Over the last several years, HR leaders have increasingly recognized that talent relationship management is essential. Many organizations retain a chief talent officer to manage talent relationships in this era of shifting employment practices and to devise a talent management strategy that is both inward- and outward-facing. Internally, the CTO must identify high-performing employees who can adapt to meet future challenges and roles. Externally, he or she needs to develop an ongoing process to build a bench of talent.

The practice of maintaining relationships throughout a person’s career, even when he or she is not your employee, ensures that the best talent keeps you within reach when they are ready to make a change. The fluid and unpredictable nature of millennials’ career paths only underscores this value, with younger employees working 12 to 15 jobs during their careers, according to Forrester research.

CTOs know that the best talent moves around in order to gain a competitive advantage in their careers. They are prepared for “boomerang hires,” who leave and return and benefit from the skills and experience they have gained elsewhere. And, they recognize that an online presence is more important than ever in hiring and rehiring and use social media for storytelling and showcasing their employer brand.

As essential as the role is, not all organizations have the resources for a dedicated and experienced executive running their talent function, as full-time resources can cost as much as $276,000 annually. Yet they know that relying on HR generalists or less experienced staff may lead to inadequate solutions.

Talent management tends to be cyclical and is more efficiently approached as an on-demand function, responding to spikes in talent needs at specific and predictable points in time. The heavy lifting often happens at the front end, as strategy is developed and specific challenges, like building a strong bench of future leaders, are addressed. The work that follows throughout the year is a combination of execution and transactional tasks, and the expensive, dedicated CTO is often working under capacity for much of that time.

Now, new service offerings are becoming available that put the required CTO strategic processes and systems implementation in motion on a short-term, “near-sourced” basis. For example, last year, New York-based Talent Matters launched a “six-week CTO” program, which promises to get participants up and running without a long-term investment.

Talent Matters believes that short-term CTO services fill a gap in the industry. “Our approach helps organizations design strategies that work and prepare teams for successful ongoing execution” says Joel Cataldo, an ex-cable industry CTO who founded Talent Matters. “Our premise is that once you design your strategy correctly, the work that follows is logical and extremely intuitive.” This work can be executed and maintained by a strong internal HR team without having an expensive dedicated senior resource on staff.

Another provider with a “hired-gun” approach is New Jersey-based Pennington Human Dynamics, which offers a diagnostic toolbox focused on identifying critical capabilities and the organizational climate to jumpstart clients’ talent strategy. “For clients wanting to steer their own ship, context matters,” says co-founder Najeeb Ahmad. “Our Organizational Performance Spotlight tools cut through the clutter to deliver insights about the capability and readiness of prospective leaders to excel. With a real-world roadmap and common language on hand, clients can assess current and future team performance on their own.”

Dave Carvajal, CEO of executive recruitment consulting firm Dave Partners, advises taking control by thinking long-term and writing hiring plans that map your company’s strategic goals over six, 12, 18 and 24 months. Considering those goals crystallizes talent needs and steers a company to follow its own strategic stewardship.

Overall, these concepts are new for talent strategy development. A Google search of “outsourcing talent strategy” returns the usual array of HR service providers and RPOs (recruitment process outsourcers) that offer tactical HR services that can be automated and easily assigned to an outsourced HR provider, such as payroll and benefits. While these services are valuable, they are no substitute for talent strategy. Without a CTO in the quarterback role on the ground, a company cannot develop the holistic view it needs.

In an era of near-sourced talent and short-term employment, the opportunity may have arrived for organizations to take advantage of short-term, near-sourced leadership at the top of the talent hierarchy as a way to optimize talent expenditures and implement appropriate talent management strategies for the first time.

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