Businesses need an immense amount of talent right now. Especially tech talent. And, they need it quickly. According to the International Data Corporation’s projections, the tech talent gap will cost companies $775 billion this year due to missed revenue targets, increased costs, and delayed product and service releases. A 2021 Korn Ferry report predicted that the global tech talent shortage will have reached 85 million by 2030, costing the world as much as $8.5 trillion in unrealized revenues. Other sources predict an even bigger shortfall stating that the current shortfall is approaching 60 million unfilled jobs and will grow to a whopping 150 million by 2025.
In the past, companies had the power and they set the terms. The pandemic flipped the paradigm. With this tech talent shortage, the Great Resignation and, now, Quite Quitting, there is a sign of something much deeper. The talent is now setting the terms for the work that companies most desperately need to be done.
To compound the problem, the shaky economy has made more companies think about pushing more costs from fixed to variable, including talent. The corporation was invented 400 years ago to meld talent and capital to create products and profits over time. But now companies are beginning to shrink thanks to two factors: digital transformation and outsourcing. Commoditized functions are being outsourced to partners who can do them more efficiently. Many are comfortable contracting even core functions, like innovation.
The only answer for companies in a world where there is a deep shortage of talent is to start to think about reframing work. It starts with the right mindset of what work is.
Companies built on traditional or fixed mindsets view talent through the lens of scarcity. They look to find it and keep it instead of accepting that it is fluid. That’s not to say that some talent is not worth retaining, but much of it simply can’t be, because it doesn’t want to. Renting it is a perfectly valid alternative; once you adopt that frame, you begin to see the world as abundant.
Most leaders know they have a talent problem, but they don’t recognize how much of it is of their own making.
Before you can build a truly fluid, networked organization, you have to shift your focus from talent to tasks. Let’s say a CEO decides to pursue an AI strategy. In the traditional mindset, she tasks the chief of HR to find and recruit a technology leader with a deep knowledge of AI. In today’s labor market, that could take up to six months. Once in place, they’ll need another six months to assemble the right team. After that, it could take another six months to develop the strategy. Unfortunately, the world is moving much faster. By the time the AI strategy is developed, the technology might have changed enough to render it obsolete.
Now let’s think about an alternative mindset based on accessing the right talent instead of owning it. Focusing on breaking down the strategy into tasks, or taskifying, the work. Now the CEO asks her head of strategy to bring together the best AI experts in their industry. The CSO logs onto a platform like GLG or Business Talent Group and invites five top AI thinkers to participate in a virtual workshop the next week. When the meeting is over, they have a high-level strategy mapped out. To develop it in detail, they break it down into tasks. Let’s say there are 25 tasks to get done. The CSOlogs back into the platforms and finds the best people to work on each task with a one-week deadline. In three weeks, and for the price of a few dozen per diems, the CEO has a detailed strategy that has been designed and vetted by the best people in the world and can start implementing it.
To overcome the current talent crisis, leaders must rethink what work is, what the components are, and how they can access the best talent in the world on a fractional basis.
“We’ve got to help business users find a way to release the parking brake when it comes to using open talent,” said Tim Sanders in a recent Center for the Transformation of Work meeting. “We’ve got to figure out those barriers they need to overcome first and we’ve got to shorten the distance between where businesses are comfortable and where they need to be.”
While it might feel like the problem is a lack of talent, the reality is it has a lot more to do with how work is designed at your organization.