Organizations are talking total talent management — again. However, the concept and its benefits is not new. In a 2015 report published with ERE Media, Staffing Industry Analysts explored a growing interest in the concept, finding that while there was plenty of evidence that total talent management could help organizations deal with their most pressing workforce challenges, many failed to recognize that a better view and better engagement of their entire workforce of employed and non-employed talent was a solution to their problems.

Greg Muccio, director of talent acquisition for Southwest Airlines, noted in the report that while a lot of organizations were saying they wanted to reach total talent management, there was “very little evidence that they are anywhere near achieving it. As such, I believe that there are no current exemplars of an advanced stage of maturity,” he stated.

Fast forward to 2019. Unfortunately, there remains scant evidence that more than a handful of organizations have reached anywhere near an advanced stage of total talent maturity. This, despite an oft-quoted PWC CEO Survey of 2018 stating that 80% of CEOs are worried about the availability of key skills (up 3% from 2017).


The reasons are varied and complex, and unique to each organization. In simple terms though, the barriers to adoption can be attributed to issues across the three old favorites of people, process and technology.

People. Despite an encouraging increase in blended workforce teams comprising both HR and procurement, too many organizations are still adopting the more traditional model of HR and talent acquisition focusing on permanent recruitment while contingent workforce ‘spend’ remains the preserve of procurement. While these silos remain, even the smallest shift towards total talent will be problematic.

It’s unlikely that program managers can drive real change from within their silos, however passionate they may be. Moreover, careers have been built around either permanent talent acquisition or contingent workforce expertise, meaning it may not be in the interests of everyone to break those silos down. A strategic imperative to redesign the organizational structure from the top down is required to enable total talent management. Tip: This is not as simple as moving your contingent workforce program into the HR structure. A formal, collaborative framework is required between HR and procurement leaders.

Process. It can be far more challenging to improve or evolve an existing process than design a new one, particularly if it works within its own silo. Strong leadership and time investment are required to rip up the rule book on how things have always been done, and rethink process to incorporate all types of talent. This means a firm step away from the traditional concept of permanent first, contingent second, and everything else after or not at all.

Technology. Most workforce technology platforms have traditionally been designed for permanent hiring, or contingent hiring and 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 — such as freelancer management systems — through open APIs. This makes it simpler than ever before to obtain an integrated workforce view. Additionally, workforce analytics tools are becoming more sophisticated every day. The challenge for organizations comes when they have already heavily invested in technology platforms that are not on this journey, meaning the cost of change can be prohibitively high.

The 2019 editions of SIA’s MSP, VMS, RPO and Total Talent Management landscape reports each will explore how the respective service providers are investing in total talent for the benefit of their clients. The good news: Based on our initial findings, most of the major workforce solutions providers are desperate to help customers build their total talent management strategies. Many are publishing excellent thought leadership on the topic and are already delivering services across the entire talent spectrum. If you’re partnering with a company to deliver permanent or contingent solutions, start a conversation to see what they can do for you.

In the meantime, to find out where you are on the journey to total talent management, check out SIA’s Mapping the Total Talent Management Continuum, which breaks down the steps to total talent and enables you to plot your own total talent status.