April 9, 2018

Agile Talent Management is Key To Business Success; Survey Suggests

Agile Talent Management Is The Next Chapter of People Development


“[A]s the rate of skills change accelerates across both old and new roles in all industries, proactive and innovative skill-building and talent management is an urgent issue. What this requires is a  function that is rapidly becoming more strategic and has a seat at the table.” World Economic Forum


Recently LinkedIn and Linda.com (the online learning platform) completed a survey of 2,200 employees, 200 Executives, 400 People Managers and 1,200 Talent Developers. The results of that survey reiterate the need for a more agile approach to talent development in organisations.

In addition to these survey results are two additional fundamental drivers of workplace change that reinforce the argument that Agile Talent Management must be part of a future solution.


40% of the global workforce is now working on a contingent basis


Firstly, a recent global survey showed that nearly 40% of the global workforce is now working on a contingent basis as we have witnessed the rise of the so called ‘gig economy’ and ‘the new world of work’. Some are contractors used regularly, some are freelancers and some are temporary workers. Not only that, permanent employees are also looking for a more flexible approach to work; in location, remuneration and benefits and in hours worked.

So today, senior leaders and senior People Development professionals need to take a more inclusive (permanent and non-permanent staff) view of talent management and, more importantly, a more flexible, dynamic and responsive approach to developing their people based on the changing needs of the business and of the employees.


77 per cent of global chief executives regard the lack of availability of key skills as a major  business threat


Secondly, there is a growing problem with a lack of available talent in many business sectors. PwC’s 2017 CEO Survey revealed that 77 per cent of global chief executives regard the lack of availability of key skills as a significant business threat. The combined impact of these two mega-trends is that the traditional approach to talent management and development needs to be overhauled and some would argue, replaced entirely.


What The Survey Said:

No.1 Training For Soft Skills is A Priority

To maintain any degree of success today, organisations need to meet the needs of their customers, they need to be more innovative and they need to adapt and change as their environments change.

This need for business agility inevitably means more internal collaboration and external collaboration (with customers and suppliers). It means more communication between teams and departments, more leadership understanding of how to get the best out of semi-autonomous teams and more skills in the organisation to ensure it is able to adapt quickly to the needs of the customer. In short, staff at every level need a better soft-skills toolkit.

As a consequence soft skills development has become the number one focus for many organisations who are focused on improving business agility.


No.2 Identifying Gaps in the Future is Essential

Senior leasers want their people specialists to not only focus on todays needs but also look at industry trends in the near future to preempt skills gaps.

This constant, iterative, realignment of skills to changing needs once again argues forcefully that the cumbersome, often annual, approach to people development needs to be replaced by a dynamic, agile approach if talent curation and development are to truly meet business needs.


No. 3 Online Learning and Digital Solutions are Transforming Talent Development

To effectively deliver an iterative, agile approach to talent development we need new tools. It is hardly surprising therefore that the growth of online learning has continued. The development of innovative digital learning techniques and tools are a new force in developing talent.

Agile Talent Managers will be tech savvy, able to turn solutions around quickly, and able to scale solutions across organisations in days rather than weeks and months, at lower cost yet with equal impact. This survey result argues that the importance of digital will continue to meet the needs of an ever more diverse, permanent and non-permanent, multi-generational, multi-site workforce.


No. 4 Taking Time Out For Learning is Crucial to Success

Healthy Agile organisations ensure periods of ‘downtime’ are habituated in their companies. There are many good reasons why. For example, it improves productivity, it increases high quality thinking and it reduces stress.

But there is another reason ‘downtime’ is essential and that is for on-going skills development, for professional growth and for personal mastery.

What this survey result is potentially telling us, is that most employees are ‘too busy’ to spend time on their own development. In a true Agile company this would not be allowed to happen because they understand the clear link between higher engagement when employees have access to development opportunities.

Higher engagement is clearly linked to better business outcomes.


The Opportunity for Senior Leaders in The People and Development Profession


In 2016, Mercers Global Talent Trends report found that,

Astonishingly, 85% of organisations report that their talent management programmes and policies need an overhaul. Managing these changes requires support from leadership; however only 4% of HR professionals report that the HR function is viewed as a strategic business partner within their organisations.

Talent Development is only one of the pivotal areas that People and Development professionals take responsibility for. To do this well requires a different approach today. One that involves people and development professionals, line management, employee representatives, suppliers and technicians. A multi team approach that can provide iterative, high quality, internal development products and services that meet the needs of today and fill the gaps of tomorrow.

If organisations are to grow and thrive, then employees need to have, not only the opportunities to grow and thrive, but the time allocated for development and the leadership support to ensure it is part of the organisations culture.

The opportunity is there for any company who is clear-sighted enough and takes a new agile approach to talent management.

Author: Alan Furlong, Director, Sherpa People Systems