After more than 11 years’ incubation of the concept, what does it to take to move total talent along the adoption curve from today’s early adopters to tomorrow’s “early majority?” Previously, in “Connecting the total talent acquisition, management dots,” I talked about the origins of total talent and provided a graphical representation of the difference between total talent acquisition and total talent management.

Total talent is a journey. While my graphical representation shows total as being all ways of getting work done, I don’t believe this has to be the case on day one.

The analogy I like to use is that of the oil well, where there may be billions upon billions of barrels of oil under the sea. Think of this as the “utopian total” of all of the oil that is available. However, not all of this utopian total is accessible. Every year, the oil company can only extract so much due to the constraints on resources, machinery, storage and the basic economics of demand and supply that ensure profitability. If you ask this organization, “What is the total amount that you have extracted in the previous 12 months?” they will provide you with the answer. Their “total” extraction for the previous 12 months is their journey along the road to extracting all the oil over many years.

It is the same with total talent. Utopia is the diagram in my previous article; however, the reality of the total talent journey is a gradual adoption of this diagram until it becomes inefficient to evolve the model further — at least for the time being. As technology develops, as integrations become seamless, as the total talent adoption curve moves from the early majority to the late majority, it will become more of a standard practice to essentially coordinate the acquisition of multiple talent types and ways of getting work done.

Organizations must plan this concept strategically, which requires having four seats at the table:

  1. Executives. Because big decisions are going to have to be made.
  2. Procurement. Because purchases are going to be made, not only of people but of awards across the delivery ecosystem.
  3. HR. Because the contingent workforce will become more strategic and moving to total talent management, which means engaging a future contingent workforce in a way that they experience similar levels of satisfaction as enjoyed by permanent staff.
  4. Finance. Because investments will be needed along the way, which require return-on-investment modeling based on profitability, shareholder value and market competitiveness.

According to our 2022 Global Workforce Solutions Buyer Survey, 51% of respondents said that “lack of corporate consensus” was the prime reason preventing their organization from pursuing a total talent strategy. This was closely followed by “organizational silos” (49%) and “absence of technology to support a total talent strategy” (37%).

The three fundamentals to starting a total talent journey are:

  1. Transition the ultimate ownership of the contingent workforce program to HR (with procurement passionately and closely involved).
  2. Remove any limitation on hiring as a result of headcount restrictions. This drives the wrong behavior, and total talent acquisition cannot work where the computer says “no” to the “right” way to get work done.
  3. Install a central decision process with the authority to decide how work gets done. See my previous article, “Sourcing? Using The Decision Tree Brings Surprising Benefits.”

There will, of course, be many other challenges along the way. Remember, you’re not trying to extract all the oil at once, and you may eventually close production altogether (for the time being), leaving millions of barrels that are simply not economically viable to extract with today’s technology.