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The Sharing Economy: Reshaping How On-Demand Talent is Managed (Part 2 of 2)

In The Sharing Economy: Reshaping How On-Demand Talent is Managed (Part 1 of 2), we explore how relationships in the talent and labor markets have evolved over the last 20 years and what businesses can do to manage this increased access to on-demand talent. Now, let’s look at how you can encourage and measure employee engagement within those revised relationships.


As the sharing economy influences and redefines the employee-employer relationship, it also impacts how we approach employee engagement. After all, when employees are hired under a new set of circumstances, it only makes sense that they will be motivated by a new set of engagement influencers.
Let’s begin with the following diagram from Deloitte™’s The Open Talent Economy. In the modified diagram below, we’ve analyzed each pool according to its mutual goals and objectives, and subsequently reduced the five relationship types into three larger groups.

Click to zoom.  Image © Deloitte The Open Talent Economy

Here’s a look at how you can encourage and measure employee engagement among common, shared, and focused employees:

Balance Sheet Talent:  Common Goals


Who Are They?

Balance Sheet is talent that is hired full-time and that shares the vast majority of  the goals and values of your organization. This is the easiest talent relationship to understand because it is the most traditional; you hire an individual with the understanding that they will use the bulk of their talents and time to further the mission of your organization. Your success and the success of your balance sheet talent is inextricably bound for as long as you maintain the traditional employee-employer relationship; if the enterprise is successful and prospers, then the balance sheet talent shares in the benefits and rewards of such success.
How Do We Engage Them Now? Communication is the single most important tool you have to encourage engagement among common employees because that’s where the idea of what you have in common with them begins and ends. However, the all-too-common catchphrase “communication” doesn’t address the most important source of these commonalities. For communication to be effective with common talent, it must meet two criteria:

  • It must work both ways. It is absolutely critical that management establishes and communicates a vision, and it is equally critical that management solicits feedback regarding the execution of that vision.  
  • It must lead to action. Having solicited and collected feedback, it is vital that management act on what it’s obtained and learned.

The most common source of communication in the workplace today is the engagement survey, which is an excellent tool to have in your toolbox when implemented by a professional survey team.

What Other Engagement Opportunities Can You Offer? The employee engagement survey is an increasingly common first step for encouraging and measuring engagement among Balance Sheet talent, but most organizations limit its effectiveness by failing to follow-up.
Before releasing the survey, make the most of the engagement opportunity by publishing the plan that will be used for the follow-up. This will allow employees to see your commitment to engagement and hold you accountable for how you use the results.  
You can also improve and innovate on the survey format by adjusting its frequency and length and experimenting with shorter and more frequent “pulse” surveys or surveys delivered by smartphone or tablet.
Which Challenges Should You Look Out For? The challenges that come with engaging common talent often fall into one of the following two categories:

  • Absorbing costs. Creating and implementing forward-thinking engagement efforts is time-consuming, challenging, and often expensive, which can be a tough sell to senior management.  
  • Incentivizing diverse employees. Common talent often represents a wide spectrum of demographics, such as race, gender, age, and seniority. One subgroup may find a certain set of incentives engaging, while another subgroup might have completely different values. Also, human resources teams must exercise caution when trying to approach demographic subgroups so as not to be interpreted as discriminatory.  


Shared Talent:  Shared Goals

Who Are They?


Because both segments are largely driven by formal or informal business relationship agreements, we’ll refer to Partnership talent and Borrowed talent as Shared talent. Whether organized by a simple Memorandum of Understanding or a more formal joint venture, Shared talent represents two or more separate organizations or entities having discovered a series of shared goals or objectives who in turn jointly contribute resources to pursue them.  
How Do We Engage Them Now? Because employee engagement largely begins and ends with Balance Sheet talent in most companies today, the opportunities for engaging Shared talent is immense.
What Other Engagement Opportunities Can You Offer? Shared talent has two levels of engagement needs that must be addressed:

  • Effort alignment. Shared talent must understand how its individual effort fits into the success of its organization. They must understand what it means for the effort in which they are participating to be “successful” and what their role in that success is.
  • Culture alignment. Because successful engagement often relates back to culture, Shared talent must be intentionally inserted into organizational culture. Several companies have been experimenting with an “engagement coach” role that can successfully address this need and establish a bridge between the individual and their “home” organization, stressing elements from across the engagement continuum (communication, opportunities for growth, performance and accountability, etc.)
Which Challenges Should You Look Out For?


