Workforce Visibility

Digital Transformation, Empty Pockets and the Future of Talent

Many organizations put their future workforce strategies on hold during economic uncertainty, budget cuts, layoffs and hiring freezes. But is that the right move when, upon realizing that to achieve their business goals, they still have to evolve their workforce and – you guessed it – acquire talent?

To get ahead in securing the right skills, companies must transform how they future-proof their talent acquisition function. Technology and making a case for digital transformation will need to be part of the equation.

With so many questions to address, here are five strategies to help position your digital transformation strategy and talent function for a successful future.

Support Your Organization's Strategy

1. Let Go of Old Talent Acquisition and Embrace What’s New

Many leaders have pared back their talent acquisition functions. They think, “Now we have a blank slate. Do we want to rebuild the same thing again?” Progressive companies, including workforce solutions innovators, began rethinking the traditional talent acquisition model long before the pandemic. Now is a good time to put that innovation to work.

Rethink the Work and the Resources to Do It

First, think about the historical roles being recruited and how work gets done. Are they truly what you need to compete in a digital world? Reconsider the relationship between the resources you need and the work to be done, including the potential for flexible workers, outsourced services, permanent hires and process automation as options. (We call this approach the Universal Workforce Model™.)

Second, look beyond the recruiter-as-superhero model. Don’t view general recruiters as the center of talent acquisition. Today, the recruiter’s role includes elements of sales, marketing, data analysis and candidate experience management. We expect them to be superstars every day. But this can be broken up. Consider creating more effective and realistic skills-based roles, even if they are more specialized.

Look at Technology as an Enabler of People

Get serious and systematic in your approach to data and technology strategies. After all, technology will provide the needed visibility to see all resources available to get work done. And technology will give people in the recruiting process the power to do their jobs well.

Through automation and data-driven intelligence, it’s possible to power a talent function to thrive in a world of mass data and high expectations. These needs for visibility and automation, and the associated digital transformation to bring them into reality, are already in play.

2. Apply Design Thinking to Bring Digital Transformation to Life

Buy-in for digital transformation leads directly to the most difficult question: Where do we begin? Many organizations stumble out of the gates when launching a technology initiative for one simple reason: they start with technology.

Now, more than ever, organizations can change the technology conversation in a positive direction. Look forward 12 months. Take a human-centered approach to reviewing your processes. What is the right mix of technology and people that will position your organization to secure the right workers and resources at the right time and cost? Do you need to own the technology or leverage it through partners? How do you build an optimized function?

The answers to these questions begin with design thinking. Diagnose the current state of your processes – and the technology and people involved – and measure the gaps. Create journey maps to understand the experience that current stakeholders encounter. Develop blueprints of the experience you want to create. Design the model and gain user feedback.

Above all, use a systematic approach to determine the current state, the gaps and the priorities for addressing your needs. A structured roadmap provides the foundation to accommodate adjustments on demand while keeping the entire effort on course.

3. Put the Right People First in Your Talent Technology Strategy

One of the most common stumbling blocks for any technology strategy is the lack of a clear user-first mindset. Digitizing talent acquisition is no different. The features of the technology will not define the success of a digital transformation, but the experience of the people involved will. In the talent acquisition world, that strategy begins with three users: the candidate, the hiring manager and the recruiter as a talent advisor.

The Candidate

By now, many organizations have made some progress in improving the candidate experience. And yet, challenges remain that were confronting applicants for decades: complicated application forms, no communication from the employer, and simple mistrust that the opportunity is real and current.

The people and technology must be in place to give candidates an easy, fast and responsive experience. Above all, candidates need a realistic preview of the job. They can learn by video. Candidates can assess their own skills and determine whether a job is right for them. Creating a compelling virtual environment is paramount, and current conditions make that possible.

The Hiring Manager

The success of the recruiting process is owned, to a large degree, by the hiring manager. An engaged manager is someone who trusts that the talent function and technology will deliver a candidate who matches the work at hand and does so with predictable timelines and reliable quality. Toward that end, collaboration between the hiring manager and the recruiter or talent advisor is everything.

Does the system in place have the visibility to introduce hard data about talent availability and timing? Can the talent advisor have an informed interaction with the hiring manager, along with the data to push back if needed, to adjust expectations, job requirements or other factors? Where are the issues and unknowns, and how can they be bridged? The answers to many of these questions fall into the hands of the recruiter or talent advisor who represents the talent function to the hiring manager.

