Millions of words and dozens of catchphrases have been deployed to describe the current state of work and the workforce. We’ve heard about how workers view their employers, and about employers’ distress regarding the shortage of workers. 

Evocative catchphrases like the “great resignation,” “quiet quitting” and the “big quit” have been used to describe a global talent crisis as insidious as fog spreading across myriad sectors.

We need to call out things for what they are: employee disengagement.

The situation points to a power imbalance, and policies that are often out of sync between workers and “the work.” This  conflict may have become more apparent to both employers and employees during the pandemic. Once recognised, there’s no returning to business as usual.

The changing nature of business dictates changing the way we view talent. Leadership must radically improve the processes of talent sourcing, acquisition, management and retention. That’s how they will achieve and sustain the greatest value from the convergence of flows of people and their talent, expertise and positions.

Employers who can rethink the way people contribute to every part of their work can aim for a “flow” state where both the work and workers are excellent.

That’s just one part of the equation, however. It’s the first step on a journey to reshape human resource (HR) processes to be “next-generation” ready. Understanding how, why and where employees work optimally is equally important. Employers who can rethink the way people contribute to every part of their work can aim for a “flow” state where both the work and workers are excellent. Think about flow this way: It’s a state of mind where a person becomes fully immersed in “the work.”

What happens when employers work to enable flow in their organisations?

 People flow

Talented employees are engaged, skilled and effective. They are challenged, and their work shows evidence of creativity and excitement. The flow of people, along with their talents and expertise, needs to be continuously curated.

Process flow

When talent processes are managed from the moment talent is noticed until it is recruited, onboarded, developed and retained,it drives a continuum of learning and growth. Even the process of separating talent from the organisation can be well managed and supportive. Yet, these processes can only flow effectively when they are regularly evaluated, challenged and disrupted.

 Value flow

The talent flow must add value for the organisation, its employees and its partners. Organisations are shifting the types and locations of the work they do, driving toward platforms and more autonomous working units. This requires that new and valuable skills must surface. Value will emerge in the organisation by proactively developing an employee’s talents and fusing these with the existing organisational foundation of talent and expertise. This requires creating both engaging and desired opportunities for workers to contribute. They need to do so in ways that demonstrate their expertise and are aligned to the organisation’s value agenda.

Developing these flows is not a trivial task. Organisations must get beyond the forces driving change, navigate around the potholes that trip up workers, managers and HR professionals, and define the nature of the changes they need to make. This work becomes transformational for the organisation. In this paper, we define the emerging state of work and flow, and talk about the forces shaping the changes and how to prepare for them. We include five specific areas to focus on during 2023.

In a word, it’s complex out there

There is a lot of noise right now around the workplace and talent management. But one statistic that should rise above the din comes courtesy of’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report.ⁱ “Employees who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity…..That’s equal to 11% of global GDP.”

So, companies are testing multiple paths to find and to engage talent. The UK has tested the idea of a 4-day work week, which has proven hugely popular. In the United States, Amazon raised their base minimum wage to $19. Those are simple concepts, yet recruiting new employees is not. Another thing it is not: cheap. Current data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows cost-per-hire clocking in at $4,700.ⁱⁱ Remember, that’s an average. The total costs, hard and soft, can be triple or quadruple each new hire’s salary.

Companies can help turn on people, process and value flow by engineering workforce talent complexities into opportunities. We’ve seen the benefits of exactly these sorts of complexities translating to benefits when myriad employees moved to remote work as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns. Many pundits expected that employees working from home would be less effective. But objective measures now show the opposite to be true.

A study by Stanford of 16,000 workers over 9 months found that working from home increased effectiveness by 13%.ⁱⁱⁱ

It’s a matter of separating out the noise in the market to determine where change will count.

Redesigning for talent flow

Ultimately, we need to renovate — if not flat-out reengineer — a virtuous cycle around talent including how we enable and manage it. This new baseline should include a new definition and processes that cover more than just the core interactions during hiring and onboarding.

Companies must consider a significantly broader set of competencies to deliver better talent management and human resources. From discovery and acquisition to application, hiring and development, and right up to separation, talent processes need to take the people, process and value flows into consideration.

Ultimately, we need to renovate — if not flat-out reengineer — a virtuous cycle around talent and how we enable and manage it.

These processes will need to become more fluid and autonomous as the contemporary workforce itself becomes more fluid and autonomous. Where individual human talents and organisations come together for “the work,” all stakeholders should benefit in meaningful and measurable ways. That’s true whether the work lasts a day or a decade.

To achieve that outcome, close attention must be paid to every aspect of the talent cycle so as to ease bottlenecks and reduce friction.

The nine steps of talent flow  

The ability of the enterprise to take full advantage of its people and their expertise is a prerequisite for business success, more so in this time of accelerated change. In what we call the Accelerated Now — where organisations are in harmony with technology and how it is used to deliver growth and agility — businesses must redefine the processes around the discovery, acquisition, application, development and separation of talent.

There have been few transformative disruptions in recent decades to the sequence of recruiting, onboarding, managing and separating talent. Now, companies must take a deeper look at how they manage the flow of talent. To succeed at continually increasing agility in our radically digitised era, companies must think about the work to be done. In a market increasingly driven by knowledge work and service delivery in digital value streams, candidates and employees are seeking paths to find meaning in their organisations and their work.

The talent life cycle is a series of processes to be planned, actively managed and continuously curated. This will ease bottlenecks, reduce friction, drive organisational capability and enhance the human experience. Reengineering talent flow requires increasing velocity. It also requires eliminating wasted time and building breadth by seeking other talent pools and operating models.

And, it demands extending engagement by introducing multiple touchpoints inside and outside the work environment. 

In this report we will take you through the stages and their related steps that will support your commitment to talent flow this year. Read on.