Contracting, consulting and secondments have been a business staple for decades, but now there’s a new option for businesses. Talent loaning can help multiple parties profit off the cost of staff during downtimes. We spoke to Tim Walmsley, CEO and Founder of talent loaning platform BenchOn, about why companies should consider sharing their talent.
Talent loaning explained
On a surface level, talent loaning – also referred to as talent sharing, Uber-hiring and pop-up teams – isn’t too far removed from a secondment, in that talent loaning allows businesses to contract out their employees to another company in order to complete a task.
Typically, secondments are conducted within the same organisation, where an employee is sent to another department or body. They are very popular in the legal and government sectors. Talent loaning, on the other hand, isn’t restricted by companies or departments – instead, employees can be shared between organisations in hugely disparate industries for the betterment of both parties. Simply put, talent loaning is a much broader activity than traditional secondments.
“The benefit of talent loaning is that the staff member remains an employee of their parent company,” Tim explains. “Nothing changes for the employee – they don’t lose their tenure or their leave or their entitlements. They continue getting paid their regular salary, but instead they work on another company’s project for an agreed time.”
And for the company loaning in the employee, the process functions in a similar way to hiring a consultant or contingent (non-permanent) worker. Tim’s company expedites what was a previously arduous task – businesses simply put a callout for an individual with a particular skill set on BenchOn’s online talent loaning platform, which then acts on behalf of the company to source an appropriate loanee.
The unexpected cost-benefit of talent loaning
Tim says business leaders are waking up to the financial opportunities of talent loaning as opposed to traditional consulting.
- Financial benefits
“If I went to a ‘big four’ consulting firm and asked for a contractor to come and complete a specific task, I’d have to pay them top-of-the-market rates. This is because I’m going to them.
“Now, when you’re loaning staff, you’re taking that employee at a time when the other company doesn’t have much for them to do. So they are experiencing a financial loss by paying their salary while they aren’t working on anything revenue-generating.”
Because of this, Tim says companies can reduce their overheads by loaning out employees at a rate that covers their costs – not top-of-the-market rates you’d pay a consultancy. “That means businesses can get much higher-quality professionals at heavily discounted rates.”
- Staff engagement
There’s also the engagement factor to consider. Think about a full-time staff member who’s recently finished a long-term project. Instead of being busy all day every day, they now have large pockets of time where they are not engaged with tasks, or with their co-workers, while waiting for the next project to roll in. In this instance, the company is wasting resources while the staff member is becoming less and less engaged. A talent loaning situation could be the perfect solution – it can boost the employee’s engagement and professional development while allowing them to use their complete skill set on a new project.
- Diverse workforce and relationships
Diversity is another added benefit of talent loaning. Not only does the practice allow for a more diverse workforce, but it also helps businesses diversify their offering into industries they may have never considered beneficial to their operations. This can build new and powerful relationships, as well as expand the organisation’s capabilities, with the potential to positively impact their bottom line too.
Why would a business want to give away its own talent?
Tim believes that the fast-evolving workplace is having a direct impact on how business leaders staff their companies, especially considering the gig economy, the rise of the startup, and millennials’ thirst for flexible work.
“A lot of industries are now looking at how they can create an integrated talent solution, where they have their permanent staff as well as their contingent workforce who can be flexed up and down as they require,” Tim says. “That is now a legitimate way to staff your business, and it’s all about workforce agility and flexibility for the parent company.”
Another reason why a company may want to loan out its staff or borrow employees from another company is the ability to bring in specialists without committing them to a permanent role or expensive consulting contract.
“Let’s say a specialist project management firm wins a large contract, and they do so well that their client requests they also take over a project requiring a logistician or software developer.
“Now, that business doesn’t want to hire logisticians or software developers, otherwise it dilutes their capability and they no longer become a specialist project management firm. So in order to keep the potency of their capability, they can loan in external skill sets that they don’t specialise in.”
Talent loaning in the real world
With the sensitivity of the projects BenchOn’s clients are conducting, Tim can’t name names of the companies that have seen huge success in locating the best talent for loan. However, he is able to share an example of a recent match-up that worked out even better than he and his team expected.
“We had a medium-size company looking at developing an app to enhance their business, so they came to BenchOn and requested staffing help. At the same time, there was a startup that had developed their own app and were getting it approved in the Apple Store, but there was a gap of six months before their public launch.
“They couldn’t let their Chief Technology Officer go because that person had built their whole system, but as a startup, they had no money to keep him employed. So, BenchOn matched the two up and the CTO worked inside the medium-size organisation to build their app during the six-month break.
The money the startup earned from that contract actually fast-forwarded their push-to-market by a minimum of six months, but they believe it was closer to 12 months because of the revenue injection. And the medium-size organization got a cutting-edge developer at a very reasonable rate who completed the whole project for them.”
The results of sharing talent, as Tim shows, speak for themselves.
How to start loaning talent
According to Tim, BenchOn is currently the only company in Australia facilitating the practice of talent loaning as a third party. The company checks each employee profile that is matched to the customer’s requirements based on their skill set, experience, and industry background, and allows the ‘loaning in’ company to choose from a selection of recommended candidates.
It’s vital with talent loaning that there is a high level of employee screening to ensure the company gets exactly what they need, which is why BenchOn is purely B2B so that the employing company ensures they only put forward the highest calibre of staff to represent their brand. Through BenchOn there’s even a review process after the loan is over, which helps the company maintain the integrity of the process.
So for businesses wanting to take advantage of a talent loaning solution, there are a few practical steps they must take before reaching out to another company or making use of a third-party platform:
- Conduct an audit of current staff to see if there are talent gaps, or potentially staff who aren’t being used to their full potential.
- Investigate the costs of using a consultancy to bring in the required talent, and measure that cost against a talent loaning platform like BenchOn.
- Review which industries would be beneficial to partner with, particularly in terms of diversifying the business’s offering and creating a more diverse workforce.
- If working directly with another company, ensure all contracts regarding the loan are watertight – otherwise, use a third-party platform to manage all the legal and compliance.
Take the leap by either loaning out or loaning in talent to diversify the business.