Create an environment where the best people want to work.
Many organizations treat contractors as second-class citizens,
but companies that want to attract great talent can’t afford to
do that. On-demand talent with valuable skills can choose to
work for any project or company. To ensure that they’re able to
get the best, organizations should cultivate an environment and
incentive structure where on-demand contractors are valued
as integral contributors to the company’s strategic objectives.
Providing desirable work experiences and environments, opportunities to work on interesting projects, and exposure to
different teams can help drive engagement.
Rethinking Core Employees
Companies that increasingly rely on these talent markets may
also need to rethink the nature and roles of their full-time employees. Core employees are not just full-time employees. They
are the people you plan to invest in to build and guide the long-term strategic direction of the organization. Therefore, you
should think about them differently.
Train employees to delegate to on-demand talent. Although
core employees will likely be working with other core employees, increasingly they may be delegating work to on-demand
talent, which will require specific managerial skills. Effective
delegation requires knowing how to source critical skills, how
to assemble teams and get them up and running quickly, and
how to use digital decision support tools effectively to meet the
goals. These skills can provide the organizational agility and the
collaborative environment that characterized digitally maturing
companies in our survey.
Equip core employees to influence strategic decisions. Core
employees, even those who are relatively junior, should have a
certain level of strategic autonomy to accomplish or contribute to
designated goals. Strategic thinking is one skill that respondents
to our survey indicated was essential for both leaders and employees working in a digital environment, and distributed
leadership was a key cultural element of digitally maturing companies. Obviously, offering greater independence would require
more communication with top leadership and increased awareness of the strategic direction of the company.
Create an environment people will want to be a part of for a
long time. It is no accident that a key differentiator of digitally
maturing companies is the way they intentionally work to de-
velop, maintain, and strengthen employee engagement. Keeping
core employees engaged for the long term involves providing
more than a paycheck. For employees to want to stay and con-
tribute, many say they need to feel that the organization is willing
to invest in them and will continue to offer opportunities for
growth. The 3M Co., for example, invests in new hires to build
loyalty. According to 3M CEO Inge Thulin, the company plans to
put all of its employees in an expanding employee development
program by 2025.
Provide diverse opportunities to gain digital experience con-
tinually. Core employees likely require new opportunities to grow
their skill sets over time. Companies can create new development
programs that — unlike traditional leadership development pro-
grams that selected employees take part in at certain points of their
tenure — encourage core employees to continuously update their
skills to stay abreast of the ever-evolving digital world.
Organizations seeking to compete using a combination of
core employees and on-demand talent markets need to address
some important questions. For example, how big does the core
organization need to be, and what skills should the core employ-
ees have? Should companies work with existing on-demand
talent markets, or should they cultivate their own to ensure
that they have the right skills when they need them? How does a
company build a robust on-demand talent market while keeping
these skills from competitors? And to what extent is it possible
to cooperate with other companies to share talent markets?
With these and other questions in mind, companies are begin-
ning to experiment with new models for managing talent. Such
experimentation could be essential for getting the most out of
talent in the digital era. Talent management designed for tradi-
tional work environments may not enable organizations to
compete in the digital world, and it may discourage the very
people you most want to attract and retain.
Gerald C. Kane is an associate professor of information systems at
Boston College’s Carroll School of Management and is MI T Sloan
Management Review’s guest editor for its Digital Business Initiative.
Doug Palmer is a principal in the digital business and strategy practice
of Deloitte Digital. Anh Nguyen Phillips is a senior manager with
Deloitte Services LP. David Kiron is the executive editor of MIT
Sloan Management Review’s Big Ideas initiatives. Comment
on this article at http://sloanreview.mit.edu/x/58228, or contact
the authors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprint 58228. For ordering information, see page 4.
Copyright © Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2017. All rights reserved.
Many organizations treat contractors
as second-class citizens, but com-
panies that want to attract great
talent can’t afford to do that.
On-demand talent with valuable
skills can choose to work for any
project or company.