Three distinct challenges present themselves to organizations attempting to engage Shared talent:

  • Engaging senior leadership. When extending engagement measures to Shared talent, it is imperative to secure the endorsement and continuing support of senior management.
  • Measuring and tracking data. It is also important to establish measures of success and collect data to monitor progress.
  • Monitoring for unintentional competition. While cooperating to achieve shared ends, it’s possible for the parties to the formal or informal relationship agreement to unintentionally compete with each other for resources or achievements.


Focused Talent:  Focused Goals

Who Are They? At the opposite end of the spectrum and largely defined by the movement toward on-demand talent, we find freelance talent and open source talent, which we’ll call Focused talent. These relationships are newest and therefore the hardest ones to clearly engage. However, one thing is clear: the more the talent relationship tends toward the on-demand end of the spectrum, the more the relationship is defined by a narrower and more focused series of goals and objectives.  
How Do We Engage Them Now? Only recently have efforts been made to evaluate how organizations engage Focused talent. These efforts confirm that the employment of Focused talent is on the rise and highly desirable, and therefore a high priority target for engagement activities.
For example, IBM released a study that found that, “independent workers [what we call Focused Talent] are more engaged than most employees, and have greater pride and satisfaction than high-potential employees.” The study concluded that, “independent workers are very similar to ‘high-potential’ employees – more so than to other employees.”  
Because Focused talent must navigate the marketplace of free labor, it makes sense that they often perform at a higher caliber than your average employee. However, even in circumstances in which there is a high degree of satisfaction with current assignments, this study found that the Focused talent pool is more likely to consider and pursue finding other clients, which is in turn interpreted as low-commitment.


In that light, it’s reasonable that focused talent should routinely be included in the engagement activities of Balance Sheet talent, and that they should be allowed to participate with the same protection of privacy and anonymity typically afforded Balance Sheet talent in things like engagement surveys (though whenever possible this segment should be aggregated by itself).

What Other Engagement Opportunities Can You Offer?


Once you understand the dynamics of the Focused talent pool, several experimental engagement opportunities appear:

  • Share information. Independent workers should be kept up to date with appropriate information, from project status updates to the strategies employed and objectives pursued over longer terms. Their contracts should include the standard nondisclosure language and confidentiality clauses.  
  • Hire for innovation. The IBM study identified that the Focused talent community tends to be more innovative than the employee population as a whole. Tap into that repository of potential innovation by being open to recognizing and incorporating ideas from Focused talent pools.
  • Practice inclusiveness. Establish a culture of inclusion in which Focused talent is treated with the same trust, respect and professional regard as common and shared talent.  
Which Challenges Should You Look Out For? The most formidable challenge facing the Focused talent pool is simply the lack of experience, common tools, and techniques available for use.  In the past, hierarchically-driven and managed organizations tended to view the organization with hard borders: if you were an employee, or Balance Sheet talent, then you were inside of the organization, and if you weren’t, you were outside the organization. But just like all of the other relationships that technology disrupts, how the enterprise regards and engages with the talent available to it will play a substantial role in its future success.


“Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.”
~Henry Ford

Our final reflection is this: the relationship between employer and employee has changed, and it has fundamentally shifted how organizations engage the best talent. For employers, employees were once defined as “anyone who works for you.” Now, however, there is a continuum of relationships that must be supported in order for the enterprise to operate successfully. It’s up to employers to manage these relationships in a way that increases and enhances how different employees engage with your organization across the wide spectrum of talent pools.


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About the authors:

This article, courtesy of Al DuPree, COO  of AKRON, Inc.


AKRON, Inc. is an HR survey and data analytics company located in Washington, DC.  AKRON is a leader in providing substantiated, empirical data to empower HR departments in their plight for organizational excellence and talent retention.  Since 2004, AKRON has been the administrator of the HRA-NCA Compensation and Benefits surveys.