Research - Liquid Talent:Tools to Embrace a More Fluid Workforce

Completed October 2017


Member Summit 2017 Presentation

The Hollywood Model 

Project Charter

Statement of Opportunity

"To compete in today’s market, companies must look beyond just updating skills. To drive change, they will need to become agile at each level of their business: their skills, their projects, and their organizations." (source: Accenture:  “Liquid Workforce:  Building the workforce for today’s digital demands”)

A liquid workforce can be an asset to organizations, adding agility in a competitive marketplace.  However, many organizations do not have the structures in place to best take advantage of liquid talent.  Best practices and a toolbox of options for better incorporating liquid talent can help organizations to leverage opportunities presented by this type of workforce.


Identify a set of tools that R&D organizations can use to effectively employ technical liquid talent.

  1. Knowledge Management
    1. What successful techniques have been used by organizations to quickly bring on board liquid talent and to capture knowledge when they depart?
    2. What new techniques may exist to facilitate this?
  2. Human Resources
    1. What practices and policies are in place in companies that are successful in recruiting liquid talent?
    2. What does the compensation and benefits model look like at organizations with a higher level of liquid talent?
    3. Is development needed for liquid talent?
  3. Technology
    1. How do we incorporate external resources into our workforce planning models?
    2. What tools are available to provide shortcuts in the learning process (as YouTube has done)?
    3. What tools can facilitate communication and other logistical challenges (e.g. payment)?
  4. Planning
    1. Determining what talent you will need, when you will need it, and for how long
    2. How do organizations using liquid talent determine the best ratio of liquid talent to internal talent for each project?  Is this decided on a project to project basis?  Is there a set of criteria available?
    3. How do organizations using liquid talent manage the ratio of liquid talent to internal talent across the organization?  Is there an optimum?  A critical mass?
  5. Looking to the future
    1. As the ratio of liquid to internal talent shifts, what are strategies that organizations can take advantage of the trend?


Case studies (at least 6) of R&D organizations using liquid talent; interviews with liquid talent (if needed); interviews with talent agencies (actors/models)


  • Many companies are recruiting or would like to recruit liquid talent.  Companies that would like to recruit liquid talent but are not yet doing so are hindered by corporate structures.
  • Long term retention efforts are not relevant for liquid talent.
  • Many companies are not equipped for the flexibility of a liquid workforce.
  • Employees are more aware of other opportunities than they have been in the past and are more willing to move.
  • Technology allows for greater flexibility in recruitment (e.g. location is less of a factor).

Key definitions

  • Liquid talent:  a more nimble workforce, typically consisting of freelancers, that values flexibility in their work environment and is continually looking for a new challenge/skillset; can either be employed by the organization or an external contracting firm
  • Internal talent:  individuals employed by the organization only with the intention of retaining them in the long term
  • Short term:  two years or less
  • Technical talent:  degreed staff (Bachelor’s +) working in the technical space


  • The focus will be on R&D organizations and technical talent.
  • IP issues

Out of Scope

  • Why liquid talent exists
  • Why companies should use liquid talent
  • Retirees and laid off workers who become contractors for the same organization
  • Crowdsourcing

Milestones and Timeline

December – January:  Develop interview protocol, interviewee contact list, survey questions, survey contact list, and conduct literature review; identify SME

February – April:  Interviews and/or survey, identify case study opportunities, begin conducting case studies

Research Remix, February 22 – 24:  Seek feedback from membership on interview protocol and literature review

May – June:  Review data and complete additional interviews to fill gaps, conduct case studies

Annual Meeting, May 8 – 10:  Provide update to membership

July – August:  Analyze data

September:  Prepare for report out

Member Summit, October 3- 5:  Final report out

October – December:  Write RTM article

January 1, 2018:  Submit article

Team Members

Sealed Air, Schneider Electric, GE, NAIT, Honeywell, USG, Crown Packaging, FM Global, Boeing