January 26, 2021

Flexible Marketing Expertise: Are you Ready for Open Talent?

First published by Jennifer Woollford on Linkedin on 26 January 2021

There’s a revolution happening in the way talent can be accessed and leveraged to accelerate growth that’s agile, lean and combines fresh thinking with seasoned skill sets.  

What is Open Talent?

Open talent compliments permanent resources with agile talent on demand, often accessing hard to find skills and diverse industry experiences.  Compliments is a key word – this is about bringing in teams and individuals who work with and alongside the in-house team (as we well know now this doesn’t have to be in an office) bringing focus and pace against a specific deliverable.    

A growing and effective way to engage open talent is through collectives of seasoned experts, enabling talent to be pin-pointed and teams curated based on a client’s specific needs through a breadth of skills, backgrounds and thinking.

Why is this relevant now?

Companies need to be able to accelerate and innovate with speed and agility whilst keeping lean.  Engaging talent on demand enables teams to flex around key priorities.

Simultaneously there is a growing pool of highly skilled & experienced independent talent.  Not your stereotypical “gig” workers, nor retired corporate executives, these are individuals following non-linear career paths, shifting between permanent and portfolio roles, valuing the breadth, purpose and learning opportunities that come from project-based work.  

The acceptance and mindset shift around virtual working in 2020 is fuelling growth in open talent.  Removing the importance of geographic location increases the talent pool available and puts the focus on accessing the best combination of talents, rather than the best resource in a given location.

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How does Open Talent work?

Individuals or teams operate as a temporary extension of the in-house team, bringing focus and pace, and can be deployed to help to build internal capabilities.  This isn’t a traditional time-based contract model, rather projects designed around a specific outcome.   

Leveraging the breadth in talent collectives enables a team to be structured around a project’s requirements.  The skills and perspective needed for one deliverable may well differ from what’s needed on another, and permanent resources don’t allow for this flexibility or provide the opportunity to bring in fresh thinking from wide-ranging backgrounds.  

That doesn’t mean engaging open talent is at the expense of developing and building talent in-house, quite the opposite.  Open talent works with your team to upskill, develop and set up for success in embedding the work after the project has finished.  

Critically, this is a lean approach.  Open talent allows companies to invest directly in outcomes, rather than the costly overheads of an agency or consultancy, or the placement fees of a recruiter or contract firm.  It’s heads without the overheads.  

How to get the best out of open talent?

Firstly, think in terms of the specific skills you need to achieve objectives, rather than the traditional resourcing options of vacancies to be filled, day rate contractors, or consultancy briefs.

Then engage for functional skills over industry experience.  Talent from different industries will bring new perspectives, and collectives of talent can enable you to leverage both depth and breadth of industry backgrounds as needed.

Finally, work with open talent as an agile part of your team – use them to help define the problem, determine the approach and then in turn co-create the solution so in-house resources own the work, build their own understanding and drive follow through to get results.  

Where do I start?

Test and learn to create success stories which can be built upon to bring open talent into resourcing strategies.  Think about how a mindset shift from vacancies, headcount and cost to skills, diverse perspectives and investment can enable you to deliver your objectives this year. 

For individuals interested in becoming open talent – have a clear proposition on where and how you can add value, recognize how you deliver your best work and what infrastructure you need to be successful.  Most importantly, bring a learning and growth mindset – working in this way can be a highly valuable stage of a career path, fostering diverse minds and talent in our industry.