The notion is that for organizations to be adaptable they will need to hire 'adaptable people' from diverse backgrounds, to work with their customers and clients.
The traits of adaptability will be the same whichever organization you work for.
Organizations waste resources chasing and competing for talent. So why not form alliances and collaborate instead?
Organizations could partner with, jointly develop and execute recruitment programmes with their customers, clients and other groups to identify those people.
Those individuals who are successful would have a series of short assignments (or experiences) with customers, clients or other groups to familiarize themselves with the workings of their business before they formally join the organization to support or work with them.
Barriers To Adaptability Being Overcome - Lack Of Diversity
Related HR Processes – Talent Acquisition.
Related adaptability principles – Peer collaboration, Creativity, Diversity, Experimentation & Learning
Finding, skilling, deploying, motivating, rewarding and retaining people are all costly and inexact processes. So, why don’t more organizations form partnerships to share that cost, especially where there isn't a direct competitor relationship?
The challenge of a constantly changing world, presents organizations with ever-increasing pressure to find talented, skilled staff able to develop and grow their capabilities.
Current talent spotting and recruitment processes pit organizations against each other in a struggle to attract and secure ‘talent’ into their teams. Yet, these same processes often fail to bring in the new thinking, diverse skills and adaptability we set out to recruit.
Recruitment biases, short-term pressures to increase staffing and insufficiently broad recruiting pools can all undermine the quality of our recruitment drives.
Organizations are struggling to become adaptable and need to find new ways to attract and retain the right candidates. Resources are limited yet candidates with the skills needed to build adaptability in an organization (such as: collaboration, flexibility, a thirst for learning, courage to innovate) may not be attracted by the ‘same old’ recruitment levers we have used in the past.
New models of working and expectations around career mobility may lead to traditional roles and recruitment processes becoming increasingly unfit for purpose. Candidates will demand more diversity from employers, greater variety in their roles and greater scope for autonomy and innovation in their roles.
The hack will challenge the following enemies of adaptability:
- Decision Bias
- Rigid structures
- Inflexible business practices
- Short-term thinking
- Skills deficit
Fear is often an unspoken pervasive theme in current recruitment models, a fear of ‘not getting it wrong’ can mitigate against recruiters taking a chance on the candidate with the less conventional skill set or mind-set, yet it may be just this difference the organization needs.
Hierarchy and command and control systems encourage recruitment decision bias preferring orthodox candidates. This bias filters out potential staff with different or alternative models of working, skill sets or behaviors.
The War for Talent
Given the fight organizations face in attracting and retaining talent, a Talent Spotting Alliance provides a win-win proposition.
Employers will get greater access to talented people who will have two or more organizational experiences before employment details are finalized.
An alliance will provide employers and employees with a more balanced and more informed view of each other.
It will lead to better decisions about which organization is more suitable for an individual’s longer-term career.
Because of the element of choice with individuals having 'experienced' different organizational cultures this will also reduce attrition levels.
Parallels with Elite Sports
There are some interesting parallels that can be drawn between the talent spotting activities of everyday business organizations and those of elite sports. These are used here to help illustrate the problem this hack is designed to overcome.
For example, in elite sports those organizations with the most money to spend on the best talent, such as fees and wages, are generally more successful on the field of play. Their success generates more money and attracts more and better talent.
Yet those organizations can also suffer problems and the same competition that brings ‘the market’ can also become ‘the dog that bites itself’.
For example, they can get locked into wage-demands and experience discord amongst their team of highly paid superstars. Their focus on buying talent externally rather than growing and developing their own talent can lead to different problems. Loyalty amongst staff can come from supportive actions such as opportunities for development. If that is missing, loyalty can soon dissipate.
Organizations in elite sports that don’t have the financial resources find it difficult to compete. For example, they find it hard to retain their own talent and cannot attract those top talent individuals all hankering for a place with a ‘super club’.
The Football Loan System
The loan system in football (‘soccer’) is a long-established way for clubs to bring on individual talent and share resources. It can be a pre-cursor to players moving permanently. For example, a third string player from a club in the highest league will be ‘loaned’ to play for a lower league team over an agreed period of time. Typically this will be for one to three months but could be extended to a whole season depending on the circumstances.
