Reimagining People & Culture: How to successfully leverage your talent ecosystem

Embracing talent ecosystems is a sure-fire pathway to successful talent management—or is it? We know top-performing organisations leverage multiple channels and partners to help sustain their advantage, while others have them and chase their tail for answers to their ongoing recruitment challenges. So, what prevents some organisations from fully harnessing what they have? 

Rather than pouring energy into fruitlessly solving or blaming external factors, heads of Talent Acquisition (TA) should look elsewhere for answers—their ecosystem. Ignore the incoming noise, and focus on internal performance instead. 

In this article, we frame up some of the hindrances in filling talent and skill shortages and propose how to leap beyond them with a robust talent ecosystem. 

Barriers to filling talent and skill gaps

Many TA leaders can attest that not all talent and skill deficits are attributable to their hiring programs. Rather, workforce challenges are, to a large extent, fuelled by forces unrelated to recruitment: 


Reappraisal of work values

The expectations of talent have changed in many sectors. Meaningful careers where flexibility—including when, where and how work gets done—have evolved the shared understanding of work life. Leaders must take these values in stride. The risk of relentlessly pursuing business as usual is that potential candidates will gravitate toward organisations able to fulfil the new work order, disregarding ones that don’t.  

Organisations whose culture, work structure and employee development programs are misaligned with newfound expectations will see increased turnover and greater difficulty in attracting talent. 

Ongoing talent shortages

TA teams remain unable to fill roles fast enough since suitable candidates are few and far between. The National Skills Commission report shows job vacancies have doubled, reaching 40 per cent as of August 2022—placing Australia second in the OECD for skill shortages. To ease protracted job shortages, the federal government has invested in a newly established agency: Jobs and Skills Australia. However, the impact of its introduction is yet to be felt. Only time will tell.

Additionally, structural barriers unintentionally prevent diverse talent from accessing employment opportunities, which include migrants and refugees. This unfortunate situation hurts organisations’ capacity for innovation and makes the vision for a diverse workforce a more distant prospect.

Contingent worker attrition

Contingent workers are crucial contributors to organisational performance and are no longer a backfill resource. But as swiftly as temporary hires bolster teams with skills and knowledge, so too can they exit, depleting the organisation of vital expertise. 

Having few contractual obligations or perks to secure their loyalty creates a revolving door situation. If there’s meaningful work to be done elsewhere, talent will jump ship without a second thought. As such, contingent worker attrition remains one of the great challenges in maintaining the talent management ecosystem. 


How to maximise the talent ecosystem

Deloitte defines talent ecosystems (or similarly ‘workforce ecosystems’) as “a structure that consists of interdependent actors, from within the organisation and beyond, working to pursue both individual and collective goals.” To better leverage the channels through which talent is found, heads of TA must keep a watchful eye on data, gaps and relationships.

Collect insight

Leveraging internal data reveals which pockets of the ecosystem require improvement. See what kind of story the data offer by gathering insight from:

  • Reports, specifically workforce utilisation and workforce planning.
  • Senior leaders who can help surface unknown fulfilment gaps.
  • The talent team to ascertain whether those gaps are solvable by redesigning the work or engaging the contingent workforce.

An experienced talent management partner is there to help implement the methodologies and systems that enable these insights, if necessary. They can also provide direction in the instance teams are unsure of how to interpret their data.


Identify gaps

Begin by understanding the current ecosystem makeup. This involves a comprehensive skill and talent gap analysis using the data collected previously.

Take a look at the important tasks and outcomes that require talent. The gaps will reveal themselves, but make sure to account for anticipated needs as well. TA teams are most in control when they ascertain the types of talent expected to remain in short supply. Then, define the roles and associated work requirements (if they don’t already exist).

By overlapping what’s knowable, internally and externally, teams can confidently leverage the blended workforce to fill talent gaps or supplement the skills of in-house talent.


Assess relationships

This step is simple, though crucial: take stock of the external channels comprising the ecosystem. Having a holistic view of the network can reveal hidden potential, allowing TA to maximise forgotten or under-utilised talent pools. 

Second, where partnerships are in play, assess the value of what they bring to the table. Do they really support TA’s objectives and bolster its organisational value? A strategic talent partner should multiply leaders’ and teams’ efforts. The most valuable partners identify gaps and augment TA’s expertise with an actionable talent management strategy. If the cost outweighs their impact, consider engaging another partner that’s better able to meet the function’s aims.

Taking action

A robust talent ecosystem can help your function flexibly source and secure talent to meet the business’s evolving needs. Regular performance assessment, and the optimisations that follow, will ensure the right talent mix is achievable on demand. In this way, your ecosystem's output can be greater than the sum of its parts.

In Harrier’s next article, we discuss why and how optimising the tech stack can lead to improved talent acquisition outcomes.


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