The Next Generation of Leaders: 5 Tips for Borrowing Talent
September 10, 2018

Borrowing talent may be a great way to address the specific needs of your organization, and is an important part of your overall talent strategy. In my earlier NextGen Leaders posts, I describe scenarios where building or buying talent makes the most sense to keep employees engaged or to build out new capabilities. Now it’s time to address the often overlooked strategy of borrowing talent. When I suggest borrowing talent as a strategy, my clients look puzzled and ask, “How does that work?” As soon as I mention, borrowing talent in the form of professional services, the furrowed brows relax and the brainstorming begins.

5 Tips for Borrowing Talent

Identify Capability Gap Timelines

When identifying capability gaps, remember to think about your timeline. Is this a long term capability developed over the years, or a short term capability needed to meet a specific project need or regulatory/compliance deadline? A long term capability may be best filled with a full time equivalent who will grow with your organization. Consider how long a search will take and how quickly you need the capability. If the need is immediate, explore the flexibility of borrowing. I’m currently working with a client doing just that in the technology area. As my client is pivoting to digital, we have identified capability gaps and are crafting a strategy to meet short and long term needs–borrowing talent is at the forefront.

Explore Short Term Solutions

If the specialized skill is a short term need, then hiring a contract project manager or an industry-specific consultant is a way to borrow the expertise that you need and hit the ground running. When your organization is in growth mode, it’s important to move quickly. Another way to address short term needs is through your internship program. Bright young minds are looking for opportunities to contribute over the summer months–especially high school students 16-18 who are not considered because they aren’t in college. I recently worked on a transformation project with a high school senior who was amazing. Her technology skills, organizational prowess and creative thinking added tremendous value to our project team.

Highlight Tempting Intangibles

As the talent shortage intensifies, it becomes harder for small and medium businesses to find the expertise that they need because they can’t compete with larger organizations. This is especially true in Tech Hubs like Boston, NY, San Francisco, and Seattle. Small companies have many advantages when it comes to borrowing talent including streamlined processes, closer customer contact, and more individual autonomy. These intangibles will tempt creative talent to consider your business because you’re considering their desire for a high level of engagement. Concerned about competing on the salary playing field? Prospective employees are looking at the work environment, the ability to make an impact, and the fairness of the pay.

Try Before you Buy

Borrowing talent from staffing firms, specialized consultants and student interns provides an opportunity for both parties to explore cultural fit. How many times have you invested in a FTE that was a poor cultural fit? When you need capabilities to speed execution, cultural fit may not be as important. I’ve served as the trainer with a number of clients, developed undiscovered internal talent and moved on once the muscle was strong. Borrowing talent allows for succeeding or failing fast with the ability to pivot quickly.

Appeal to Non-Traditional Hires

Take advantage of the “gig economy”. Create a contingent workforce with expertise to jump in and out of short term projects, cover leaves of absence and help out in peak sales seasons. Job sharing and remote workers can support organizations as they grow and thrive. As Baby Boomers continue to retire and the workforce shrinks, organizations can leverage this skilled talent pool to plug capability gaps and create train the trainer opportunities. I recently worked with a retired architect on a home remodel. He was extremely talented and able to provide me with exceptional service.

Today, more than ever, you can borrow the expertise you need to grow and maximize your success, so be open to the possibilities!

Leesa Schipani

Leesa Schipani


With 20+ years HR experience, her focus includes HR strategy, talent management, and customer & employee experience. Leesa has advanced HR certifications: SPHR, SHRM-SCP.


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KardasLarson is a human resources and business consulting firm that maximizes employee performance so people and organizations prosper.



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