There are advantages for both players and clubs in this arrangement. The player will gain playing experience, develop fitness & match sharpness as well as experience a new ‘working environment’. The loan-arrangement will give the lower league club access to a player they wouldn't normally be able to compete for. The higher-league club will receive regular updates about their player’s overall performance and will use that information to help make decisions about their future.
The Bigger Picture
Although there are many similarities, this hack is a smarter form of resource sharing than the football loan system and potentially has much wider implications for our society as a whole.
Yes, it will bring organizations a ‘collaborative advantage’ as they form long term partnerships where their resources are shared, skills developed and experience acquired.
However, alliances could also bring economies of scope to the labor market. A few big companies already do something similar in the UK, by over-recruiting apprentices for example, but this goes much further.
It could help get more people into work by preparing people to be ‘job ready’ on a Just-In-Time basis as opportunities arise. For example, many ICT businesses are short of coding talent, so organizations could build networks of different learning opportunities such as hacks, academic teaching, project experience and corporate specialist training as “spokes” around an alliance hub.
Examples similar to the Talent Spotting Alliance have already been established in the UK public sector. For example, the University of Glasgow and the NHS Greater Glasgow have a joint policy and procedure in place for the recruitment and selection of clinical academic and research staff.
For example, in October 2011 children's services in Yorkshire and the Humber, covering 15 councils, jointly launched a two-year campaign to recruit newly qualified social workers and raise standards for people already in the job. The campaign is part of a programme of collaboration, under which the councils work together to improve leadership skills, make better use of their agency staff and improve communication with local universities and colleges.
The Organization’s View Of Talent Spotting Alliances
There are two parts to this diagram, where organizations are today (From) and where they want to be in the future (To).
On the left hand side (From), organizations operate on their own, in isolation, all trying to recruit from the same pool of talent.
All organizations have different ways of attracting talent and they have different levels of success as you can see from their comments.
On the right hand side (To), organizations have formed an alliance and as a consequence are getting much better, more effective results.
Successful candidates are offered different experiences in a talent cloud across the different organizations.
The Candidate’s View Of Talent Spotting Alliances
There are two parts to this diagram, the experience of candidates applying for jobs today (From) and what the experience might look like in the future (To).
On the left hand side (From), the candidate is confused and concerned and may not have applied to the most suitable organizations or chosen the most suitable offers received.
The candidate has multiple applications, one for each organization; all were looking for similar traits in those they wished to recruit.
There are some organizations the candidate didn't apply to even though they were hiring.
There are some organizations the candidate knew were hiring but they chose not to apply for whatever reason.
There were some organizations where the candidate may have been an excellent fit but the organization wasn't actively recruiting at the point the candidate was looking.
On the right hand side (To), the candidate applied to The Alliance (a group of organizations).
The candidate received an offer to have a number of different experiences in the talent cloud across three of the most suitable organizations.
After a period of time (e.g. 9 months, 3 months in each organization) there was a decision point.
The decision was a joint discussion between the organizations and the candidate.
Recruiting Adaptable People For Different Experiences
Refer to the diagram below. There are six organizations (A-F) in The Alliance.
Each is an 'adaptable organization' but is looking to recruit people in to different professional areas (e.g. HR, IT, Legal).
Each organization is looking for 'adaptable people’; the assumption is that the traits of 'adaptable people' will be the same irrespective of which organization they work for.
The common traits of 'adaptable people' should be the focus of the Alliance's recruitment activities.
The experiences each organization in the Alliance can offer will be 'functional' (e.g. Legal) or based on a particular thing that is happening (e.g. going through restructuring or a merger).
The organization specifics should be the focus of the Alliance's experience activities.
Note: the diagrams above can also be found on pages 5, 6 and 8 of the attached document.
A new type of alliance or partnership of the type proposed here will help organizations to survive in an increasingly fragmented and diverse candidate market.
Nowadays individuals are looking for sophisticated and challenging posts which nurture their own learning, autonomy and personal growth.
Our talent is becoming accustomed to moving between markets, companies and countries to search out the best job opportunities, organizations have to face up to this challenge.
This hack provides organizations with an alternative model for talent spotting and recruitment, and in doing so opens up possibilities for deeper changes to job design working models and partnerships which can build adaptability and innovation which will help them to retain talent in a competitive market.
This hack will build that diversity and challenge thinking back into our processes, breaking old recruitment habits and challenging inflexible business practices.
