Will crowdsourcing make talent management obsolete, asks Google's Terrence Taylor?

Crowdsourcing promises to make scarce and critical skills available cost effectively, perhaps close to 90 percent cheaper, and disruptively. Yet most companies currently rely on talent management – a human resource function that has been around for over half a century but whose tools and techniques has changed little during its existence – to identify, attract, develop and keep talented people who have these sought after scarce and critical skills. The question is: will crowdsourcing make talent management obsolete?

By Terrence Taylor, Senior Consultant Executive Development at Google

I am deeply enamoured with the opportunities and options provided by today's exponential environment. As an entrepreneur working in the people space, I am curious about how HR can better equip the people in business to profit rather than perish from exponential change. The more I thought about this question the more I realise that the organisations I have worked for (including DLJ, Citibank, Standard Bank, Ecobank and Discovery), are using a traditional people management tool, Talent Management, and its favoured solutions for unconventional exponential times. Yet, because all these organisations (and in DLJ's case, its acquirer, CSFB) recognise the need for disruptive innovation, they may benefit from adopting a disruptively innovative, exponential talent management approach by embracing crowdsourcing.

I believe the time has come for business to embrace exponential talent management and feel that they would benefit from seeking exponential talent tools. This is because today's business environment is on an exponential curve of change. More importantly, this exponential business environment promises exponential growth for those businesses best equipped to ride the curve. Equally, this environment promises peril or premature perish for those businesses ill-equipped to ride the curve.

Crowdsourcing promises to be such an exponential tool. If not for the comfort of going with what is well known, crowdsourcing could make talent management obsolete.

Whereas talent management is based on the idea that you have to identify, attract, develop and retain talent, crowdsourcing is based on the notion that the wisdom of the crowd can be harnessed quickly and cost-effectively in an open-sourced way to incentivise talent to find the organisations and/or projects promising meaningful and compelling work.

Talent management requires organisations to build departments filled with specialists in assessments, recruitment, development and retention, while crowdsourcing requires organisations to excel at creating, packaging and communicating meaningful and compelling work and to become comfortable at not having control over the "crowd" that takes on this work as a challenge.

And, where talent management depends on much reviled performance management with confusing goals and at times opaque understanding of the link of pay to performance, crowdsourcing promises clearly linked deliverables with a defined delivery date and transparent reward/remuneration.

Lastly, while talent management depends on developing talent over time, crowdsourcing promises to deliver talent on demand.

The debate around whether crowdsourcing will make talent management obsolete will continue next week, in the second installment of this series of articles.