Could Total Talent Management offer a solution to the “productivity puzzle”?
Karina Townley

4 minutes

Could Total Talent Management offer a solution to the “productivity puzzle”?

In these uncertain times, hiring talent is not at the top of everyone’s agenda. But if businesses want to attract, engage and retain the best talent, particularly when the coronavirus pandemic is over, talent management solutions will be pivotal for future business performance.

In Britain, the so-called “productivity puzzle” has irked economists since the 2008 financial crash.

Labour-productivity growth is at record-low levels, and output per hour worked still lags behind pre-financial crisis levels. The slowdown in productivity growth has even been described as the worst since the Industrial Revolution.

Of course, low productivity is recognised as a major issue across the globe. In the UK, however, the problem is critical. According to McKinsey:

“The United Kingdom stands out as one of the worst productivity performers among its peers. Its absolute level of productivity has persistently ranked toward the bottom of a sample of advanced economies.”

As we work our way through today’s mass remote work experience, how this will impact productivity is unknown. But the likelihood is we’ll be in a similar if not worse situation than we were at the start of the year.

Why is productivity in the UK so bad?

Various economic theories have been proposed — including skills shortages, inadequate systems for measuring productivity, and a lack of investment from UK businesses. However, such numbers-based analyses neglect the crux of the matter: people working at the coalface are not sufficiently motivated to do their jobs.

Indeed, though employment levels have risen continuously since 2012, average real wages are lower than a decade ago. What’s more, high employment figures offer no real barometer of employee engagement.

As the anthropologist David Graeber posits, too many people are employed in so-called “bullshit jobs” — AKA meaningless roles that destroy work ethic and self-worth.

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In today’s fast-moving and fluid business ecosystem, people need more than a paycheck (though competitive salaries obviously help matters). They strive for flexibility and community. They want opportunities to develop and grow. And above all, they crave fulfilling work that makes a tangible difference.

Traditional approaches to talent management are floundering, too. According to the Harvard Business Review, 73% of business leaders believe that poor talent planning hinders their organisation’s ability to meet business objectives.

Enter Total Talent Management

Total talent management (TTM) — a holistic, people-first approach that seeks to introduce agility into HR processes, maximise the potential of a workforce, and provide access to top talent — could provide a viable solution.

Crucially, total talent management recognises the need for strategic workforce planning that reflects the changing reality of the modern workforce.

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Full-time, 9-to-5 work is no longer as ubiquitous as it once was

Non-permanent or contingent workers (including contractors, outsourcing partners, freelancers or temporary workers) are estimated to make up 40% to 50% of the global workforce. According to Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA):

“The concept of TTM integrates and engages the full range of talent sources, from traditional employees to a wide variety of non-employee workers including temporary workers, independent contractors/consultants/ freelancers, volunteers, outsourced resources, and even non-human options such as robots, drones and cognitive computing applications.”

Instead of treating the contingent workforce as a procurement function, TTM treats it as a talent priority by incorporating a business MSP, RPO and services procurement programmes into one single, holistic talent solution

TTM gives businesses the strategic means to tap into the global mobile talent pool. It enables hiring managers to find the right workers for the right project(s) — regardless of how they are classified or where they are in the world. When people are hired on the basis of being aligned with the business’ specific needs, they are more likely to feel engaged and valued, and thus productivity increases.

Moreover, by harnessing talent analytics software to map a workforce, TTM also enables businesses to identify internal skills shortages, tap into external skills availability, and ensure there isn’t a skills surplus within the organisation (in other words, it gives businesses the oversight to cut down on unproductive workers).

All in all, this gives businesses the ability to deploy its people and resources more effectively — helping to iron out inefficiencies, develop existing teams, and spot the best talent. TTM provides a full picture of the entire workforce, giving businesses the insights to make strategic decisions and act upon them.

From headcount to quality of work, TTM optimises the entire talent ecosystem.

Total talent management is no walk in the park.

Rolling a total talent management solution out across an organisation means ensuring legal liability and requires a particularly stringent approach to classification and compliance.

Getting buy-in from stakeholders both inside and outside the business is also crucial. But while TTM is a complex, time-consuming exercise that has yet to fully take off (the reasons why this is the case are still disputed), approaching talent strategy in a holistic way is integral to long-term success.

Productivity is far from the only benefit of successful total talent management implementation. Alongside a reduction in labour costs, an uptick in productivity leads to greater competitiveness and profitability. For business leaders, thinking about total talent management makes total sense.

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