A shared pool of talent will challenge rigid structures and the relevance of functional silos. It will allow leaders to look over the parapet, develop longer term more creative thinking about who they recruit to their teams and how they mobilize the skills and assets of their people.
A successful talent spotting alliance will also create an ongoing pressure for excellence. Rather than simply securing people by offering the best pay or conditions, organizations with a shared talent pool will be forced to develop and support a vibrant work culture which encourages innovation, contribution and respect as these are the features which will encourage participants to sign up for long term assignments and posts within that organization.
By creating a diverse, shared talent pool our model builds in the new skills, mind sets and approaches needed by adaptable organizations.
Organizations can use their shared talent pool not just to meet day-to-day needs but also to coach, train and mentor existing staff in new approaches. Rather than competing against one another they can combine their resources and ensure that they attract the richest pool of talent.
By developing strong alliances with other organizations, either inside or outside their own sector, organizations will benefit from:
- Having access to a wider range of talent over a fixed period
- Being able to move talent around to new placements in response to organizational need
- Exposing their staff to a wider range of thinking and skills
- Introducing a fresh mind sets and approaches into projects and discussions
Building alliances with other organizations opening the way for staff placements, joint projects etc. Sharing employees can reduce costs, increase flexibility and build capability.
The crucial point is this: at the end of the 'trial' (or experiences) should the organizations decide the final outcome or the candidate?
The underlying assumption is that the Talent Spotting Alliance will only work if the organizations participating in it can regularly get a pipeline of good candidates through it.
Here's an example: let's say there are three organizations in the Talent Spotting Alliance called A,B and C. Out of the first 10 candidates the allocation is 8-A, 2-B and C has 0.
It could be argued that organization C would, in the spirit of the alliance, look to improve its workplace to meet the quality of the other two organizations. However, they might just decide to revert back to 'going solo'.
There is something here about the reality of moving from a 'competitive' to a 'collaborative' (or any new way of working) that implies all parties involved need to see early wins to avoid alliances or partnerships failing before they become established.
This is either a risk that needs to be identified early or something the Talent Spotting Alliance will need to structure a solution around.
The conversations can be imagined now: 'They get more out of it than we do for what we put in!', organizations will need to work out how to address that.
A few questions to consider:
- What would make a Talent Spotting Alliance sustainable even if we ended with a A-8, B-2, C-0 kind of scenario?
- Is there a way to design for there to be a win-win for candidates as well as recruiters? Not just from a talent spotting perspective but also from a Talent Management perspective. If the first recruitment round goes 8-2-0 and the second goes 0-5-5, then it is not such a bad situation to be in!
- From the work the Center for Creative Leadership has done, there are many lessons of experience to be had and often a single company can't provide all of them meaningfully, for example: turnaround, crisis, starting something from scratch and so on. This could be one of the biggest offerings that comes from a Talent Spotting Alliance.
The key to alliance sustainability is how well the Talent Spotting Alliance is established in the first place (e.g. agreements in place) and most importantly its purpose. A 'good partnership' should feel like this:
- Be based on trust; be professional, partners having integrity.
- Have a common vision which is clearly understood and supported.
- Be managed.
- Have regular meetings.
- Be something that will deliver results that a single organization could not deliver in isolation.
- There should be mutual benefit for all partners.
When reality bites (e.g. Organization A isn't getting any candidates from the alliance arrangement) then that is when having a clearly documented and agreed arrangement in place will be key.
On the question of who decides at the end of the 'trial period' (or set of experiences) where the candidate finally ends up working, there are three possible ways to make the decision:
- The Alliance decides
- The candidate decides
- The Alliance and the candidate jointly decide
Each of these could take place at the end of recruitment phase or at the end of the experiences phase.
When this idea was originally proposed during the mini-hack phase, the notion was that the candidate would be the one who eventually chose the organization. But all three ways of making the decision have their merits. The key thing is for the Talent Spotting Alliance to be clear up-front how the decision will be reached and how to manage the risks around that.
For more information on this refer to the First Steps section below and some of the example questions organizations must consider before an alliance is established.
Below is a list of key points and questions, both strategic and operational, that organizations must consider and have clear answers to prior to establishing a Talent Spotting Alliance. Doing so will provide the alliance with a sound foundation and therefore ensure each organization can focus its attention on execution activities.
