Opening the Talent Economy


I’m sure we don’t need to tell you that the days of feudalistic reporting hierarchies are going the way of the Moa. Contractors, freelancers, partners, consultants (you name it!), are injecting flexibility and alacrity into projects which would otherwise suffer from lengthy and costly recruiting of salaried workers.

We’ve now long known that organisations competing in the talent space have a series of relationships with remunerated third parties who are loosely attached to the company, ready to jump in and contribute when required.

Now, what we’re beginning to see, is a paradigm shift to a new model where relationships with these third parties are becoming blurrier, shifting into non-remunerated work and varying levels of involvement.

Introducing the Open Talent Economy

The Talent Economy works on the premise that a practically infinite demand of switched-on and highly skilled workers must be satisfied with a finite pool of talent. Just how this talent is accessed, forms the basis of the new Open Talent Economy.

The Open Talent Economy recognises that the best way to tap into skills is not by necessarily including them in your workforce, but focussing on project completion and outcomes and acquiring talent in a way best suiting the needs of the project. The key to achieving this is by tapping into, or creating a community enamoured with your brand or product, and seeking the cooperation of this community.

We can already see the Open Talent Economy working in practice. Take the example of Apple, who by running the App Store, harbours a community of switched-on developers working on products around the clock, practically none of who are remunerated by Apple.

The IT industry embraced this thinking long ago with open-source software, allowing anyone to contribute to the development of a product, and using their time and skill level to contribute in the best way they can. The open-source example shows a way of recruiting talent at all stages of product development, at all skill-levels. The Open Talent Economy is effectively replicating the open-source model for all businesses.

So what does this mean?

While we are still watching the Open Talent Economy unfold, there are several trends we can see developing. We believe that if you only learn one thing about how to react to the Open Talent Economy, it is the need to tap into talent networks.

Almost every product has a community. [Don’t believe us? Search any product on Facebook and you’ll be surprised!]  These communities are where the Open Talent Economy takes place; they are full of people willing to contribute who have an already vested interest in a topic. These talent communities are global, filled with educated people often interested in contributing just for the sake of recognition. Tapping into these networks effectively allows projects to move with speed by accessing talent quickly, where needed, for whatever length of time.

What does HR need to do?

In short, get creative. Talk to Marketing and find out what the current perception of your Employer Brand is, and possible ways to tap into communities with this knowledge. Don’t just set up a Facebook page, but participate in industry forums, chats, and other communities. Go to where the community is, and don’t wait for them to come to you. Oh yes, did we mention crowd-sourcing?

Most importantly, as the world changes, we cannot cling to an old model of recruiting, with developing silos of expertise and gap-filling as our reason for being. The most important thing you can do is understand the shifting sands of the Open Talent Economy, and align your Workforce Strategy to these new realities.

Our job has long since stopped being about putting ads in the paper. It is now about fostering communities of individuals willing, ready, and able to participate in projects at all levels of engagement.  We are excited by this!


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