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How To Create a Total Talent Strategy for the New Era

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Recent events have deeply impacted companies worldwide, providing an opportunity to design a new path forward in strategic HR. From talent shortages to talent mobility, from working from home to implementing hybrid work models, companies everywhere are facing new challenges head-on, developing ways of attracting and retaining talent and creating a new total talent strategy to face the coming era of work.

During the 2021 CHRO meeting in San Francisco, several company leaders and our CEO and founder, Dimitri Boylan, gathered to talk more about what organizations need to be aware of when it comes to building a total talent strategy in this day and age. We’ve gathered all the insights so be sure to read on!

The Importance of Workforce Skills

Part of future-proofing for companies is shifting towards a total talent strategy that contemplates workforce skills rather than traditional roles. As Pranesh Anthapur, VP HR at Uber, highlighted it’s important to first understand how jobs are changing for the future of work and the nuances this brings.

We invested a lot to understand what the different jobs are, how we can configure them, and who we need to collaborate with in this new world.

– Pranesh Anthapur, VP HR at Uber

With data scientists and data science spread out in every sector at Uber, they decided to leverage the existing workforce skills and identify any talent gaps to be filled. Through analysis of jobs, company and market changes, and what the business requires, they were able to better grasp what skills are needed from candidates in different roles and what they also needed to work on as a company in the new era of work.

Developing a talent management strategy isn’t the only thing that’s shifted this past year; there’s also been a change in talent acquisition strategies when it comes to identifying relevant candidates. According to Paul Phillips, Global Head of Talent Acquisition & Total Reward at Avanade, they focused more on the learning agility candidates possess instead of the current skills they may have.


We have seen a shift in our mentality around what a good hire looks like here at Avanade and started to focus less on the skills they have today, on the basis that we’re looking for individuals that have really high learning agility, are courageous and are ambitious. We look for some of those softer skill sets that we can then utilize to enable that continuous learning approach that I think is necessary, certainly in the world of technology we’re working in today.

– Paul Phillips, Global Head of Talent Acquisition & Total Reward at Avanade

Learning and Development

With companies like Uber and Avanade analyzing the skills their workforce needs to incorporate for a total talent strategy, learning and development initiatives have taken a more predominant role in companies. Both Paul and Pranesh agreed that training and implementing learning programs for their internal talent is essential for employee engagement and company performance.

When it comes to Avanade, Paul described that they’ve invested in ways they can transition their business, going from a professional services organization to also become educators. They’ve done this by setting up three entry points into Avanade, investing in the talent up front and reskilling them so they are job-ready and project-ready. These entry points are:

  • Early talent.
  • Career changes, returners to work. This enables them to look at untapped talent pools, with people that are looking to create more job security.
  • Individuals with technology skills that differ from the ones at Avanade. They have a baseline but require upskilling to be more in touch with the technology used at the company.

A great example I could share is something recent in Brazil. We’ve just hired 200 women. This not only helps us to meet our skills shortage but also some of our diversity goals as an organization. These individuals weren’t all early talent. We had 50+ year olds joining Avanade to start a new career in the world of technology. We diversified this talent in different skill sets depending on the needs of our business that we saw coming around the corner and invested in upskilling that talent so they could be job ready.

– Paul Phillips, Global Head of Talent Acquisition & Total Reward at Avanade

In Uber’s case, Pranesh explained they’ve created a platform that allows them to promote internal gigs and let employees get involved in projects. This lets people learn new skills from working on projects aligned with company needs while still doing their jobs.

You will learn more by doing something new. That really aligns with our own promotion and career path philosophy. So we are seeing a huge uptick of gigs and some of them result in a full time transition to the role that they never thought they would. That’s an example of how one new behavior we’ve learned has been implemented and is seeing huge success.

– Pranesh Anthapur, VP HR at Uber

Pranesh also noted that they had vacancies in a few areas of the business; such was the case with recruiters. So, looking at the amount of recruiter job openings they had, they decided to establish a recruiter academy, hiring new graduates and training them. They promoted the jobs on campuses and put a special focus on how it could be developed as a gateway into other roles.

Don’t Take Talent Mobility For Granted

For most companies in recent years, internal talent mobility has been a mandatory necessity in order to fill vacancies as quickly as possible. With skills in mind, companies have seen that the future of work is no longer sticking to a ladder when it comes to career growth. Employees look forward to growing wherever existing workforce skills and learning take them, be it vertically or horizontally.

These internal opportunities and gigs that companies offer make up a valuable part of the total talent strategy of the future. It wouldn’t be complete without considering employees’ career paths, growth and aspirations.

In Uber’s case, Pranesh described that a part of their business immediately died once the pandemic struck, while the other grew exponentially. They came to the realization that they needed to incorporate an internal mobility process that would allow them to move talent with very rapid learning to the areas of need.


Internal mobility has worked well for us. (…) We do a lot of that, more than many other organizations. We actively encourage it. Thirty percent of our new needs get filled through the internal mobility process so it’s a great career goal for employees.

– Pranesh Anthapur, VP HR at Uber

Pranesh also realized that the success of their internal mobility strategy also relies on succession planning and performance management. This way, key roles were offered to internal candidates that were ready to take the next step in their careers and had the performance reviews and information to solidify this decision.

To Conclude…

As Dimitri described it, companies were forced to spur into action this past year, presented with an opportunity for new ideas and strategies.

I think it’s been an opportunity. It’s a terrible crisis but there’s an opportunity for customers to have a whiteboard now, without getting caught in any constructs and move to a different kind of model.

– Dimitri Boylan, CEO & Founder at Avature

Internal talent, education, understanding the gaps in the organization…it’s all part of what a company needs in order to develop a total talent strategy that will prepare them for the future, whatever that may bring. A workforce and company that implements a total talent strategy is better prepared than one that doesn’t take action at all.

It’s really about actively doing things now, even if you don’t know all of the future state. You’re in a state of action.

– Dimitri Boylan, CEO & Founder at Avature

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