Over the last couple of years, much has been written and discussed around the topic of total talent management (TTM), a concept that integrates all aspects of workforce management from temporary agency workers and traditionally hired permanent employees to independent contractors, outsourced services and many others.

This is not to be confused with total talent acquisition (TTA), which is a subset of TTM. TTA is an operational approach to sourcing, recruiting and engaging talent no matter what the source of that talent might be. Temporary and traditional workers are only part of TTA; other worker categories might include independent contractors/freelancers, online workers performing either micro-tasks or maybe crowdsourcing, professional services such as statement-of-work consultants, outsource services and indeed any other nonemployee type workers, including robotics and artificial intelligence.

While TTM includes TTA, it contains the additional responsibilities of engaging, retaining and eventually exiting these worker types from your organization in such a way that they remain “raving fans” of your business. (Full definitions can be found within our Lexicon of Global Workforce-Related Terms (PDF download).)

Thus far, complete TTM has yet to see fruition, which leads to the big question: Is the prospect of achieving pure TTM in the future, fact or fiction?

The answer is “fact” — it is just a matter of when..

The long view. Early in my career in this industry, in 1991, I attended a presentation at the then BT Technology Laboratories at Martlesham Heath in the UK. The first three minutes were taken up by a video of young babies playing with their toys. As the film concluded, the presenter took to the stage, held his hand up to the screen and uttered “ladies and gentlemen, our customers,” highlighting the fact that some of the technology being developed by the company would not affect people’s lives for another 10 or 20 years.

I think of the concept of true TTM should be considered the same way. Think of it as happening not necessarily in your lifetime, but in the near future — whenever that might be.

The basic principle being: “If you can think it, then it will happen.”

Visibility. One of the fundamental basic requirements of TTM is visibility. Visibility of the entire workforce procurement chain (whether the procured work gets done inside or outside of your building), and visibility of key data pertaining to these workforce solutions once engaged. This visibility will be the enabler to make more informed decisions when future workforce procurements are made.

Remember the early days of mobile telephony? I once paid more than £2,500 to have a mobile phone fitted in my car in the mid-80s. I remember thinking that maybe one day this phone would not need to be physically connected to my car, that it might eventually fit into my briefcase and then one day even into my pocket. Well is did happen and this is just one example of how technology rises to fulfill the needs of consumers very quickly — needs that they do not necessarily know they have: their needs of tomorrow.

While such things as house prices, salaries and car prices all tend to increase over time, technology tends to decrease in price over time. At the same time, it becomes ever more complex in its capabilities and yet so much simpler in its user interface and reporting.

It will come? And so, workforce technologies will develop and integrate to enable holistic visibility of an organization’s entire supply chain through a single portal. Tracking of relevant data while work is getting done will be available at the touch of a button in the simplest forms. Organizations will demand simplicity in technology but with more functionality, requiring increasing levels of behind-the-scenes computing and artificial intelligence. Decisions on future workforce engagements will not only be easier, they will be largely automated.

TTM is still in its early days and conversations are still somewhat theoretical. However, the single most limiting factor in its evolution is visibility and decision-making enabled by technology and artificial intelligence. And what history tells us is that technology innovation repeatedly delivers tomorrow that which was considered impossible to deliver yesterday. It’s only a matter of time.