How Much Surplus Talent Do You Have?

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In 2010, Vantage Point engaged 166 individuals in 205 roles alongside our staff team of eight. I’m often asked: how do you find all of these talented people?

In a recent survey conducted with our external talent, the average individual had been engaged with Vantage Point for 4 years.  BUT – and it’s an important but – 57% of those individuals most recently worked on a project with us for less than 3 months. 

When we talk about episodic engagement, people often envision someone coming into an organization for a limited time and leaving when their role is over – the end. That’s a huge investment of time and resources to continuously recruit, onboard and engage episodically, right?

But what if that individual continued to stay connected and informed about your organization’s activities after their engagement finished and in a few months found another role with you? During that time you would focus on other people and projects.  However, when the next opportunity came, the person could bring their skills back to the organization and apply them in a new way. 

Now – what if that one person was in fact an entire pool of people? At any one time you would have an army of surplus talent recharging their batteries, waiting to deploy their skills in marketing, strategy, evaluation, HR, fund development, IT, governance….  I could go on and on.

I was recently struck by this concept of “surplus talent” from the Harvard Business Review article “Reinvent Your Business Before It’s Too Late” by Paul Nunes and Tim Breene. The authors suggest that for an organization to be adaptable it must continuously cultivate new talent.

In the not-for-profit sector, our competitive advantage is the surplus talent we have available to us in the form of passionate people who lend us their time and skills.

If we want our organizations to be adaptable, we must start thinking about our relationships with external talent as adaptable rather than stagnant. There are times when an individual is 100% engaged, and then there are times when they take a breather.  The key is to expect and plan for the opportunity to work together again.

Working in this way means your organization is connected with a pool of individuals familiar with your mission and ready to bring their skills PLUS their past organizational knowledge to deliver the next project.

Building a pool of surplus talent takes time. But it is so worthwhile!  Having such an army at the ready allows us to deliver innovative strategies – some of which we intend, and some we make up together along the way. This approach enables us to plan for the long-term, and be nimble enough to change course in a moment’s notice. It inspires us to produce quick bursts of energy and take a pause when we require it – on both sides.

How will you begin to build your surplus talent pool?

About the Author

Annastasia Forst contributed her creative and analytic work ethic (not an oxymoron) to Vantage Point as a past Director of Learning. She is passionate about working with many talented knowledge philanthropists to develop, deliver and evaluate Vantage Point’s board and executive leadership...

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