Use three talent pools to become an agile, outcome-driven company

By focusing on collaborative efforts in pursuit of a specific business goal, leaders can create a more agile workforce of talented individuals


At this point, most organizations have realized that it's time to break free of a vertically siloed business structure, but fewer realize that this restructuring requires them to change their definition of success. Instead of managing by output, it's time to start managing by outcome.

Managing by outcome can be difficult when business leaders and stakeholders are still holding you responsible for old output metrics, but a close look will reveal the contribution that your team is making. Maybe you release a timely financial report and that report helps marketing publish a whitepaper with compelling statistics that then helps the sales team convert new leads.

This concept is not new, but in today's labor market, it has an enormous role to play. Measuring success in terms of collaborative team outcomes means that you gain access to new sources of talent. The key is organizing this talent around a shared purpose — teams must work together to execute a project that has a measurable impact on a critical outcome for the company. That outcome is the gravity around which team efforts should orbit. If you start there, you can leverage the full landscape of talent available to you, as well as maximize the talent already under your roof.

There are three main talent sources available to managers in the Fortune 1000 right now: External talent networks, private external talent pools and traditional employees. When these groups are combined with the goal of reaching a specific outcome, the strengths of each will shine through.

External talent networks

In Lead the Work: Navigating a World Beyond Employment, authors Ravin Jesuthasan, John W. Boudreau and David Creelman write about the opportunity available to organizations if they recognize that talent is mutable. Instead of adopting talent into the full-time workforce, rely on external talent networks to achieve specific business outcomes.

There are two categories of work in your organization where you can leverage external talent: High-end skill sets that are in high demand and mundane, repetitive work.

We refer to these two groups as on-demand talent and on-demand tasks and you can find gig workers to handle such work on platforms like Toptal, Catalant, Paro and Upwork. Insert them into your teams to give strategic direction, apply cutting-edge skills and outsource tasks that distract from more pressing activities.

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Private talent pools

Your company rubs shoulders with talented workers on a daily basis. Many of these individuals have extraordinary skill sets and some of them have inside knowledge of how your organization works. They're retirees, former employees, silver medalists, independent contractors and small vendors your business leaders have worked with in the past.

If your organization is like most, you're not effectively leveraging this talent pool. Instead, these people are scattered in your HR information system, applicant tracking system, vendor management system and others. All of these individuals can contribute to a shared outcome.

Leverage their talent by breaking down which tasks need to be accomplished to achieve the team's desired outcome. Match the unique skills, passions and experience of people with tasks. When you identify someone who can contribute to your company, don't let that realization go to waste. Engage these people on their terms and center your idea of work on driving toward an outcome instead of filling a traditional role.

Traditional employees

This group is what most CEOs think of when they contemplate their workforce, though Ardent Partners found that the only 60% of the average company's employees are traditional full-time workers. Even though company leaders typically focus almost entirely on their traditional employees, they can still fail to manage this group effectively.

Traditional employees are often stuck in roles that don't capitalize on their strengths, while others remain with the company for reasons that have nothing to do with the work itself. Still others have no concept of how their work is accomplishing any of the company's goals, sapping their motivation and crippling productivity.

Grouping individuals into small teams and focusing their work on accomplishing a shared outcome is a great start, but leveraging the traditional workforce requires you to fundamentally rethink the "job". By allowing full-time employees to efficiently move from project to project, you can take advantage of their unique skills and strengths. Giving them some control over their work is also a great way to align individual development with the value they bring to the company.

Talent is everywhere, but too many business leaders view their talent pool in terms of traditional full-time workers. With so much available talent out there, these leaders are doing their companies a disservice. By moving focus from individual accomplishments to collaborative efforts in pursuit of a specific business goal, leaders can create a more agile workforce that taps into a wide range of talented individuals both inside and outside their business. Give this method a try and watch the difference it makes in your organization.

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