The Recruiter as Talent Advisor

In a noisy digital world, perceptions of recruiters range from negative to superhuman. The reality is that the demands on the recruiter do lean toward superhuman. As mentioned above, a general recruiter needs to be a marketer, salesperson, career confidante, data and technology wizard, expert in the field being hired and corporate consultant.

No one is good at all these things. Fast forward to a redesigned, digitized talent function, and the same role can be executed by technology experts, marketers and sourcing experts, to name a few. The rest of the work – being a guide to both the candidate and the hiring manager – can fall to the new recruiter, known as the talent advisor. It’s a realistic, human role that doesn’t require superpowers to succeed.

4. Don’t Leave Near-Term Wins Out of the Business Case

Wait-and-see should not be an option when launching a digital transformation. But no case can be made without promising some level of positive cost impact – not for year two or year three, but something that is a win in year one.

Blame it on the times we’re in, but no digital strategy will survive without the promise of near-term value. Unfortunately, the year-one opportunity is not always obvious, and there is no single formula for identifying where that immediate value lies.

Consider all the metrics. Look at your business strategy and see if there is an opportunity to anchor the case to one of its goals. Suppose agility is a pillar of your organization’s strategy. In that case, how do you demonstrate – right now – that certain changes will position the organization to shift to new skills, new engagement models or even locations and departmental structures quickly and seamlessly?

The case will be compelling if you can link a business problem to a data point. For example, we found that a company could achieve real savings in an area not traditionally seen in the scope of talent management: the contingent workforce. By managing that workforce supply at an enterprise level through a managed service provider (MSP) solution, they could achieve savings to help fund investments to get their digital transformation effort off the ground.

5. Support the Enterprise with Process Design and Automation

Finally, underneath the process and technology considerations, companies need to enable people to be enterprising and do their best work. Often, moving the needle requires businesses to rethink how talent is spending their days. If significant portions of those hours are spent performing low-value activities, it’s time to leverage automation platforms. 

For example, if you looked at the job description for the role one of your knowledge workers was hired to perform, I would bet money that the responsibilities listed mention nothing about: 

  • Routing emails for action
  • Coordinating calendars and scheduling meetings between multiple parties
  • Looking up data and moving it from one source to the next
  • Repeatedly performing the same administrative actions
  • Responding to the same inquiries or requests for help over and over
Yet even the most skilled white-collar workers spend significant chunks of their day performing these low-value activities.  

In today’s day and age, with numerous mature automation platforms to choose from, why do so many companies continue to ask their people to do the work that a bot or computer can do for them? I think it’s because deconstructing and subsequently reconstructing how work gets done requires systemic change. Buying technology is relatively easy, but changing behavior is where the heavy lifting comes in. Investing time in these solutions leads to better business outcomes for the company and a happier workforce.

At Allegis Global Solutions (AGS), we are extending our automation capabilities with our clients, as well as with suppliers and other strategic partners. It’s exciting to see organizational shifts in how people are intuitively thinking with an automation-first mindset.

Looking Ahead: Bringing Digital Transformation Opportunities to Light

Companies that aren’t on board with digital transformation today will eventually need to speed up their workforce engagement processes. They just don’t know it yet. Others understand the need to move forward but don’t know where to start. That’s where I hear a lot of questions from companies. And, of course, we love to hear them because solving these problems is what we do.

Consider the questions at hand. Have you examined the way work gets done in your organization and identified the tasks can be automated? Once you’ve done that, have you reviewed the essential skills in your job descriptions so leaders are focused on hiring for the work only a human should do? Can you look beyond time-to-fill and cost-per-hire to include post-hire metrics on retention and performance? With the right structure and technology, that is possible, and now is the time to set that up. Can you reach all available talent, including current employees and the extended workforce, to meet changing needs of tomorrow’s digital enterprise? By aligning talent mobility and visibility across the traditional and flexible workforce, you can.

These questions represent just a few of the value opportunities companies can unlock as they face a relatively low, immediate demand for talent, a transformed talent function ripe for a fresh rebuild and a wealth of technology options to bring digital transformation to life.

Don’t wait for all the answers. Just start asking questions. Get your digital transformation conversation off the ground. You’ll be glad you did.


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    Written by Paul Kistner
    As an industry veteran and head of business transformation at AGS, Paul has spent the better part of his career engaging with our clients, program teams and supplier partners to assess current run-state and identify opportunities to derive greater value from their talent acquisition programs. He has a passion for developing new products and services that leverage technology and data-driven insights to help customers gain a competitive edge. Through diagnostics, data analysis, solution design and deployment of intelligent process automation solutions, our objective is to increase the efficiency and efficacy of our teams and enable people to do their best work.