and taking advantage of the organizational opportunities this significant shift entails. Are you?