A more flexible and efficient approach to workforce planning? 

Against the backdrop of a shortage of key technical, financial and management skills, enterprises around the world are looking at talent management in a new light.

Some organisations are embracing the concept of ‘talent supply chain management’—applying the principles of supply chain management to sourcing the talent and skills they need to thrive and grow. This approach is meant to give organisations more flexibility and visibility in their talent management strategies.

John Healy, Vice President and Managing Director at Kelly OCG, and one of the big proponents of the talent supply chain, explains that talent supply chain management “enables a company to develop a workforce strategy that aligns with its business objectives and draws upon talent from all labour categories, including full-time and temporary employees, freelancers, independent contractors and service providers, as well as alternate sources of workers like retirees, alumni, interns, and online talent community participants.”

One of the key elements of thinking about talent in a supply chain model is that an organisation can analyse its current and future skills requirements in light of the talent it has in its “inventory” and pipeline, as well as where it can source the skills it needs to plug any anticipated gaps. In theory, a talent supply chain enables a business to mobilise and engage talent on a just-in-time basis, ensuring that it always has access to the skills it needs.

Let’s take a closer look at some key principles of the talent supply chain:

Flexible sourcing: Writing for HR Toolbox, Sushman Biswas notes that a talent supply chain is designed for the optimal mix of buying (hire someone), building (train someone) and borrowing (get a freelancer, contractor or outsourced resource) talent for the business’s needs. This gives businesses more flexibility in accessing scarce skills or sourcing talent for short-term business needs, such as a major IT project.

Proactive workforce planning: In a talent supply chain approach, workforce planning is taken to new heights using data and analytics. HR teams and managers will use the business plan, anticipated skills requirements and the gaps they identify in the talent inventory to determine where and how to get the talent they need.

Alignment between operations, technology, procurement and human resources (HR): When moving towards a more flexible approach to sourcing talent, an organisation’s operations, procurement, IT and HR teams will need to collaborate on managing the talent supply chain. These functions should collaborate to prioritise core skills and develop an integrated approach to sourcing them. Historically, in many organisations, the functions have worked independently to secure talent.

According to Healy, the talent supply chain enables companies to gain a competitive advantage through greater efficiency and insight into their talent strategies. It also helps them to make better workforce planning decisions based on data and become more agile in the face of change. Plus, given that many companies already make extensive use of freelancers, contractors, and other contingent workers, a talent supply chain approach gives them visibility into this otherwise under-tracked part of their workforce.

In a world where top talent could be sourced from anywhere to work remotely, where many top professionals want to choose when, where and how they work, and where companies’ skills needs are evolving so fast, the talent supply chain is a compelling model. Whether companies choose to embrace it or not, it’s clear that flexible sourcing and a growing reliance on analytics for talent decisions will be a key part of nearly every successful company’s future.