It was back in 2011 at an SIA summit in Amsterdam that I first heard the phrase “total talent” uttered from the stage during one of the closing speed sessions presented by sponsors. The concept of total talent has been discussed and written about at length ever since.

In May 2016, 10 months after I joined SIA, I was still confused with some of the rhetoric. As is often the case, verbal discourse and written descriptions often blur and confuse the meaning behind a great concept. Different interpretations by organizations and individuals under the same heading of total talent certainly contributed to this confusion.

Peter Reagan’s initial sketch depicting the concepts of total talent acquisition and management.

As a result, I sketched a visual representation of the difference between total talent acquisition (TTA) and total talent management (TTM) along with a high-level view of the end-to-end process and the role technology would need to play as the enabler to make this happen and to provide holistic visibility into the decision process. SIA ultimately adopted that sketch (see accompanying images).

As the accompanying graphics illustrate, TTA focuses on the identification of talent suitable for your organization, attracting talent to your brand and engaging with that talent in the form of a contractual relationship. As the “fan” portion of the graphics shows, this talent could come from multiple sources, including automation and AI.

In reality, “total” does not refer to absolutely all methods of getting work done. It is generally the combination of either staff augmentation with permanent hiring or staff augmentation along with the outsourcing of projects and services. I have seen very few instances where organizations are taking a holistic approach to more than these three categories.

TTM, meanwhile, extends beyond the engagement cycle to include the ongoing management of this talent during their assignments (carbon-based resources only of course!) and the drive to ensure talent exit the organization as raving fans of their experience.

The final graphic adopted for use depicting TTA/TTM. Copyright Crain Communications Inc.

Raving fans? Yes. In a book of the same name, authors Kenneth Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles talk about how satisfaction is the minimal expectation of your customers. Organizations should look to create an extreme level of satisfaction that compels your customers — the talent, in our case — to rave about you in the open marketplace. This is what true total talent should seek, therefore assisting the longer-term competitive edge where your organization becomes the preferred workforce destination of choice.

Whether the work is done within or beyond your walls, technology is the essential enabler of total talent solutions. Whether such technology exists today to cover all potential sources of talent, including automation, is subject to debate. Will it ever happen? Yes, I believe it will.

Which leads me to the future of total talent. I was recently reviewing SIA’s “RPO Global Landscape 2022” report, in which a graphic depicts instances where the same or different MSPs are providing staff augmentation  services. In my next article for CWS 3.0, I will discuss what this means in terms of staff augmentation programs’ visibility of this RPO/permanent element of the workforce and therefore why programs will need to bridge this gap and create closer links between procurement and HR if total talent is to flourish.