I recently listened to a great Harvard Business Review podcast titled The Era of Agile Talent. It was very interesting and relevant for me as I’m sure my clients would classify my work relationship with them as “agile talent,” and many believe it is a competitive advantage. Here’s my take on it . . .
Leaders are leveraging a new capability to their advantage . . . the strategic use of external experts. Having the right talent to fill critical gaps without that talent being a full-time permanent employee has been an important strategy for years in most organizations, but agile talent is a new freelance category. Jonathan Younger, coauthor of “Agile Talent: How to Source and Manage Outside Experts,” defines agile talent as performing “strategic work as opposed to administrative or operational work or temporary work replacing a full-time permanent employee.” In a competitive world with everything moving at high speed, technology and the globalization of talent make it possible for companies to engage strategic talent to the advantage of both the organization and the expert. Many of my clients, especially the small, mid-sized, or younger organizations find it critical to leverage the knowledge and experience of agile talent as an important resource. Having access to the right talent at the right time for strategic planning, problem solving, process development, etc, helps them stay lean and competitive. The challenge for some organizations dipping their toe in the agile talent market is understanding how to best work with them. According to Younger, to achieve success, organizations must provide an experience to the agile talent that’s “consistent with high performance by that agile talent.” This requires five areas of alignment that when done well creates an environment that allows agile talent to do their best work and ensures that the organization gets more value for their money. The five areas of alignment are:
- Strategic alignment: realistic goals, schedule, and well-defined priorities
- Performance alignment: clear objectives, well-defined metrics, and regular feedback on their performance
- Relationship alignment: it starts with onboarding, having a structured process to help the agile talent understand the organization, culture, and values, and build and support relationships
- Managerial alignment: the experience of the manager and their level of maturity must be align with the work of the agile talent and the required task
- Administrative alignment: clear, well communicated policies and procedures that are sympathetic to the agile talent’s role
In a fast paced work world with a competitive workforce, agile talent is a fast, flexible strategic option for organizations.