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Flexibly deploying talent: opportunities and…
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Strategy & Innovation

Flexibly deploying talent: opportunities and success factors of co-sourcing

We all need to and will stay at work longer. The question arises as to how we can ensure that, for employees, this is not a story of "must" but of "want". Organizations face the task of creating workable work for employees of all ages, keeping in mind their employability and opportunities for growth throughout their careers.
Ans devos
by Ans De Vos, PhD | November 29, 2017
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This requires a thorough redesign of career policies. Co-sourcing, or talent sharing between organizations, provides an opportunity for this. Here, organizations unite within a network to tackle a common challenge. Prof. Dr. Ans De Vos and researcher David Stuer examined the possibilities and success factors of co-sourcing, offered by Experience@Work.


Experience@Work is a mobility platform of several companies sharing the professional experience of their senior employees (50 years or older) with other organizations. It offers a specific form of co-sourcing and allows experienced employees to be employed in another organization for a long period of time. It breaks through the boundaries within which a career policy is traditionally shaped and strives to work with the organizations involved to bring senior talents into the labor market for as long and as meaningfully as possible. The platform was created as an experiment with potential to become mainstream.

The hiring organizations entering the Experience@Work platform are faced with the question of how, with lengthening careers and an aging labor population, they can keep their experienced employees employed in a meaningful way. There are also the hiring organizations, where there is generally a demand for experience and expertise.


To gain insight into the reasons and critical success factors of co-sourcing, we surveyed Experience@Work participants, as well as their former and their current executives. Co-sourcing currently still constitutes a small-scale initiative, but by surveying three different parties, a rich picture of these reasons and success factors emerged.


Three areas of tension can be derived from the interviews with employees. Those areas of tension include reasons why employees make the move to another organization. They also explain whether this move is perceived as successful. The first tension field has to do with authenticity. This tension refers to a personal need of the individual to be able to use his own strengths and also to do justice to his own person. This need may arise due to changes in the organization, or due to changes in the person himself, as a result of which one experiences a lack of "fit" with the organization in which one was employed for many years. This need for authenticity is met very individually and the concrete motivation of participants to get involved can vary enormously.

Mastery & trial

A second tension exists between "mastery" and "trial. Whoever steps into a co-sourcing project is in the paradoxical situation of being "senior" and "junior" at the same time. On the one hand, one already has a lot of experience behind him. On the other hand, one steps into a substantively new job, in a company from a completely different sector, in which one starts working as a layman. It is up to the employees, but also to the hiring organization, to make use of the employee's strengths and experience, but at the same time pay attention to welcoming and guiding the person as a newcomer in the organization. It is precisely this mix of old and new competencies that is experienced as very stimulating by those involved.

Old and new context

A third tension is that between the old and new contexts. People internally experience the contrast between how the new organization works versus the old organization. A recurring element here is the contrast between the usually highly structured context from which one comes and the more informal, flatter structure of the new organization.

These latter two tensions can give rise to innovation in the new organization. For this, social integration in the new context is very important. When the new employee and the existing team communicate and appreciate each other on a regular basis, new ideas can quickly take root. The manager in the new context can play an important role in this, for example by organizing workshops in which the experienced employee shares knowledge or brainstorming sessions for the whole team.


Experience@Work seems to have a lot of potential as an end-of-career initiative. Participants unanimously indicate that they experience more meaning and challenge back in their work and this in a context that fits well with their own values and norms. At the same time, they also bring the old context and are the ideal person to innovate in the new organization. Our tremors break the often persistent stereotypes about older employees' motivation and willingness to learn.

Finally, it should be noted that people often get in because changing organizational contexts compel them to do so. They find that Experience@Work blows a new wind through their careers and gets them back to work with enthusiasm, but without that "push" they might not have done it. Hiring organizations also feel an experience richer. However, to fully benefit as an organization from the knowledge the new employee brings in, the right context must be offered.


The participants involved spontaneously reported a positive impact of the project on their well-being, on the lending organization and the hiring organization. 60% of the workers were no longer learning in their previous jobs, but all are learning again in their new organization. In addition, as many as 80% felt they could use their strengths in their new job. 80% of employees on loan also still feel a strong connection to their original employer, to the extent that they show great loyalty to their original employer as ambassadors. Finally, all borrowed employees feel that in the new organization they can use competencies acquired during their previous job.

Despite the positive effects indicated by all parties, we should mention that there are certain boundary conditions that help determine the potential for an initiative like Experience@Work to become mainstream. For example, it appears that it is mainly employees who have already changed jobs (internally) several times in their previous careers who take part, and there is a need for awareness-raising and a clear framework for managers. The debate about retention of employment conditions must also be conducted. Even though all respondents indicate that their renewed motivation is much more important than the retention of their salary, they would not have taken the step if they had not received this security.

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