Posted: 26 Nov. 2019 5 min. read

Workforce transformation is the evolution of talent management

Posted by Mike Kemp, Kathi Enderes and Nehal Nangia on November 26, 2019.

In an era of constant innovation and market disruption, change is the new norm. Many organizations are feeling pressure to continuously rethink strategic directions, including those related to their people. Today’s workforce strategies require an expanded view of who performs the work and a deeper consideration into the nature of the work to be done and where and when it can be completed.

A tale of two approaches

The nature of work is fundamentally shifting. Workers and organizations are seeking alternative working options beyond traditional employment. Relatedly, flexible and remote work environments are attractive to talent. And, advanced technologies are increasingly available to make sense of data and perform more complex tasks. This new world of work demands a holistic, agile, and responsive approach—one that continuously rethinks work, the workforce, and the workplace in ways that provide value beyond financial performance. We call this new approach “workforce transformation.”1

In our previous blog post, Why Workforce Transformation is Critical to the Future of Work, we explained why forward-looking organizations focus on a balanced set of outcomes related to cost, value, and meaning. This time, we’ll look more closely at how you can adapt to the new approach to talent management.

Traditional talent management approaches—focused on merely managing talent—are no longer sufficient. They provide a narrow and static view that does not align with the adaptability needed in today’s agile organization. In fact, the very definition of “talent management” highlights these shortcomings. Talent is often considered as overhead to the business by way of a payroll cost; when an organization highlights an asset, talent is often used to describe only people in the most critical roles, segments, and positions rather than include the entire workforce. And the term management implies control or maintenance of something. Talent management, therefore, is primarily concerned with maintaining those people who provide bottom-line results.

Instead of a focus on maintaining the status quo, the agile nature of work calls for an approach that considers the entire set of workers. Workforce, in this context, provides a holistic view, including all those who provide work for an organization: full- and part-time employees, contractors, consultants, gig workers, freelancers, and crowd workers. More importantly, the term transformation implies a complete change, particularly with regard to improvement. In the context of “workforce transformation,” transformation also includes the interconnected elements of work and the workplace. This overall term describes an approach much more aligned with the current business environment, suggesting a positive change—with all workers contributing to the business.

From talent management2 to workforce transformation3

Moving from talent management to workforce transformation

To be able to thrive in this rapidly changing and complex world of work, organizations need to continuously transform the work, workforce, and workplace in ways that can help them sustain growth and remain competitive. Here are five actions that you can take considering the new outlook on talent management, which is workforce transformation.

  1. Understand intended outcomes. Core to workforce transformation is a focus on the intended outcomes. Balance cost, value, and meaning; identify critical outcomes (perhaps related to a pain point or an opportunity to provide added value to the workforce, business, or customers); and imagine how the work, workforce, and workplace should change to accomplish them.
  2. Think beyond the workforce. Consider the nature of the work and the workplace alongside that of the workforce. Consider how work can be augmented to take advantage of uniquely human abilities; how the alternative workforce can provide talent needed in the areas where agility is key; and how changes to the workplace can foster connectedness, collaboration, and a personalized experience.
  3. Design fit-for-purpose talent practices. Design and align talent practices for purpose by considering how each is intended to access skills and capabilities, curate experiences that deepen the relationship between workers and the organization, and engage the workforce to achieve its full potential.
  4. Take the context into account. When designing and implementing transformational change, consider both internal and external contexts to HR and the business. Consider available data, organizational readiness for change, technology, culture, and leadership to determine a direction for talent.
  5. Iterate and expand. Rather than just creating a talent strategy once a year triggered by an annual strategic plan, continuously imagine, compose, and activate, and build a workforce transformation capability that doesn’t just respond to changes but anticipates them and prepares the organization for the future.


Mike Kemp, PhD, is a research manager at Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP, specializing in the areas of talent and workforce strategies, leadership, and HR leadership.

Nehal Nangia is a research manager, talent, and workforce performance, at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP.


¹ Interactive Workforce Transformation Framework, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP/Kathi Enderes, PhD, and Mike Kemp, PhD, 2019.

² High-Impact Talent Management: Top Findings, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP/ Stacia Garr and Candace Atamanik, 2015.

³ Interactive Workforce Transformation Framework, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP/Kathi Enderes, PhD, and Mike Kemp, PhD, 2019.

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