Why “borrow/loan” can become a key function in an Integrated Talent Strategy

I recently participated in a panel discussion at the 2019 Australasian Talent Conference (#ATC2019) to examine what a forward leaning Integrated Talent Strategy would look like.
We discussed five strategies – “Buy”, “Build”, “Borrow”, “Bridge” and “Bots” and how these Talent strategies will enable companies to secure the skills they need, overcome the Talent shortages and allow them to compete successfully in a digital age.
What became clear from the feedback after the session was many companies were unaware of the “Borrow/Loan” strategy and how to employ it in their organisation, so I figured the time is right to demystify this commonly used, yet rarely understood tactic.

What is it?

“Borrow/Loan” is when a business fulfils Talent requirements by borrowing the available staff of another business to complete work, and vice versa loaning available staff to support another business for a project, specialist requirement or for a surge period.
This is nothing new as companies have been successfully using this tactic for decades to get work completed.

So why the confusion?

It comes down to how it is described.
Contracting, subcontracting, secondments, consulting and outsourcing are all methods of “Borrow/Loan” that you have most likely used already.
They all might be described differently but they are essentially all the same – someone else’s employee is completing a body of work for your business when you need them to.

Putting on a different pair of lens

When we look at this in the above mentioned way, most businesses I have spoken to are comfortable with the “borrow” function, but, they will dismiss the “loan” function because “that is just not how we operate because we aren’t a consulting firm”.
However, when you dismiss the “loan” function, you diminish your workforce agility – an important ingredient in today’s everchanging and unpredictable work environment.
“Borrow/Loan” is the one strategy that can empower a business to manage the peaks and troughs of the business cycle, which astonishingly, has become a commonly accepted business problem.
Someone actually said to me once, “That is just the way business is. Everyone experiences peaks and troughs. We just hope we can survive long enough through the troughs to make it back to the peaks.”
I just can’t understand why a business would accept that as a problem when they actually have the means to manage or solve it.

How can a “Borrow/Loan” strategy help?

What it allows you to do is smooth out the peaks and troughs with paid contracts for your staff during the lulls, when their isn’t enough business coming in.
It also allows you to access to hidden Talent to support during the peaks, when you have too much work and not enough staff.
The benefits of employing this strategy are enormous:

  • Maximise revenue while decreasing overheads providing significant cashflow improvements;
  • Provide your staff with job stability allowing you to invest in them for the long term and create the strongest teams for your projects;
  • Maintain corporate knowledge and minimise employee turnover;
  • Improve employee engagement and professional development by allowing your staff to use their full set of skills and experience new ways of working inside new business networks;
  • Diversify your business by creating new relationships in other industries that might require your company’s capabilities which can expand your market; and
  • Access the largest untapped Talent pool in the country – The Happily Employed. We are all fighting over the Talent in the job seeker pool (which is approx. 2.4m people) and scream about Talent shortages, yet there are nine million happily employed people of which three million are regularly underutilised.

Getting employee buy-in

Most businesses will immediately be concerned about how their employees will react to this strategy. Actually, most will just assume their employees won’t want to do it without even raising it with them.
That is disappointing considering the market evidence suggests only positive responses from employees who undertake this kind of work.
Consider what you have learned about the expectations of the younger generations entering the workforce. They want:

  • To work on things with impact;
  • Flexibility and the ability to work on diverse projects and they are regularly multi-skilled.

Given this, they are highly likely to embrace this kind of working which creates a win/win for themselves and the business.
Many businesses actually use this strategy as a professional development tool which employees see as a personal benefit.
Short-term contracts give their staff a change of scenery, so they don’t become stale and demotivated, the ability to work on exciting new projects they have never had access to as well as supports them extending their own professional networks.


Businesses looking to employ this tactic should consider the following to ensure a smooth, collaborative process:

  1. Use online platforms to provide the widest possible visibility of available contracts and employees;
  2. Protect your proprietary information through a Non-Disclosure Agreements;
  3. Review contract agreements to ensure they contain standard non-solicitation clauses to protect your employees, as well as IP protection clauses; and
  4. Seek advice from professionals in the industry.

The “Borrow/Loan” strategy can be a key to balancing your future workforce and will provide your organisation with the flexibility of the gig economy but coupled with the stability of full-time employment.
One of the main outcomes I got from ATC2019 was this – with record Talent shortages, the promise of automation, constant transformation and today’s workforce looking to engage attractive projects on their own terms – it is no longer a question of simply finding Talent.
With the right implementation and buy-in, your business can use “Borrow/Loan” to balance and stabilise your Integrated Talent Strategy and take your business to the next level.
Cover image: Shutterstock

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