Maximising talent potential

The composition of the workforce is changing. HRD reveals how the demand from employees for more flexible work options is shaping the workforce of tomorrow – and how HR can prepare

Maximising talent potential
If business leaders were asked to pick just one pressing issue that has featured highly on their agenda over the past five years, labour productivity would feature prominently. As far back as 2012, Chandler Macleod’s white paper, The Five Faces of Productivity, found that many organisations were not focusing on the right productivity initiatives. For example, while organisations concentrated on people management, training and process innovation, this was often at the expense of increased employee mobilisation (across sites, teams, projects and countries), workforce planning, product innovation and skills utilisation – the things that will truly drive productivity.

Australia is not alone in this push for greater labour productivity – every business across the globe needs to review the productivity and efficiencies of their talent. However, due to the significant cost of labour in Australia, the need is more acute.

“As a workforce we need to be focused and strategic around talent decisions,” says Steve Bennetts, GM Innovation and Client Services, Chandler Macleod People Insights. “What this means is that Australia is the epicentre for leading the world in the most productive and efficient talent models, to create and maintain a productive and engaged workforce.”

Engaging rather than acquiring talent
Talent strategies are not static; they must move with the times. “It’s imperative that talent strategies are agile and future driven,” says Bennetts. “In reality, the high-potential employees of today want mobility; they want to move project to project and focus on outcomes. As a result, our conceptualisation of talent and how to retain it is changing at rapid pace.”

Jamie Devitt, GM Client Development at Chandler Macleod Staffing Services, says this focus on productivity has another far-reaching impact on talent management. Instead of acquiring talent, organisations must become more adept at ‘engaging talent’ to get the job done in the most efficient manner possible.

“This is challenging how and where they source talent and ultimately the model of engaging talent,” he says. “The traditional model of full-time, permanent employment that is restricted to an office or workplace is shifting and changing the workforce dynamics.”

He adds that this has major repercussions not just for employers but for the Australian government and the community as a whole as they adapt to this rising contingent labour market.
What impact will the rise of contingent workers likely have on team performance?

Chandler Macleod refers to a team’s dynamics and composition as “collective intelligence”. For a team’s potential to be achieved it needs to be leader-driven, the team composition needs to be considered, and the environment needs to encourage a culture of collaboration. “By understanding the collective intelligence of your workforce, and specific teams, you can have a greater chance to achieve the desired outcome,” says Bennetts. “In this day and age, to have a high-performing workforce you need to have a focus on the team, not just the individual – it’s the sum of parts.”

To tap into collective intelligence, HR must know how to source, assess and build a workforce of highly engaged and productive individuals, and support the collective intelligence of teams and the company as a whole.

What do employees want?
Coinciding with the changing business definition of talent is a new view of work from employees. Contrary to popular belief, it is not so much the different demographic groups in the workplace that are shifting their conceptualisation of work; instead it’s technology that is opening up the opportunity to think differently about workplaces.

“We should no longer be thinking of flexible work at an individual level, but at the organisational level,” says Bennetts. “We’re seeing the shifts from all age groups. They are moving away from full-time, permanent roles being 9am–5pm.”

Bennetts cites 2014 research from the University of South Australia, which found that just 15% of respondents (of a sample of nearly 3,000) said flexible arrangements were not available or possible in their current position. “We are no longer being anchored to a physical location, which enables individuals to create the most productive environment to work in,” he says.

The composition of the flexible workforce is also changing, and Bennetts says the idea of the “blended workforce” is already a reality: part-time working arrangements have increased by a factor of three; full-time jobs are down by 10%; and one in three people are working casually.

“We observe leading organisations as truly embracing flexible work practices and improving how they define high performance from ‘doing their hours’ to ‘delivering an outcome’, which is opening up a variety of possibilities as to how to get the job done,” says Devitt.

A helping hand
Fortunately, there is help at hand. Outsource talent providers can help with developing and engaging the flexible workforce of the future, thus enabling the focus to be on outcomes and productivity, which in turn allows the mitigation of risk and reduction in costs.

For this to happen, it’s critical to ensure that, from a culture perspective, all workers are still seen as part of the organisation. A disengaged group will have an impact on productivity, performance and then indirect costs for the organisation. Bennetts cites an example of embedded outsourced workers: most people would not know that the many housekeepers working in hotels around Australia have been sourced from AHS Hospitality (part of Chandler Macleod), because they are embedded within the culture of their workplace. “This is the ultimate aim for outsourcing companies,” he says.

There are other benefits to employers. For example, CM People Insights (CMPI) consultants partner with businesses to ensure that talent decisions are informed and support the company through various aspects of the employee experience. From the candidate’s perspective, they see CMPI consultants as a part of the business that they may work for in the future (recruitment) or may already work for (development). “From our research, the outsourcing model works the best when the two companies are aligned on their cultures, values and beliefs,” Bennetts says.

Specialist outsource providers typically manage large networks or pools of talent, which enables them to access that talent quickly, identify the best-matched talent in the market to the job to be done, and go further to evaluate the best mode of engagement in order to meet the risk, cost and efficiency objectives of an organisation.

Indeed, as workforce management is their stock in trade, this translates into benefits to the host employer, such as more effective and efficient management in the areas of safety, risk, legal, Industrial and Employee Relations, rostering, and performance management.

Specialist providers typically also have access to best-in-market technology application, trends, and the ability to advise employers on general market trends. That includes insights around where to source talent and at what cost or salary level.

“Where organisations need the flexibility to scale back or ramp up quickly, outsourced organisations are well placed to deliver to that and the strategic outcomes,” says Devitt. “We have one recent example where a particularly large project involved a number of strategic imperatives in the diversity space. Through a targeted and relationship-based sourcing approach, we were able to source over 160 Indigenous workers and deliver a workforce with over a 20% Indigenous representation.”

Redefining traditional HR processes
With the opportunity for day-to-day management to be handled by the expert outsourcing company, HR is able to look more strategically at shaping company culture, using predictive workforce planning and working with technology to determine the best workforce for the future.

“Ultimately, HR teams need to redefine their definition of what the future workforce will look like, and adapt accordingly. Our classic processes of succession planning, development, and engagement – to name a few – will need to be adapted to a new shared definition,” says Bennetts.

“For many years, HR leaders have fought for a seat at the strategic table; this is the time to fight to keep the seat.”
Thinking of using an outsource provider for talent? Here are Chandler Macleod’s top tips:

• Take the time to ensure culture and values alignment with your company and the sourcing company; ‘go slow to go fast’.
• Focus on the outcomes and the human aspects first and then the costs second.
• Have a vision and strategy to support integration with an outsourcing provider.
• Engage with your prospective partners and seek out a truly trusted partnership. Like any partnership, you will get out of it what you put in.
• It’s important that HR has a louder voice in an organisation where contract decisions are Procurement or Supply led, so involve yourself in the decisionmaking process.
• Challenge your providers to propose ideas to help improve your organisation in areas important to your business: culture, quality, diversity, cost, and risk.

Chandler Macleod Group is a comprehensive suite of human resources services and product offerings that address complex workforce challenges. With more than five decades of providing talent solutions that are the BestFit™ with Australian organisations, they are uniquely positioned to manage flexible and skilled workforces to deliver operational excellence, improve productivity, minimise risk, and develop opportunities for revenue generation.

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