Bridge the Gap With the Talent Integration Ecosystem

08 May, 2014

By Dr. Charlie Grantham and Norma Owen

In This Article

What’s wrong with today’s way of providing talent when, where and how it is needed? Community and business leaders understand there clearly is a mismatch between the educational system in the United States, which produces a supply of labor force participants, and an economy, which has a demand for this talent.[1] It is our contention that current labor supply mechanisms are based on industrial era competencies such as unit productivity, timeliness of function and command compliance human resource management techniques.


The problem is the emergent economy places an emphasis on innovation, collaboration and integrative systemic thinking and behaviors. Labor now creates its own demand.[2] Entirely new forms of value creating human organizations and systems of value exchange are sprouting up, ready to replace (not destroy) systems of old. The problem with today’s workforce approaches is that they remain constructed for and assume a linear approach to career skill attainment, job matching and promotion.  Technological cycles, globalization and 24/7 business cycles create the need for ongoing and just in time upgrade of skills. Facilitating a match of the right candidate with the right skills at the right time with in a tight business cycle is now at a level of complexity that it challenges all stakeholders. Linear approaches constrained by legacy protocols for industrial and even early knowledge worker economies are simply too slow.


One approach to overcoming the complexities is a field developed and tested model called Talent Integration Ecosystem (TIE). This system is a unique way for communities and business leaders to close the disconnect between talent supply (education) and talent demand (industry).

What is TIE and how does it Work?

TIE is designed to more closely integrate employers into the development and delivery of education and skills training programs with curricular and pedagogical methods in the postsecondary educational market. There are three parts:

  • Talent: People with skills, abilities and competencies, which can create sustainable value.

  • Integration: The process by which talent is nurtured, educated and guided toward self-realization.

  • Ecosystem: The social structure that surrounds, bounds and delineates these processes.

We call this process the Talent Integration Ecosystem. To put into words that are more traditional it is the next generation professional development method.

Elements of the System

A number of organizations and entities need to be brought together (the integration), share a common purpose and act in a collaborative fashion. These are the base elements of your ecosystem. And this is where it gets difficult. A number of the old institutions are dying because they have lost their relevance to the emerging world — they are rightfully threatened by the change we are suggesting.

It’s also hard to talk about something that is needed when we don’t have words for the components. So we prefer to use a metaphor from chemistry and call them atoms and molecules. You need certain kinds of atoms to combine and make a TIE molecule.

  • A learning atom. Traditionally these have been high schools, colleges and universities. Not anymore. Teachers, mentors and learners are connected by technology. But it needs visibility and a place for people to connect.

  • Social service atoms. This is the heart of the community. Usually civic groups, faith-based organizations and self-help organizations. They are now becoming self-organized groups with limited half-lives. They come and go, but the leaders usually move from one issue to another as the evolving need dictates.

  • An expressive atom. The arts and culture part of your community. If you don’t have an active one, you are dead. This is the soul of your ecosystem. Art in all its forms (performing, visual and emerging media) serves to satisfy a basic human instinct for harmony, balance and rhythm. It communicates the experience of mystery in the community.

  • A structural atom. This is the atom, which puts in place, and maintains a persistent pattern of interaction among and between community members. Usually seen as micro-social units of neighborhoods and/or ethnic-based organizations. Today we call them grassroots groups.

  • A regenerative atom. This is the sustainable component. It serves the function of preserving the physical environment including critical resources such as air, water, and land. We like to think of this as the part that can provide the necessities of human life without a heavy dependence of external resources.

TIEs operate on the social psychology of social network architecture. By deliberately designing new networks of learning with the realities of entrepreneurial business development, this supply and demand gap can be decreased in an agile, measureable way.

Case Study

Let’s look at an example of this actually happening. We have chosen a case study of a structural atom. There are other nascent efforts but brevity prevents an extended discussion here.

The International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) [3] is a professional organization whose members complain about a lack of properly trained talent.

There are not enough educational institutions producing graduates for this new world of logistics — and they are slow to change at the pace of technology — especially “green” technology.

IFMA has taken it upon itself to serve as the catalyst in the TIE program format. It has developed its own curricula; deliver new training itself (sometime employing external master craftsmen), and have created a credentialing service.

Its graduates master 11 competencies and are 100 percent employable — sometimes before graduation and command higher than average salaries. Incidentally they find a more receptive audience in Europe, and now Asia.

They are the structural atom in this TIE molecule for the facilities management industry.

What can You do Right now to get Started?

  • Involvement. Everyone in the community needs to be involved. Reach out find the resources you need within the community. If it isn’t there right now, how do you go back and rely on the “learning atom” to produce the talent you need? It takes a great deal of involvement. Without this involvement and commitment the systems stagnates.

  • Job creation through entrepreneurial projects. Creation and innovation are the key processes. Central to any community is an economic activity that produces more wealth (economic, social and spiritual) than it consumes. We are suggesting that this takes a post-industrial form of “business of one”—or at least a very few. Call them “micro-businesses”, but grow WITHIN the community.

  • Purpose finding for people. You can’t get there without truly knowing why you are on the journey. This function is often overlooked. Finding purpose is a personal journey now. No longer does a family, a church or a school give your purpose to you. Your personal journey now is finding your calling and learning how to live out that calling within the context of your local community.

  • Organizational leadership development. New competencies will be needed by those who lead the process. We see the “gaming” industry as a metaphor for organization coming forward. And leaders in the gaming world are quite a bit different than traditional leaders. It’s multigenerational, cross-gender and multidisciplinary in thinking.

  • Fundraising for local facilities. The financial and emotional resources needed for this process should come from the community itself. This will be the key to sustainability. The talent integration ecosystem must produce wealth in excess of what it needs to survive. It can either reinvest this excess into local capacity building, or export a portion in exchange for other goods and services.

To sum up, we need a new model of talent development that helps communities attract people and commerce. TIE is one such innovation for your consideration.

Dr. Charlie Grantham is the founder of the Community Design Institute, and can be reached by emailing or calling 928-771-9138.

Norma Owen is the CEO of the AVADON Group, and can be reached by emailing or calling 919-656-7260.

End Notes


2 Matthew Fox, “The Reinvention of Work”


Illustration by David Castillo Dominici at Free Digital