Google's Terrence Taylor on how to crowdsource new talent


Where talent management requires reviews to determine who belongs in what box and what to do with them after boxing them, crowdsourcing promises to bring out-of-the-box thinkers who work on a specific project as a team of free agents on demand.

By Terrence Taylor, Senior Consultant Executive Development at Google

Of course, it may be the very nature of free agency that makes crowdsourcing unpalatable to most organisations. I mean, after a century or more of using command and control and an asymmetrical employment contract that predominantly benefits the employer, it may seem unwise to give free agents so much power in the form of freedom and flexibility and full transparency about the rewards and remuneration and the definition of what precisely is a job well done.

So, if crowdsourcing sounds appealing to you for your business, albeit a bit scary, what could you do?

This is where things get tricky. As finance professionals, you are trained to give advice with caveats. Yet I am about to give advice based on a passionate view about where the exponential environment today is likely to take the business world tomorrow. First, strategise with your Head of People about how to prepare a pilot study of how crowdsourcing can supplement, complement and ultimately replace your talent strategy. Second, convince your Head of People to send the Head of Talent to Singularity University to better understand the forces driving exponential growth and what it would take to equip your organisation to become an exponential organisation. Third, convince Exco to strike up an immediate partnership or relationship with Kaggle and Task Rabbit. Get your Head of Talent to send your recruiters for a site visit (whether virtual or in person) of these two organisations to better understand what it takes to package work into meaningful and compelling projects that attract the best talent capable of completing the tasks.

If my passionate view sounds unfounded and even irresponsible, consider the following tidbits:

  • Tidbit number 1: crowdsourcing helped State Farm to get a claims algorithm better than the one its internal actuaries had built and improved on for decades. The new claims algorithm came from a Kaggle competition in which teams and individuals created and submitted algorithms to improve on State Farm's internal algorithm. Whereas State Farm's algorithm had been built over decades, the winning algorithm from the Kaggle competition was built over days by non-actuaries and saves State Farm hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
  • Tidbit number 2: crowdsourcing drives the X PRIZE and has resulted in breakthrough innovations for industries like Commercial Space Travel and companies like NetFlix, who used a $1 million algorithm challenge to upgrade its CineMatch feature and improve how well its recommendations matched customers viewing tastes and interest.
  • Tidbit number 3: crowdsourcing has been quietly, cheaply and lucratively finding the next generation of music superstars via programmes such as Idols, Idols SA, the Voice and the Voice South Africa. The shows receive nearly free talent search. Instead of the Head of A&R (Artists & Repertoire) scouting for talent, talent pays to travel to the locations of the auditions to get a chance to compete. Then, the popularity of the shows allows the producers to generate money from advertisements and I suspect a share of the revenues from the SMSes used for voting.

The debate around whether crowdsourcing will make talent management obsolete will continue next week, in the third and final instalment of this series of articles.

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