Total talent management has been viewed as a highly aspirational strategy that has bordered on the hypothetical for more than a decade. However, the proliferation of new technologies and widespread investments in the workforce solutions ecosystem now make TTM viable and achievable. An organization utilizing a total talent strategy can proactively consider not just employee talent but all options for engaging talent — including the full range of nonemployee talent — and assess the cost and suitability of each category of worker. As such, these programs also provide the organization with a “whole workforce” view.

Despite coming on the scene more than a decade ago as an aspirational goal, total talent is a broad concept that remains an emerging model. According to SIA’s 2023 Workforce Solutions Buyer Survey, only 16% of buyers currently manage a total talent acquisition program, while 42% plan to seriously explore TTA in the next two years.

Similarly, the survey indicates that low adoption levels thus far are the result of inhibitors such as organizational silos; 58% of respondents cite silos as the primary obstacle, closely followed by a lack of corporate consensus on the concept and an absence of technology to support the strategy.

However, these obstacles are slowly receding. From the organizational perspective, senior leadership is beginning to pay attention to this concept as a solution to their talent problems, and many programs have started planning for the next-generation implementation of this strategy.

Organizations are increasingly aware of the range of tangible benefits when moving toward a total talent solution. Such benefits include:

  • Consistent experience/ease of use for hiring managers as well as candidates.
  • Maximizing talent pool effectiveness and the creation of talent pools that incorporate full-time, payroll and contract labor sourcing/hiring, enabling recruiters to search and select skills across all worker types.
  • Cost reduction through economies of scale, workforce mix utilization, single service delivery and centralization.
  • Workforce visibility enabling holistic workforce management and planning with total headcount reporting, with a single-person ID system tracking workers as they move across different engagement modes — e.g., employee to alumni to independent contractor to consultant — and understanding the costs/value for money for the client of each option.
  • Efficiencies through simplification and reduction of suppliers as well as improved supplier commitment and loyalty through increased opportunity.
  • Single governance and relationship, meaning the provider is well positioned to support the client with additional services or expansion.

Many workforce technology platforms have been designed for either permanent hiring or contingent hiring/management, but not both. Encouragingly, many technology providers have woken up to the total talent imperative and are both developing their own solutions and making it much easier to integrate different platforms. From the technology perspective, workforce solutions providers are increasingly investing in analytics tools to provide total workforce visibility and predict hiring success, applying some of the more sophisticated talent acquisition tools and techniques found in recruitment process outsourcing to the acquisition of all worker types.

MSPs in particular are well positioned to help organizations realize the benefits of a total talent strategy. As MSP capabilities now extend to direct sourcing, services procurement, statement-of-work management and independent contractor administration, along with crossover for existing clients that utilize MSPs for recruitment process outsourcing, today’s MSPs offer real-time access to rich data on the entirety of the workforce. Leading providers can offer point-of-entry automation for new requisitions and talent requests, guiding hiring managers and ensuring the most appropriate paths/engagements are utilized.

Similarly, as VMS capability in direct sourcing increases and buyers’ program goals move from cost saving and visibility to effectively leveraging skills and talent, VMS solutions to support total talent management are becoming more commonplace. For some providers, this means investing in integrations and data analytics to enable clients to have a view of its entire workforce; for others, investments are in developing more ATS-style capability so that clients can engage with all talent types through the platform.

Chapters in SIA’s Total Talent Developments 2023 report outline in greater depth where MSPs and VMSs have made investments in this area in the past 18 months.

After two years of overwhelming talent demand, HR leadership is starting to pay attention to this concept as a solution to their talent problems, and many programs have begun to plan for the next generation implementation of this strategy, according to the report. While leaders weren’t willing to consider this approach prior to the pandemic, total talent has become a real option for organizations looking to become talent differentiators, as the foundational components of many programs have been laid and are ready to be interconnected with the other sourcing channels around them.