Why ‘Borrow’ is a key function of an Integrated Talent Strategy

I recently presented at the 2019 Australasian Talent Conference (#ATC2019) on a panel discussing what a forward leaning Integrated Talent Strategy would look like. This is an essential conversation given, as ATC put it, ‘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.’

We discussed 5 strategies being ‘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 presentation was 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.

Described this way, most businesses will be comfortable with the ‘borrow’ function but will still dismiss the loan function because ‘that’s just not how we operate because we aren’t a consulting firm’. But when you dismiss the ‘loan’ function you take away the true power of this talent strategy which provides workforce agility while maintaining team stability.

‘Borrow/Loan’ is the one strategy that empowers your 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’s 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 when they have the means to manage it.

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, and 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 9 million happily employed people of which 3 million are regularly underutilised.

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’s disappointing considering the market evidence suggests only positive responses from employees who undertake this kind of work.

Consider what you have undoubtedly learnt about the expectations of the younger generations entering the workforce. They want to work on things with impact, they are looking for 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 Agreement,
  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 is 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. Don’t potentially hurt your bottom line or your employees by dismissing a proven strategy simply because you have never used it before. 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.

Written by: Tim Walmsley, Founder and CEO of BenchOn.

BenchOn is a Business Talent Sharing Platform that allows businesses to earn revenue when they need it, by loaning their staff to other non-competing businesses that need specialist or surge support. Now businesses can manage the peaks and troughs of the business cycle more effectively and grow their teams with reduced risk.

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