Human Capital Innovation (Part 2): Innovative Enterprise Talent Solutions and Guiding Organizational Change

Leading contingent workforce and services procurement organizations have begun to adopt a new way of working. A new generation of technology-based solutions allows organizations to engage external talent, conduct projects with blended teams of internal and external workers, and share and accumulate actionable knowledge assets.

But adoption of these technology-based solutions is easier said than done. In Part 2 of this series on human capital innovation, we explain how program leaders can catalyze organizational change to maximize the benefits of this new way of working.

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New Enabling Technologies: Characteristics and Benefits

Over the last five years, organizations have begun to adopt solutions that enable enterprises to dynamically conduct projects with external as well as internal talent. These solutions are connected to online talent marketplace platforms, yet they also go beyond talent marketplace sourcing solutions, allowing enterprises to manage projects and retain and reuse all project artifacts across the business.

Organizations that use these unique solutions generally begin with a pilot or a limited engagement within a specific functional area. Those that take this path typically confirm the value at an early stage and then face the challenge of expanding adoption and use across the organization.

To start, it helps to know and be able to explain the multisided benefits of adopting such technology for all parties involved:

  • Organizations
    • More efficient and effective projects
    • Fill critical expert talent/skill gaps
    • Increase utilization of internal talent
    • Repurpose project outputs/artifacts
    • More organizational flexibility/agility
    • Accelerate innovation/product development
    • Achieve marketplace/competitive advantage
  • Managers
    • More efficient and effective projects
    • Fill critical expert talent/skill gaps
    • Engage needed expert talent faster and more easily
    • Continue relationship with external talent
    • Redeploy known external talent
    • Utilize available internal talent
    • Catalyze creativity with new viewpoints
    • Access/reuse project experts, outputs, artifacts
  • Internal Talent
    • Enjoy new opportunities outside fixed roles
    • Utilize underutilized knowledge and skills
    • Acquire new knowledge, develop new skills
  • External Talent
    • Develop optimal relationship with organizations
    • Secure a stream of repeat work engagements
    • Be accurately valued before projects (no haggling)
    • Less administrative time and faster payments

Organizational Innovation

Technology on its own — no matter how good — does not automatically translate into adoption and actual benefits. Anyone familiar with standard enterprise system implementations knows that such efforts must be complemented by a change management process.

Historically, organizations managed enterprise systems implementations from the top down as linear, pre-programmed projects. But since today’s enterprise talent solutions are being implemented in more networked rather than hierarchical organizational models, change management processes will be different.

When solutions are truly innovative, organizational change is not just skin deep — it goes much deeper. Adopting a new way of leveraging talent means changing critical parts of an organization’s underlying musculature and nervous system. Ultimately, such a change requires a transformation of the reflex response of “how we get things done with talent.” This means a departure from well-established practices for hiring talent and managing work, projects and outcomes.

While this may seem a bit intimidating, it shouldn’t be. Benefits from adoption can be demonstrated quickly, by starting in a limited application in a specific functional group within an organization. Many companies (including Fortune 500s) started their use digital platform-based solutions like TopCoder (now a part of WIPRO), Kaggle (now a part of Google), et al on limited basis years ago and have expanded their use since that time. Unlike most cases of enterprise system adoption, embracing the solution becomes self-reinforcing. But to achieve this, implementation managers must take an alternative approach to traditional change management.

Guiding Organizational Change

The process begins with an organization’s approach to managing — or more appropriately, “guiding”— organizational change.

Before beginning, it is crucial for organizations to bear in mind that change is not a program. Instead, it is an organic process that will likely start with a "seed" in fertile ground somewhere in the organization. Various stakeholders will embrace change at their own pace; do not expect a simple linear progression.

In this context, it is imperative to understand that change guidance requires clear leadership — not just at the top but at all levels and across most functions of an organization. Leaders should be prepared to promote the shift through open communication channels (e.g., a web page on the initiative), communicate adoption benefits to business and individuals, navigate common obstacles and obtain learning support for those who desire it.

Picking the right leadership is also essential. Organizations should ensure there is a capable, passionate individual who will champion the initiative while in the seed or startup phase. Forming a standing leadership team represented by executives that play a significant role in managing key functions in the organization can go a long way to supporting that individual, as well as create a comprehensive perspective for every party involved.

Conclusion and Takeaways

Technology-enabled, dynamic talent/project solutions are available and ready to be used today. The benefits of adopting such solutions are many and can have multiple significant positive impacts of the performance of an organization. However, a technology solution is just a necessary condition, not a sufficient condition, to achieving benefits. Therefore, attention to allocating resources to the process of organizational change is critical. Moreover, adoption of an innovative solution (versus a “legacy” one) requires a different kind of approach to organizational change, starting with an appreciation of “deep” organizational change in an open, network (versus hierarchical) organization model. Accordingly, understanding and executing correct practices of “guided” organizational change (versus change management) is fundamental to ongoing adoption and to the maximization of solution benefits.

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