In this interview Tessa James, Founder & CEO of Talent Reimagined, talked to Rocking Talent about the future of work, talent and what the concept Reimagineers is about.
Tell us about Talent Reimagined. Why did you found Talent Reimagined?
I founded Talent Reimagined in the latter part of 2019. I had often thought about branching out from the corporate world and setting up my own business and the vision of that business was always changing as my corporate career advanced. It was in 2019 that I felt I had reached a point of being truly ready, equipped with many rich, diverse, international experiences across talent transformation and change management. From that point, and in a very short period of time, the vision of what I wanted to step out and create became very clear. The impetus for that clarity was two-fold, my growing concern with the degree of overlooked talent in the market, and the degree of change required for organisations to shift away from a seemingly frozen in time employment model which has been ultimately fuelling the disconnect.
This led me to think about what role I could play, based on experiences I have had in my career, to change the script and to help accelerate towards a future where organisations and talent can find each other again. I set up Talent Reimagined with two very important constructs in mind – to ‘Reimagine’ – because changing the game would require blue sky thinking – and ‘transformation’ – because it is exactly that, it requires holistic change, not incremental silo’d steps.
Critical to me in the conception of Talent Reimagined and its impact on the world was that it wasn’t simply advisory, it could also design and execute – that we could support to carry that reimagined future vision through with our clients. In my own experiences as a talent leader, I have witnessed firsthand the pain and change management turmoil created by transformation and day to day operations overlapping and unfolding in parallel, for long periods of time. Not only does it prevent an organization from realizing the benefits of the transformation sooner, it also makes it very hard to have the change stick. Accelerating through the ‘turn’ and through the ‘transformation’ is critical. For that reason, we formed not only as a strategic advisor, but with a team of world class independent consultants with complementary and diverse skills and experiences who can design, deliver, and deploy the entire talent transformation, either augmented to the client’s existing team or independently if client capacity is an issue.
Bringing this network together has also validated something I suspected through the latter parts of my corporate career. People who are experienced and passionate in the space of transformation, they come with a different lens into each situation, they are looking further downstream than you may imagine, they are tieing up observations in the new into longer term and connected workstreams and processes, and they are nomadic. I like to say ‘they have gypsy genes’.
What it has also highlighted to me is, with this rise of the independent workforce, we are still human at the end of the day, we all still want connection. That’s what Talent Reimagined brings and will continue to bring to this continually evolving and expand group of world class independent -consultants. A home, a place to connect, network, learn, and find opportunities.
Tell me more about the network, what type of skill sets do you have and continue to look for?
We are a network of world class independent consultants, with experience across typically silo’d work areas – talent acquisition, talent management, corporate real estate services, total rewards, HR technology, psychology, the list goes on. I believe Talent Reimagined is in itself a glimpse into the future workforce, a microcosm if you like for how teams will form and operate in the future. An ecosystem. In many ways we are chartering a new path ahead, and we know it’s not going to be easy.
Your tag line is – Let’s reimagine the future together. A future where organisations and talent can find each other again. What do you think have been the drivers of this disconnect?
The backwards workforce planning approaches organisations keep plugging away at. This continual focus on hours and not outcomes. Feeling proud about selecting people based on what they ‘have done’ when they should be looking at what people ‘can do’ – because the skills required in the future requires a huge amount of agility and adaptability. This cycle of prioritizing what people have done not only overlooks talent, it’s a recipe for obsoletion in a future that demands ‘learners’ in a workplace that will continue to need different skills to stay competitive. And now that the ‘future’ arrived early, it’s a really critical point for organisations to change their approach and adapt to these new realities. The ironic part is, when you really get down to the core of it, organisations and talent actually want the same things, it’s just that organisations are looking in the wrong places, and talent aren’t sure where to look. That’s what we are here to change.
You refer to yourselves as ‘Reimagineers’ – can you tell me more about that?
We call ourselves Reimagineers, to differentiate from consulting. Our approach is fresh, fun, fast and impactful and we want to stand out from the consulting crowd. Our aspiration is not to compete with others in the space of HR consulting, because we aren’t like the others. Our aspiration is to grow and evolve Talent Reimagined into a wide-scale new generation of consulting. Reimagineer is a mash up of Reimagine and Engineer. From a Reimagine standpoint, we come to our clients with a blank canvas mindset, and quickly tap int to blue sky thinking and innovation. From an Engineer standpoint, our focus on the fact that we don’t just stop at the point of envisioning, we are serious about working that back into an accelerated roadmap and framework, so they can get that reimagined future, faster.
Talent Reimagined is a new generation of talent strategy consultants.
