Is it perhaps time to start thinking about talent sharing? 

Unlike job sharing, talent sharing could be an effective flexible work arrangement.

Given the manner in which companies typically change policies, by copying each other through a process legitimised by naming it ‘benchmarking’, a few bold companies incorporated ‘Job Sharing’ as part of their remote work policies, which has resulted in a host of other companies racing to do the same.

Simply, Job Sharing means taking one job and having different employees filling it for portions of the regular time and salary for the full job. It’s supposed to be a way to balance differing individual employee flexibility needs with work output. It very rarely works outside of the production or service environment yet we still see such policies existing in organisations where Job Sharing applications are never approved. 

This happens because there are too many companies that follow HR practices and trends regardless of they are suited to them or not. These are organisations with leadership that likes being able to say that they have certain policies in place even if there is little-to-no uptake of them.

Talent sharing is a bit different

In the same way that Job Sharing is about having a few employees sharing the same job, talent sharing is when few companies share the same talent. It involves two or more companies using the same individual to fulfil essentially the same role within their organisations, but on a shared basis.

Imagine, for instance, two companies that have a R1.5 million cost-to-company budget to fill a role - say, a head of reward - but have to settle for a less experienced, less marketable specialist because experts in that field are worth far more.  If they go for the a full-time appointment, they are most likely going to have to supplement this decision with external consulting expertise on specialist reward projects – as a rule of thumb, these consultants typically kick-off at the half-a-million mark.

If both these companies were led by progressive thinkers who looked at their needs through the lens of outputs or delivery. Rather than thinking, ‘we need a head of reward’ they would think, “we need a reward policy that gets us at least 80percent of the shareholder votes at our AGM” or, “we need a variable pay program that directly links how our investors view performance with how much we payout.” 

Framed against such a perspective, is having a person on the books, full-time, really necessary? What if there was a reward leader out there with a R3 million cost to company that was willing to split his time between the two companies in order to achieve the required objectives? Surely such an arrangement would be a win-win.

What the naysayers will tell you

The common excuses from traditionalists to talent sharing revolve around two major items, loyalty/affiliation and data protection. Both of which are totally nonsense because full-time employment guarantees neither.

The truth is that it’s just too much bother. Talent sharing requires proper planning and management and, most corporate leaders are too lazy to bother actively managing their people. It’s easier to have someone on the books full-time even when that person is asleep at their desks half the time and surfing the net the other half. Full-time employees can also be bugged with emails and texts at midnight and before sunrise on Sundays, without much remorse on the side of the line manager. “Full-time” has become something that many line mangers feel to be “all the time”.

Talent sharing is a type of organised freelancing where an individual regularly engages with multiple companies to fulfil objectives associated with similar types of jobs among these companies. It requires careful administration, planning and risk management but has the potential to have the requisite level of specialist skills finally available to companies with smaller budgets. It can finally allow smaller companies and start-ups to start up their non-core programs at the right levels needed to get them firing as much as those of more established and mature companies.

Unlike job sharing, however, talent sharing faces less risk of being a window dressing policy because the balance of power is shared between the employer and employee. 

From the individual perspective, it allows a specialist to have the flexibility needed to manage their own careers without having their personal identities tied into their corporate master.

It requires the precision and application that technology now offers, through various iterations of the platform economy and its constituents. Which will eventually end the world as we know it, and for good reason?

And about that, I feel fine.