Relationship goals: Are you ready to engage your people network?

Employee sitting at a desk with two monitors video conferencing with other colleageus

Creating a differentiated Talent Value Proposition for all the people helping you get work done

When I’m having dinner with friends I like to play a game called “Side Hustle.” I ask people what they would do outside their normal day job that would make them some extra money. Now, you might be thinking I must not have too many friends left… but trust me, it’s a great game!

I posed the question recently and was amazed to see a group of people with corporate jobs enthusiastically talking about how they would sell baked goods or write children’s books. We even had a history buff who would give cultural tours. I like to end by asking “what’s stopping you?” And the reality today is, not very much. Technology and societal norms are evolving, allowing us to choose to work differently.

This got me thinking about one of the emerging issues affecting employers: navigating a world where the terms “employer” and “employee” can now cover a multitude of relationships, from short to long-term, project or role-based, sourced using traditional channels, through another employer or even an online platform.

As explored during Willis Towers Watson’s recent global Future of Work survey, traditional employment relationships are changing. Where does that leave employers who need to navigate these vastly different relationships in the new world of work?

Relationship status: It’s complicated

There are many ways to engage people to get work done. What do these new relationships look like? Here are some examples of the types of “employee” you might have in your network of talent and what they care about.

Evan Employee

Relationship goal: Longer-term, full or part time, committed to you only.
Where to find them: Channels are varied and include a recruiter, referral, job ad and/or LinkedIn search.
Likes: Job security, a steady paycheck, career and development opportunities, additional benefits and the ability to progress internally.
What’s in it for you? Ability to plan longer-term, manage personal performance and oversee everything the employee is working on.
Opportunities/risks: Employees are increasingly looking for more flexibility, control over choosing their benefits and opportunities to keep their skills relevant.

Casey Contingent

Relationship goal: Committed to the task/project; willing to stick with it as long as it takes even though Casey isn’t an official member of the team.
Where to find them: Through an agency (e.g. Kelly Services) or directly via a talent platform (e.g. Topcoder, Upwork, etc.).
Likes: Interesting work, competition, freedom. Could be concerned about funding benefits such as healthcare and a pension.
What’s in it for you? Ability to staff a project quickly without a long-term commitment, sometimes helps you to acquire a unique skill-set you need to borrow, not buy. Ability to choose the best people for the job, and end bad relationships quickly and painlessly.
Opportunities/risks: Some talent can be harder to find and secure. Quality of work can vary.

Joan On-Loan

Relationship goal: Don’t get attached, Joan is on loan to you for a specific task or project (e.g. to develop a new product).
Where to find them: Borrow from another company.
Likes: The opportunity to collaborate on an interesting project.
What’s in it for you? Ability to secure a skill set that you need to complete a specific project or design a new product or service. Enables you to expose your team to new ways of working and collaborate on an innovative initiative.
Opportunities/risks: Cultural differences can be difficult to manage. It may be difficult to manage performance and engagement directly.

Ollie Outsourced

Relationship goal: Works for another company carrying out a task for you.
Where to find them: Through an agreement with another company.
Likes: Their employer will know; you most likely won’t.
What’s in it for you? Outsource the relationship and any associated risks.
Opportunities/risks: Reliant on the agreement with the other company. Opportunity to engage people with your overall purpose for a positive long-term relationship.

Vincenzo Volunteer

Relationship goal: In it to solve a problem or to do something positive for society.
Where to find them: Online or offline outreach, often to specific interest groups (a typical example might be someone solving a complex problem via an online game or tool – e.g. for cancer research).
Likes: Doing good, gamification, problem solving.
What’s in it for you? Solve a specific problem or issue. Little or no cost to the employer.
Opportunities/risks: No control over engagement levels, reliant on good will. Can be difficult to find people with the right skills.

So, who’s writing the relationship rules in the new world of work?

In reality it’s both of you: the talent and the organization.

People are deciding their own value proposition

Whether it’s more flexibility, interesting work, or earning additional cash on the side, people are increasingly looking for work to suit their lifestyles, needs and aspirations. This is a very different picture to the 1970s where you were likely to have a very rigid employment agreement and remain with one employer throughout your working life. An organization’s purpose is becoming increasingly important to engaging all types of talent.

The result is that you can have people carrying out work for you who have different needs and expectations from a relationship with an employer.

Employers are re-imagining how work gets done

Largely due to the evolution of technology, you now have the opportunity to be more imaginative about how you use different types of people to get work done, enabling you to be more competitive. Often this means there is a need for a different skill set than what you have in your organization already. How you source the people you needed can vary. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, which makes it more important than ever for employers to think more broadly about the value proposition they want to create — and what types of talent they’re aiming to engage.

Developing the Talent Value Proposition for your wider people network

So, how do you create a differentiated deal?

While some employers may want to develop a comprehensive value proposition for their entire internal and external workforce, it can be easier to start small.

Here are some simple steps to figure out your talent network, how you can engage them and manage any risks:

  • Understand your total talent mix: what is it now and what’s likely in the future?
  • Figure out what all of these types of people want from their relationship with you as the employer.
  • Consider the potential risks related to these relationships and how you might mitigate against them.
  • Define and execute some quick wins: Decide if you can introduce some tailored programs or activities to help you attract and engage the people who will make a difference for you in the short-term.

Never before have we had the opportunity to engage talent in so many different ways. Modeling your own path can be the key to your success. A truly differentiated deal can help you to successfully compete in an ever-evolving global marketplace. After all, the true Future of Work is about empowering people. Creating a meaningful connection with your entire network will lead to better outcomes for your business, and your customers. Now that’s what I call a good working relationship!


Nicola Meyer Senior Consultant and Communication & Change Management Practice Lead for Canada

Nicola Meyer is a Senior Consultant and Communication & Change Management Practice Lead for Canada at Willis Towers Watson.

About Suzanne McAndrew

Suzanne McAndrew is a Global Talent Business Leader at Willis Towers Watson…
Categories: Employee Engagement | Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *