According to Professors Peter Cappelli (Wharton) and John Boudreau (USC), yes, they can! The authors give several reasons for this. Cappelli says talent management and supply chain management are basically the same: it’s about guessing and predicting future demand and then planning to meet that demand. Managing supply chains means controlling uncertainty and variation. Boudreau adds that it would increase HR’s credibility at Management Committee level if they could use tools that are commonly accepted as good practice. We think this is a valuable new perspective on HR.
HR has changed quite a lot over the last few years. The increased call to loosen up the structure of the workforce and to make labor relations more about dealing with individuals causes us to reflect on how organizations will (have to) manage their workforce in the near future.
An HR policy predicated on the notion of predictability no longer works. Just because we cannot precisely determine future staffing requirements (either quantitatively or qualitatively), does not mean that it is not possible or desirable to cultivate a perspective or a policy on attracting and deploying talent. On the contrary, in a VUCA context it is vital that organizations assess current and future talent scenarios, in terms of both supply and demand.
To do so, you need to keep an open mind about talent: it is no longer about designing a narrow HR policy that focuses solely on employees with unlimited contracts. It is about increasing the scope to include everyone who might offer their talent to the organization in the short or long term, e.g. freelancers, temporary staff, etc. The increased independence in jobs is a trend that makes managing the talent supply chain more challenging, but more necessary as well.
This practice starts with the current situation. The first question we need to ask is, do we have a good overview of the entire workforce? It might be easy to get a picture of payroll employees and temporary staff, but what about contractors, consultants, trainers, coaches, etc.? Which competences do we use to engage this contingent workforce? Do they have specific skills and expertise, do they take on tasks that we do not see as their core activities? Do they help to manage a peak at work or are they only tied to the company structurally? These are all questions that we should be asking ourselves.
Finally, this raises the issue of what this means to core HR processes such as contracting, performance, development, etc. How do we deal with these employees in a working context? Does the performance-management process apply to interim employees as well? What about coaching a team that only has half of its employees on payroll? What about the ideal candidate, who is not interested in a full-time contract or the standard employee proposition?
The Talent Supply Chain
These are the questions we are asking ourselves and want to research. If you have asked yourselves these questions before, or if this article resonated with you, we would love to talk to you and explore this research theme further.
For the ‘Next Generation Work: Creating Sustainable Careers’ chair, SD Worx and Antwerp Management School are actively working together on the issue of sustainable careers. We keep an eye on the many challenges that the current job market poses for organizations and individuals, along with research areas for innovative talent and careers policies.