Total talent management has been getting a lot of buzz in the workforce solution ecosystem lately, and there are wide-ranging opinions. Some dismiss the concept as nonsense, while others believe it is a key to creating a competitive advantage. Regardless, the concept is important less for what it does and more for what it represents: an acknowledgment that talent — particularly contingent — is more than an expense line and can be a true competitive differentiator when properly leveraged.

Staffing Industry Analysts defines total talent management as a workforce management strategy that includes an organization’s management of traditionally hired, in-house staff as well as contingent workers. Some interpret that to mean an integration of RPO and MSP strategies; however, achieving true total talent management is a very complicated endeavor. It becomes even more so the more expansive the definition of contingent labor is to an organization. For example, does the contingent workforce program include statement-of-work consultants, management consultants, outsource providers and/or even cognitive computing resources?

The more expansive the definition, the more the strategic value of HR becomes apparent; there are dozens of engagement methods and dozens of savings/value levers that can be brought to bear.

A total talent management strategy can be vital for companies where labor and quality of talent are valued and appreciated. For others, much less so. Accordingly, many program managers find themselves at a crossroads. To pursue cost savings via traditional margin capture strategies or pursue talent value by leveraging total talent management? Each solution has its own unique merit, but in the end, few companies can see the tactical value and few CFOs validate program performance as commensurate with the herculean effort necessary to create a contingent workforce program.

While it is exciting to see programs strive to evolve beyond seeing a contingent workforce as a simple lever to address a tactical challenge, it is important to acknowledge that very few companies are successfully implementing — much less actively managing their workforces via — the total talent management approach.

That being said, organizations can still benefit greatly by starting to gather total talent management data — impending implementation or not. I often recommend companies consider their program from the point of revenue generation: How does labor and the quality — or lack thereof — contribute to your company’s bottom line? Work from the point of sale backward to educate yourself and begin to develop a model that gives a higher-level viewpoint to what was once not obvious.