Maggie BleharApril 14, 2023
Topics: Talent Experience

Is the Open Talent Economy the Future of Work?

The open talent economy — a borderless workforce where companies have access to a global talent pool and workers can work from anywhere — is already transforming the future of work. According to LinkedIn, it “provides an opportunity to move away from a less efficient, siloed, product-focused organization… [toward] the freedom to scale the workforce according to changes in demand and the modernization of back and front offices.”

Jay Eardly, Global Head of Service Design & Delivery at Pontoon Solutions, helped us further unpack this ideology and learn how to embrace the shift from traditional organizational structures to dynamic networks — adding insight into technology’s role in the process as well.

You can view the episode here, or read on for show highlights!

What does “open talent economy” mean to Pontoon?

Pontoon Solutions helps businesses design outcomes-driven workforces and strategies, and the open talent economy — which has been accelerated dramatically due to the pandemic — is the “new game,” for employers, said Eardly. He stressed that “companies that are not adopting workforce strategies in line with these forces … will get left behind.”

In the old game, companies were tied to traditional TA methods: an open job requisition, a templated job description, and a recruiter who looks for candidates who check all the boxes. People were expected to come in 5 days a week to a physical location with no exceptions.

The new game, on the other hand, has companies adapting by using a variety of avenues to gain the skills they need to achieve outcomes. It involves a willingness to hire for personality and fit, and to teach skills in the flow of work.

An open talent economy approach also recognizes that a range of variables affect job candidates’ motivations — and businesses need to figure out how to tap into them. These include traditional motivators like salary, commute time, the nature of job duties, and the office environment.

But post Covid, more abstract variables like purpose, potential for career growth, and the value of work produced are now key drivers of workforce motivation and candidate consideration of your company.

In the context of the open talent economy, data is critical to helping businesses know which motivational variables are most important to employees and candidates. Companies still must define their own culture, mission, and purpose, Eardly clarified, but need insight on what’s most valuable to the job candidates who can help them achieve outcomes.

“Understanding what’s important to them is mission-critical.”

How is the open talent economy like Major League Baseball?

As an analogy, consider MLB’s new rules for 2023, including the introduction of the pitch clock. They’re intended to shorten game time and produce more action in the field — adaptations meant to give fans the excitement that many feel baseball has been lacking, without sacrificing the integrity of the game.

Similarly, organizations with an open talent economy aren’t afraid to change the rules to create a more dynamic talent experience — as long as they’re not compromising their mission or values.

What hurdles exist to an open talent economy?

While filling jobs is the old game, getting work done is the new game. To get on board with this, companies need to embrace the idea that work can be accomplished in a variety of locations at a variety of times by a variety of employees (e.g. full-time and part-time roles, freelancers, or temporary workers).

Using data to find the most optimal approach among all these variables — in other words, the combination that will get the best work done as efficiently as possible — is how to truly unlock the open talent economy.

Hurdles to this do exist:

  1. Thinking in silos when it comes to the TA ecosystem

  2. Failing to address internal mobility within TA

  3. Companies with the rigid belief that to meet objectives, the standard job req route is the only option

Companies that don’t attempt to overcome these hurdles are “limiting their access to talent,” Eardly said frankly.

Related reading: How to Transform Recruiter Efficiency with AI, Automation, and Video

How can companies overcome these hurdles?

To succeed in the new game, companies must think about the end game. “Where we believe companies are getting to the open talent economy is by being more focused on the outcomes that the business is trying to drive.” This helps open the door to a wider range of talent.

For example, let’s think about writing a job description using an open talent economy mindset. Start with the intended business impacts of the role and use that to develop the basis of the job description and requirements. Then, consider if an alternate talent solution (e.g. freelancer, temporary role, or even a new partner) would be best suited to achieve those outcomes.

How can AI accelerate an open talent economy?

When used correctly, AI can be key to the outcome-driven nature of the open talent economy. For example, the Phenom Intelligent Talent Experience platform uses AI to help TA teams quickly identify job candidates with profile characteristics that match desired business outcomes.

A fluid approach to talent acquisition is a major component of success, Eardly explained. In Phenom, they saw a partner with a shared view on how to deliver the experience that candidates and employees now expect in their career journey.

“We wanted to find a partner that would help us build a platform that, in our words, unlocks the open talent economy,” Eardly said.

Phenom is doing that by “pushing the industry forward, in a really responsible way,” Eardly added, commenting on our philosophy of embedding AI and machine learning, but maintaining a rigorous framework to vet how and when these technologies are used (e.g. keeping humans in the loop).

AI also empowers companies to be more strategy-focused by freeing employees from transactional duties and allowing them to add more strategic value to their day-to-day. Think, for example, of ATMs taking away manual duties so that bank employees can be more customer-service oriented.

“[AI] is empowering us to be more focused on… the important decisions we have to make, or the important conversations we have to have,” Eardly said.

Related reading: Definitive Guide to AI for Recruiting

What advice do you have for organizations just starting to embrace an open talent economy mindset?

Again, Eardly emphasized taking an outcomes-based approach: “Start with focusing on the outcomes you’re trying to achieve. From there, [ask] ‘what skills do I need to achieve these outcomes?’”

He also re-emphasized writing job descriptions from an outcomes-focused perspective. “If you start to think in that way, then you already are more open to new possibilities for how to achieve those outcomes.”

Companies shifting to the open talent economy become more dynamic, creating a mission-driven experience that employees are excited about. “Dynamic organizations produce great results. That’s what winning in this new game looks like,” Eardly said.

What about organizations that fail to adapt to the open talent economy?

Quite simply, they risk losing their competitive advantage due to a lack of talent to achieve needed outcomes. Here are some red-flags:

  • Work is “painful” to accomplish because of siloes, complex processes, or not having an adequate workforce

  • Product managers can’t deliver on product releases

  • Stakeholders lose trust and stock prices drop

Is the open talent economy a generational trend?

In Eardly’s view, the open talent economy arose because of multiple forces impacting all generations of workers and “no company is immune to these forces.”

“We’re trying to help companies understand how to achieve better outcomes and how to get the skills into their organization — at the right time, right price, right location — to do that.”

See how the Phenom Intelligent Talent Experience platform can help your company adopt an open talent economy through AI and automation technology — book a personalized demo.

Maggie Blehar

Maggie is a writer at Phenom, bringing you information on all things talent experience. In addition to writing, she enjoys traveling, painting, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. 

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