What is the purpose and scope of the Talent Spotting Alliance?
For the alliance to work effectively having a clear purpose and scope will be critical.
Do the participating organizations just want to share the talent pool created through the alliance's recruitment activities?
Or do they want this to be a talent management partnership in the broadest sense, sharing the resources of all organizations participating to provide for example: shared Learning & Development or workplace secondments in rotation?
If the main purpose is to focus on recruitment, is the scope of the alliance:
- All aspects of recruitment or only for specific posts?
- To fill existing gaps in the staffing profile or develop new capabilities?
- Only for a pre-defined period of recruitment activity or an ongoing arrangement?
Where there are shared posts (or experiences) which organization in the alliance will employ successful candidates?
If the main purpose is to cover the broader aspects of talent management, consider the following:
- Which organizational policies and procedures will apply? Should the alliance determine best practices? Or will the alliance need a completely new set?
- Will these posts (or experiences) operate like long-term secondments with ‘home’ and ‘host’ organizations? Or be something different and more flexible and therefore able to be more responsive?
- What will the alliance mean for existing employees? If there is to be a long-term talent sharing alliance then at some point the alliance will need to consider if opportunities being offered to new recruits to move between organizations and experiences could also be offered to existing staff.
Establishing a Talent Spotting Alliance
Which types of organization should comprise a Talent Spotting Alliance? The answer may be different depending on which sector the organization operates in: public or private. There are various models that could be followed; each will have its own nuances that will need to be fleshed out in more detail. For example forming an alliance with:
- Similar organizations in different industry sectors
- Different organizations in the same industry sector (similar size, larger, smaller, profit versus not for profit)
- Customers or audience base
- Business partners
- Direct competitors
Of course, the alliance could be a combination of some or all of the above.
Organizations should consider both global and local perspectives.
Some other questions to consider when establishing the alliance:
- Where does it fit in to the organization's overall strategy?
- Is it being formed on the basis of the organization's strengths or weaknesses?
- How will organizations 'get to know each other'?
- How will organizations measure the success of the approach? What key performance indicators or measurements will need to be in place?
- How will it gather and share feedback across the organizations?
- What are the key barriers to success?
Day-to-day management of the Talent Spotting Alliance
- An alliance 'steering committee' made up of sponsors and senior leaders will also need to be established, for example: to arbitrate on disagreements.
- The alliance will need to build a cross-organizational implementation project team.
- The right group of people will need to work together to answer the key strategic questions listed here.
- Which functions should be involved in building, securing and delivering the benefits of the alliance, HR alone or a combination of functions?
- An ongoing day-to-day management team will need to be put in place.
Benefits and risks of implementing a Talent Spotting Alliance
The organizations involved in an alliance will need to have a clear understanding of the benefits it will bring. Some examples:
- Avoid competing unnecessarily for talent.
- Get access to better quality candidates.
- Share recruitment resources.
- Broader access to the talent pool.
How should organizations convince their senior leaders on risk mitigation? For example:
- Commercial and intellectual property sensitivities.
- What if candidates don't choose the organization: investment in the alliance but no reward
- How will the alliance meet our organizations needs to have X people in X posts by X date?
The 'basic rules' of the Talent Spotting Alliance
It will be important to have the finer details of how the alliance will work in reality clearly defined, to avoid any disputes or misunderstandings. Read the following examples alongside The Challenges section above:
- If an organization is a member of the Talent Spotting Alliance does this mean they are committed to participating in recruitment activities even if they are not actively looking to hire?
- What is the common ground the Talent Spotting Alliance will look to recruit on? That is, has the alliance determined the common, talent traits of adaptable people? How should those traits be decided and agreed?
- How will organizations sell the benefits to potential candidates of applying to an alliance versus applying to each organization individually?
- How will organizations decide where to place candidates who successfully make it through the recruitment activities?
- How will the 'final decision' be made that determines where the candidate will end up working permanently? What happens if either party decides it's a "No thanks?
- Could successful candidates go back in to the talent cloud at a later date for further experiences, perhaps to the same or a different alliance organization?
- What happens to candidates who are placed on 'hold' during the recruitment activities?
The team for this hack was:
Note: this document is the result of the team's hard work and efforts. It was prepared by Keith Gulliver using the input and contributions provided by the different members of the team. Their original words were edited and sometimes additional information was added.