A lot of what you have discussed here is about the future of work, what are your predictions?
For me the future of work, or maybe we should talk about the ‘now of work’ is all about the ‘rise of independence’, for both organizations and talent. For Talent, it has many layers to it, and for organizations the bigger challenge is adapting and leveraging the new world we are entering, and tuning in to what talent wants.
As it relates to ‘predictions’ or ‘projections’ – I think much of this has already arrived, or at least in earnest, and it will continue and expand and evolve imminently. From a talent perspective, it’s multi-dimensional, but what it inherently always comes back to is this sense of self-worth, purpose, wholeness, authenticity, transparency and a feeling of independence.
From a workday perspective: In terms of the actual workday, this is all about having independence, freedom, control (whatever resonates) with how, where and when work is done. Remote work is about trust, and talent expects it now. Further to that, given the extent of time in lockdown and in a new remote working world, people have developed new routines, they have upgraded the coffee machine, swapped out the commute to walking their kids to work, taken calls in nature. There is no other way forward from here but to support the same structure moving forward. During the pandemic, we didn’t just talk about bringing our whole selves to work, we had to actually seriously do it. People had to navigate and blend work around life commitments that we had largely hidden away previously.
What we do around the workday: Talent want to be able to wear ‘multiple hats’ and not be dependent on one form of income or one ‘skill’ set. You can already witness this in those people who are much more than their ‘day job’ – writing a book, investing in or developing a side businesses. Those areas are producing income and it’s more than the gig economy, I almost think of it as the risk of ‘a creator economy’. Gone are the days of being a cog in a machine, people want to be unique, special, independent, and many cogs in many machines, and they are writing contracts with themselves before they are signing contracts with organisations.
Reimaging the ladder: With this new lens and focus on self, it’s forcing people to redefine success. A great book I read at the turning point of my corporate to entrepreneurial life was a book by Laura Gassner-Otting called ‘Limitless: How to ignore everyone, carve your own path and live your best lift’ where she opens your mind and helps you to unpick your definition of success and rethink it. More and more people are doing the same and the next generation will have a very different perspective regarding the ‘corporate ladder’. I think this links directly back to the rise of independence, feeling like your own version of you, the path of success is one that resonates, brings you energy and fulfillment.
The ironic part is, if you strip it back a bit, organisations want something very similar. Organisations want performers. Research shows repeatedly that engaged employees are more productive employees. What’s changed is what talent needs to feel engaged has shifted, and if organisations tune into that shift with what talent now needs, then the road ahead is clear.
Organisations want creators in their workforce too, people who can wear multiple hats, learn, adapt, grow, to adapt to the every changing skill demands of the future. I feel that organisations are too focused on measuring what’s currently in the organization, where they should be focused on what people are interested in and their potential and appetite to learn, and then present them with interesting opportunities in an ecosystem style format. Many organizations are moving towards an ‘open marketplace’ ‘total workforce’ approach and this is a great step in the right direction. For me the bottom line is: success and competitiveness is there for organisations who will embrace, encourage, and design their processes and strategy in line with what talent wants.
Is there a watch for organistions?
Remote working will be embraced, that’s a given. I’m sure it will be 60% of organizations, allowing 60% of work from home, as a sweeping average. In this embrace, I hope it does not get compared back in terms of productivity levels during the time of ‘lockdown’ as that was not a normal time. As research shows, people were not taking time out or away as it wasn’t an option, adjusting to a remote workstyle where days sometimes didn’t end, reflected in the burn out statistics. A direct comparison that could force the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction is something I truly hope does not happen. I think in that instance, savvy organisations who stand their ground in the hybrid workforce, and take even greater stakes in the new war for talent.
How do we help?
We are constantly evolving, and will continue to evolve, to provide services that address the key opportunities and dynamics which will ultimately bring talent and organisations together. We do this through short term accelerators, and longer term enterprise wide transformation methodologies.
Our key areas of focus are:
- Designing and implementing assessment strategies to support organisations assess for potential to support needs of the future workforce
- Designing and implementing adaptable and scalable recruiting processes and technology
- Agile workforce design and deployment
We are agnostic as it relates to provider, partner, technology, and services. We have a unique approach to design thinking and governance. Combined, this is our ‘secret sauce’ to acceleration.
What action would you encourage organizations to take?
- Invest in your talent strategy
- Listen to employees
- Recruiting is everywhere in a talent world, but please don’t become complacent
- Support your teams by embracing external experts who can help accelerate into the future, without losing focus on delivering day to day operations.
Be brave, be bold! Throw away the ‘operating manual’. It’s the time!
Tessa James | Founder & CEO of Talent Reimagined