Book Review: Navigating the Talent Shift by Lisa Hufford

talentshift
This is a useful and insightful read for anyone in a management position or looking to complete short-term projects.

In Navigating the Talent Shift, Lisa Hufford a written a book that is perfect for the time. It is particularly helpful to me as I am currently looking to build an ‘on demand’ team to deliver a number of short projects and so the insight and tools she provides in this short book are perfect for my needs.

Recognising that the current and future generations are less likely to pursue a single career in a single company and that freelancing and independent engagements will become commonplace, Hufford offers a robust method for employing that workforce and engaging the best talent.

A workforce that is employed on a full-time basis, although giving stability, does not always offer the most cost effective solution to project completion. Many of the projects that are likely to face will require a broader set of talents than you probably have in-house. If they are in-house the requirement is probably not a core skill for the person that you are looking to use and so you are going to generate a sub-optimal team that produces less than the best outcome.

An on-demand team of specialists, if managed correctly, will deliver a better solution in a shorter time and exploit the innovation and creativity from a wider variety of people. This will be delivered faster, to a higher standard, and without the cost of permanent employees (holiday pay, pensions, sick benefits, etc) considerably cheaper.
Exploiting a model that is termed ‘SPEED’ Hufford recommends that you follow the steps of:

S – Success – Identify what a good job looks like.
P – Plan – Have an idea of where the talent gaps lie and how you want the project to be delivered.
E – Execute – Create a Statement of Work against which the team has to deliver
E – Evaluate – Have metrics to assess progress and if you are meeting your target with the team you have selected.
D – Decide – Look at what has worked and what hasn’t and decide how to exploit the approach in the future.
This model is helpful in itself, but it is the way the Hufford explains its execution that is the real value in this book. The approach itself benefits by looking beyond organisational lines and by advising on how to find talent gaps the company is carrying and to fill them with short-term engagements of specialists and freelancers.

Packed with statistics and observations from highly relevant research; and case studies that illustrate both the problem and the solution, Navigating the Talent Shift is a great insight into a modern and growing employment challenge that businesses will face in the very near future.

What isn’t quite so clear is where the talent pool you will be drawing from is developing the knowledge and skills to provide these specialist services. It almost looks as if that talent will be developed by companies that take on young apprentices or graduates and grows that talent to a point where they are suitably qualified and experienced to make freelancing a viable possibility. So the burden of talent development may be on the larger companies with the budget to develop people.
A steady stream of people joining a company, being trained and then leaving, will create some additional dynamics such as mandatory ‘returns of service’ for training or punitive charges for early release from a contract. Additionally, non-compete clauses or restrictive covenants may also become normal, constraining the freelancer’s market for a period after leaving the company.
No matter the dynamics that might arise, Hufford has correctly identified and addressed many aspects of a work economy where the journeyman specialist, interim employee or the freelancer will become more the norm and the long term employee less and less common.

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