De-Risking Your Talent Strategy in 5 Steps

An engaged workforce is every company’s most competitive advantage, and it’s susceptible to risk. Your ability to build a team—and their ability to work—can be affected by any number of factors, including natural disasters, civil unrest, cybersecurity attacks, and economic factors creating high competition. When any of these things occur, it becomes harder to keep operations running, and to give your team the critical support they need.

By taking steps to de-risk your talent strategy, you can keep employees engaged, help team members facing transportation, relocation, or personal safety challenges, and bring in as-needed support to keep critical operations online.

Table of contents: De-risking your talent strategy

What creates talent risk?

Risk can have a profound impact on your company’s ability to perform a variety of critical operations, including:

  • Project launches
  • Customer support
  • Account security
  • Transportation of goods
  • Vendor payment
  • Employee payment
  • Benefits continuity

Here’s what risks might look like for your business—and how to protect against it.

Risk #1: Loss of personal safety

Civil unrest and natural disasters can put your team members and talent prospects in danger. At these times, everyone’s first priority should be their own safety, followed by the safety of their teams. If your company is located in an area prone to natural disasters or you expect some element of unrest, it can be helpful to create a workplace emergency preparedness plan and also encourage your team members to create personal disaster preparedness plans.

Once it’s known that you and your team members are safe, maintaining business operations typically becomes the next priority. Many people depend on your company remaining active—including the very team members who are impacted by risk events.

If your overall business operations are dramatically impacted, you may not be able to provide your teams with the financial, logistical, emotional, or physical support they need to relocate or otherwise establish a safe home base.

While every company’s plan will be different, it’s a good idea to consider how you will:

  • Evacuate office buildings
  • Support team members’ movement to safer places
  • Check in with team members and make sure they are okay
  • Maintain payments to team members
  • Ensure legal compliance based on team members’ relocation or visa status
  • Continue regular team benefits, and implement new crisis-specific programs as needed
  • Move work off-site, if needed
  • Communicate with essential business partners, vendors, and customers

It’s important to have plans of action in place before a crisis hits.

Risk #2: Infrastructure shutdowns

When civil unrest, natural disasters, or utility interruptions occur, vital infrastructure can shut down or become damaged. This can include the loss of electricity, internet, cellular service, and transportation.

Your teams may suddenly find it difficult to get to and conduct work, whether they’re remote from home or commute to an office. This creates a talent gap between the amount of staff you have on hand and the staff you need.

If your workforce is typically on-site, having a plan to rapidly switch to remote work can help reduce risk if they can’t get to the office. If your team members can’t work from home, then you may need to be ready to call in additional support in the form of independent talent.

Finding and vetting new talent will be difficult during a time of crisis, so consider preparing a curated list of trusted professionals in advance.

Risk #3: Cybersecurity threats

While any company can be the target of a cyberattack, 57% of companies surveyed by Information Systems Security Association International and the Enterprise Strategy Group said they’ve been impacted by a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals. If your business isn’t ready to protect against a breach, cybercriminals could bring your workflow to a grinding halt.

A cyberattack can impact the technology and connections your teams rely upon to:

  • Send and receive communications
  • Pay and manage existing team members
  • Source new talent
  • Process vendor and customer payments
  • Manage inventory

In order to keep your talent strategy intact and maintain workforce continuity, you’ll need to ensure your company is ready for changes in the cybersecurity landscape. This may involve expanding your internal cybersecurity team or working with outside consultants.

Risk #4: Talent shortages

Catastrophic events aren’t your only risk. Talent strategy can also be jeopardized by fluctuations in the market that lead to:

  • More companies moving into—or skilled talent moving out of—a specific area
  • High competition between companies in need of skilled professionals
  • Common skill gaps in the local talent pool for businesses interested in on-site team growth
  • Increasing employee attrition rates in specific industries or regions

If your enterprise is headquartered in an area impacted by civil unrest or natural disasters and experiencing industry talent shortages, you could face multiple sources of risk.

By continually looking for new ways to build out your talent pipeline, you can remain ahead of the curve—and competitors—no matter what comes your way.

What does de-risking look like in practice?

While you may know what to do to de-risk your talent strategy on paper, putting it into practice can require more advanced planning, proactive measures, and help from trusted partners than initially expected.

Of course, you can’t eliminate every risk to your talent strategy. But by taking the following steps to limit the impact of risk on your business right now, you can improve business continuity and keep your operations running with minimal interruption in a variety of scenarios.

1. Maintain workforce continuity through geographic diversity

When your workforce is regional, your company can be at a greater risk of a complete disruption due to localized natural disasters, civil unrest, or high regional competition for skilled talent. By working with team members across multiple regions, your business gains the flexibility to restructure work as needed in order to maintain critical operations.

The practice of geographically diversifying your workforce may look different from one company to the next and across industries.

One way to diversify is to maintain a bench of on-demand professionals to engage on projects as needed. To do this, you’ll want to prescreen independent professionals who meet your needs, and then work with them on at least one project during non-crisis times. Or, you’ll need to find a trusted partner who can screen independent talent for you and deliver hand-selected recommendations for you to quickly brief and onboard.

