5 Barriers to widespread adoption of Total Talent Acquisition

by Staff Writer


As industries everywhere acknowledge the impact of digital transformation, globalization, and talent mobility, they’re faced with the challenge of adapting and rethinking talent in new and unconventional ways.

Total Talent Acquisition (TTA) is at the forefront of this shift. Though enthusiasm for the approach has been high for over five years, there hasn’t been much forward movement on it. In fact, less than a quarter of organizations who say Total Talent is a high priority have it in place.

Recent studies show that while companies are making positive strides to adopting Total Talent, progress remains slow. Most seem to know it’s rapidly becoming a necessity, not an option, if they want to remain competitive, but what employers want from their talent strategy remains much different from what they have.

What are the barriers to organizations fully embracing Total Talent  In a recent expert panel, we asked three of the industry’s most respected thought leaders to give us their thoughts on what obstacles were standing in the way of widespread adoption of TTA. Here’s what they had to say.

Barriers to Adoption of TTA

Despite its obvious advantages, most organizations say they face similar stumbling blocks to implementing TTA. Silos, data analytics, lack of a clear business case, fear of change, and concerns over misclassification are what organizations cite over and again.

1) Organizational Silos

Along with overall organization complexity, silos hiring responsibilities are by far the number one constraint to Total Talent adoption. Jennifer Torres, Client Portfolio Leader, MSP, at PeopleScout, says the problem is “organizations lack cross-functional teams.” Instead, “each team has its own goals and objectives, so there’s no clear line of sight into how things can be done better.”

Zach Chertok, HCM Analyst with Aberdeen agrees and sees these silos as “deadly.” “More often than not,” he says, “the HR or TA teams are great at coming up with amazing strategies, but at the end of the day, they don’t get the voice they need.”

Despite companies investing in better technology and social and mobile recruiting, many of them are falling short in optimizing the makeup of the workforce itself. If successful change is going to happen, they must stop managing full and flex workers in separate silos and give more consideration to whether a role is best filled by a permanent employee, contingent worker, or independent contractor. It’s the only way to use Total Talent to improve talent quality and optimize costs.

2) Data Analytics

Collecting insights and reviewing talent data is key to Total Talent success. Analyzing program performance, market data, and internal workforce metrics help you:

  • Better understand your Total Talent strategy’s effectiveness.
  • Recognize opportunities for improvement.

Kim Pope, Chief Operating Officer at WilsonHCG tells clients that “data is needed to tell their story.” For most organizations she works with, “data is a challenge, especially across different groups. So you really have to build that first.”

Once that’s done and metrics are agreed on, KPIs can be set and success can be measured. Far too often, HR and Talent Acquisition leaders find themselves struggling to create a cohesive strategy. Data provides the foundation for defining, containing, and reducing the issues standing in their way.


3) Lack of Business Case

TTA adoption at the highest levels requires a clear business case that outlines the benefits and value for all stakeholders across the organization. Despite the complexities, most companies can achieve a coherent TTA strategy.

As Chertok likes to say to his clients, it’s all about “communicate, communicate, communicate.” That’s because “At the end of the day, if you’re not effectively carrying out the tenets of the strategy, you can’t go to departments and get all the stakeholders on board and your ability to affect change is really limited.”

Instead of getting lost in the details, it’s better to work at changing traditional mindsets and cultures. Organizations should see Total Talent as a continuous journey that’s designed to deliver near-term gains in talent visibility and process improvement. Once stakeholders understand this, they are more inclined to agree that the company should develop a total talent strategy.

4) Fear of Change within the Organization

Any time change management is called for, fear is not far behind. But commitment to change from the highest levels is central to building a successful Total Talent strategy. Effecting change, though, is no easy task.

One approach is to gain buy-in from key stakeholders early on in the process. And it helps to remember that game changes or disruptors understand that inherent organizational tensions must be carefully managed and reconciled. The rewards can be worth it: putting the right talent in the right roles at the right time.

5) Misclassification Concerns

One key issue all our panelists agree on is that the way people work is changing and that makes many organizations wary. Younger workers have different values and priorities. Older workers are retiring in greater numbers every year. Be it as contractors, freelancers, or contingent workers, people are choosing to embrace flexible work.

While a Total Talent approach addresses this evolving workforce, companies are concerned they’ll be put at a higher risk of misclassification, as exemplified by this Harvard Business Review article. It’s a legitimate fear and one that needs to be addressed early on in the adoption process.

Trending Toward Total Talent

The workforce is changing and organizations must take a broader view when building their talent strategy. The Total Talent model breaks through boundaries between traditional and flexible work to create a single workforce management and planning function. When leadership gains a clear perspective on the trends behind and advantages to the strategy, they can help shatter the barriers that prevent the company from moving towards a more effective Total Talent approach.

For more insights from this conversation, view the pane: "5 Things You Need to Know About Total Talent Today."

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