Total talent has been a buzzword in the contingent workforce management space for several years now.

According to a 2019 SIA report commissioned by AMS in 2019, the progress toward total talent has been hamstrung in part by organizational silos, a fragmented approach to technology and perhaps the lack of a true burning desire for change. However, on the bright side, the report at the time also found enterprises that were planning to implement total talent in the future outnumbered those that had no such plans.

Total Talent

SIA defines total talent as a “model for talent acquisition, subsumed within the concept of total talent management and therefore encompassing the acquisition of all human talent in the broadest sense, including ‘permanently hired’ workers as well as all types and sources of ‘contingent’ workers as well as non-human talent including robots, bots, software and automation.”

Low adoption of total talent management is more likely to be a result of inhibitors such as organizational silos, with 44% of respondents to the report’s survey citing this as a barrier rather than a lack of interest or appetite.

A more recent report by KellyOCG found that a group of organizations are breaking down the traditional silos in their organizations, creating visibility across all talent types.

One of the benefits of adopting this approach is that by optimizing multiple channels of human capital engagement, an organization can create a competitive advantage in their market. This is of particular advantage in industries where specific skills shortages exist.

“I think a total talent philosophy that incorporates full-time hiring, contingent/temporary staffing and SOW [statement-of-work] resources for projects would allow a company to leverage all of the talent pool options that are out there, which expands the potential workforce available to that company,” says Allen Chilson, talent acquisition leader, vendor management, at Danaher.

However, the path to adopting total talent management can be challenging.

At a previous employer, Chilson’s business piloted a direct-sourcing program and the use of freelancer platforms, but they quickly learned that there was a lot of work required to change the way their managers thought about obtaining and managing the work of nonemployee workers.

Although Chilson’s business had budgets and forecasts for production and capital projects and facility expansions, it was challenging to get the organization to commit to a strategic workforce plan or a forecast beyond more than a few months into the future.

Businesses are also still struggling to have a strategic workforce plan in place to guide talent acquisition/procurement, and it is also difficult for suppliers to forecast and plan for needs, making it challenging to see these companies reaching a total talent program.

“I think it is very difficult for organizations to move to total talent unless they can shift the mindsets around workforce planning/forecasting and rethink the way they build project and work teams,” Chilson says.

Chilson believes there are plenty of suppliers who can help businesses work toward total talent, and there are many talent management, talent acquisition and procurement professionals who are eager to move the needle towards total talent as well.

However, he says there is still a resistance to change among hiring managers and leaders who prefer to have spend and resources in separate “buckets” and are not ready to rethink the way they resource projects and teams.

Genine Wilson, global vice president, KellyOCG, agrees the road to total talent can be challenging, but it’s achievable with the right definition, expectations and foundational success factors.

“Total talent management isn’t an off-the-shelf solution,” she says. “It’s a journey through the total talent landscape with winding turns, off and on ramps, and varying timelines, but [it’s] a crucial destination to truly drive your total talent strategy.”

Much of the talk about TTM has been in terms of it being the next wave in workforce solutions, Wilson continues. “But as we’ve found over the last several years, companies aren’t looking to put themselves into the total talent box we’ve created — they all have a different path to total talent in order to achieve their talent and business objectives.”

Chilson and Wilson will participate in a panel discussion on total talent at CWS Summit 2022, which takes place in Dallas Sept. 19-20.