For example, if an issue arises and critical project needs are not being met, you can tap into your vetted network of experts and quickly get help. It’s a good idea to have a support plan in place for any critical aspects of your business such as web, mobile and software development, customer service, IT, and marketing.

2. Embrace remote work in your business strategy and company culture

A successful business continuity plan embraces new ways of working, including remote and freelance work. This goes beyond curating a list of trusted top talent. Your Human Resources and business leaders will need to be ready to rapidly integrate and onboard independent talent during times of upheaval and change.

To quickly and efficiently handle the onboarding process in times of crisis, you should:

  • Have all necessary documentation prepared and ready for use before a crisis hits. This can include master service agreements (MSAs), nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), intellectual property (IP) agreements, statements of work (SOWs) and project contracts.
  • Keep the contact, tax, and payment details of trusted independent talent ready to use. Make sure they’re in your systems and can be activated quickly upon signing the necessary paperwork and that you’re complying with applicable laws in the retention and security of this information.
  • Have a plan to transition in-office employees to remote work arrangements.

As with finding talent to help in times of crisis, it may also be easier for your company to leave these compliance and payment matters in the hands of a partner experienced in talent acquisition, talent management, onboarding, and global compliance.

Also keep in mind that independent professionals are available for larger projects, and many prefer to work with the same client on a repeat basis.

Creating these lasting relationships with independent professionals isn’t only beneficial in times of crisis. By introducing independent talent into your workforce, you may be able to:

  • Deliver work faster, like Microsoft
  • Save six figures in costs while improving workflow, like Amway
  • Delight over 90% of your customers, like Thumbtack

3. Fill skill gaps before they develop

When you regularly work with a roster of independent talent, you increase your exposure to individuals with highly specialized, advanced skill sets. This is a great way to expand your team’s total areas of expertise.

You can also bring in trusted advisers and consultants to fill skill gaps or provide training to permanent staff members. When you have a flexible, hybrid-friendly system in place, you can easily bring these professionals onto your team for specific projects as needed.

And, if you find that you need their skills on a full-time basis, you can explore transitioning them into an employee role.

4. Fortify your tech/infrastructure solutions

For your business continuity plan to work, though, you’ll need a strong and secure tech stack. You need your systems to be secure, your teams to be trained in cybersecurity best practices, and your contingency plans in place should a technological attack occur. Coordinate with your I.T. teams to have plans in place for:

  • Remote work security
  • Independent talent systems access
  • Phishing and scam attacks
  • Distributed denial of service attacks
  • Other enterprise systems breaches that may happen

Leveraging cloud computing systems and virtual private networks (VPNs) can keep operations running and help team members access essential data from anywhere with an internet connection.

5. Speed up decision-making processes

The bottom line is that when a crisis hits, you want to be able to move quickly. Taking steps to speed up decision-making and onboarding processes is a crucial part of de-risking your talent strategy.

This doesn’t mean you have to move at warp speed all of the time. It does mean that, when you’re faced with a challenge, you’ll be ready to implement contingency plans and move decisions forward at a rapid pace. Your strategy can include:

  • Obtaining advance buy-in on action plans from necessary stakeholders and HR leaders
  • Working with an outside partner that can help with finding and onboarding additional talent in critical situations
  • Creating a game plan for how you will support team members’ physical and emotional health during times of crisis
  • Ensuring you have backup plans and failsafes in place to ensure your workers are paid during uncertain times
  • Being ready to switch to remote work if onsite staff is unable to make it it to the workplace
  • Building a strong data security framework so your team is not derailed by nefarious cyber activity

If you do have to put one of your contingency plans in place, this advance work should help make the process smoother and more efficient when time is of the essence.

De-risk your talent strategy with Enterprise Suite

While the de-risking process has a lot of moving parts, you don’t have to start from scratch.

When you work with Enterprise Suite, our features adapt to your business needs. Whether you’re serving a broad global audience or dealing in a highly regulated or niche industry, our high-touch support service can be molded to your specifications. This can include help with:

  • Developing a talent strategy that meets your  specific needs
  • Creating a pool of proven independent professionals suited to your business model
  • Connecting your company with top agencies to support your internal teams
  • Managing contracts and statements of work
  • Creating compliant employment and independent contractor agreements through employer of record and agent of record services
  • Engaging and working with freelancers outside of areas where you have a business presence
  • Bringing your existing independent talent onto the Upwork platform for a unified experience
  • Paying your team of talented professionals

Schedule a call today to learn more about how Enterprise Suite can help your company de-risk its talent strategy—and gain a trusted partner ready to help you every step of the way.

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Author Spotlight

De-Risking Your Talent Strategy in 5 Steps
Emily Gertenbach
B2B SEO Content Writer & Consultant

Emily Gertenbach is a B2B writer who creates SEO content for humans, not just algorithms. As a former news correspondent, she loves digging into research and breaking down technical topics. She specializes in helping independent marketing professionals and martech SaaS companies connect with their ideal business clients through organic search.

Emily Gertenbach is a B2B writer who creates SEO content for humans, not just algorithms. She's a former news correspondent who loves research and reporting.

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