Why your most important talent doesn’t work for you

Read time 5 mins

Written February 2018

Finding the right people is a perennial problem for CIOs. But if you turn the problem around, outsourcing vital job roles rather than keeping them in-house can be a great boon to your business.

You’re probably familiar with “burst capacity”. It’s the extra bandwidth or cloud workload you allow for – often as external resources – to take up the strain of sudden hikes in resource utilisation, like everyone visiting your ecommerce website at 6pm or everyone needing the same database at 9am.

What’s less known is that burst capacity applies to people, too.

At times, you’ll need expertise in volumes that don’t exist within your business. You don’t have the option to hire those people, because they’re only needed part-time – the C-Suite wouldn’t be happy with the fixed costs of expensive staff with near-empty timesheets. And even if they were, the broad range of specialised skills you need are hard to find, and harder to hire. According to PwC’s 2017 Global Digital IQ Survey, only 52% of companies rated their digital IQ as strong, down from 67% last year.

Let’s face the stark reality of why some vital folk in your business aren’t on your payroll. And – because we know a thing or two about outsourcing – we’ll demonstrate why that can be an asset, rather than a problem.

1. The depth of the talent pool

The number of applications you’ll get for: “Shoreditch start-up seeks sysadmin to work among funky gastropubs and coffee bars”? Probably over 100. For: “Cold-weather farm seeks IT expert, Outer Hebrides location, must like sheep”? Er, somewhat fewer. That’s Problem One: where you base your business isn’t always full of talented people looking for their next job.

Broadband and collaboration software have eased the problem a little: 14% of the UK workforce now works from home at least some of the time. But people aren’t a commodity: you don’t need “0.5 FTEs on call”, you need half the time of Fred Smith who knows your legacy VPN inside out. How to solve this double whammy?

Outsourced IT often exacerbates the problem, by assuming all you need is a “voice on the phone”. No matter how talented, a distant technician who doesn’t know your business can never be as effective as an insider.

There’s a third way: choose the outsource on the basis it appoints a designated team to your account.

A team who, from day one, are always learning about your business, building up organisational knowledge and becoming more effective by the day. With the right outsourcing approach, you can keep your talent pool broad and deep without a vast payroll.

2. Hours-available versus hours-needed

Also important is the distribution of talent between tasks. Your department might have 12 Full-Time Equivalents, but that headcount is spread over a lot more than 12 tasks. Mohammed is part of a two-head team doing load balancing, but he’s also one-third of the six people doing code rewrites. Sarah also writes code, but spends Mondays on the helpdesk. Total timesheeted hours hide a lot of detail.

It’s hard to hire someone you only need for 15 hours a week. (Perhaps that’s why 40 of 56 UK cities have more jobs vacant than job seekers.) What’s the solution?

Many companies are turning to intelligent outsourcing to find the people they need, for the hours they need. If an external partner commits to designating specific experts to your business, you gain the benefits of having that expert on-staff, without the disadvantages of paying hefty full-time salaries. Worth a look? Yes.

3. Outsized talent on a limited budget

The expense of full-time salaries brings up a third point: you want the best people, but your hiring budget is always stretched. Yet you know the biggest talents always give a greater return over time. (If you think top professionals are expensive, just wait until you hire an amateur.)

All this means – unless you’re a hot start-up waving seven-figure options sweeteners – getting top people interested in your business is a trial. (Especially with IT professions now in the top 20 best-paid UK careers.)

Here’s a thought: why not look at not hiring those people… while still getting them to work for you? Those working for an outsource gather knowledge of up to 20 companies at a time, giving them broad experience of business and industry they can bring to your business from Day One of service. So don’t go thinking the top people are always outside your budget. You just need to get creative with the way you work.

4. Finding riches in a sparse ecosystem

You don’t need to travel to remote Scottish isles to find an area lacking in sufficient digital skills. In fact, the chances are that wherever you’re currently sitting reading this, you’re in such an area already.

That’s because three-in-four UK business report that they’re facing a shortage of digital skills in their workplace, despite 84% of firms acknowledging that digital and IT skills are more important than they were two years ago. It’s a shortfall in talent that is costing the UK an estimated £63 billion a year. So to our final tip for making use of the talent that doesn’t work for you: let a partner take the strain.

Professional external resources aren’t just expert providers, they’re expert recruiters. Not surprisingly, IT professionals often enjoy the chance to work with multiple companies over time, solving a variety of different problems every day and building up their experience. So don’t think of your partner as purely a resource – think of them as a second-string HR department, finding your talent for you.

That’s what happens when you think differently about talent. Having your top people on someone else’s payroll can actually be an asset. It lets you budget more effectively, smooth out leaps and dips in demand, and access the right skills in the right quantity whenever you need them. It’s burst capacity for people.


  • The best people don’t work for you – but maybe they don’t have to
  • Burst capacity is as vital for human talent as with network infrastructure
  • Virtualising talent makes especially good sense if your real-world location is remote
  • Outsourcing can bring you top talent on a less-than-sky-high budget
Get In Touch