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YouTube, Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga, and temporary staff

OK, so I'm a fan of American Idol. There, I've admitted it. Is that bad? My young teens tell me that it is, and since their mastery of the latest technology surpassed mine about three years ago, perhaps I ought to consider their evaluation of what is and is not cool in popular culture. This does not, however, preclude me from evaluating certain situations that jump off the pop culture radar and help underscore some of the themes we discuss here.

Back to American Idol (I was pulling for Crystal Bowersox, by the way). I bring it up because I was fascinated this year by the replacement of Paul Abdul with Ellen DeGeneres. I am a fan of Ellen as well, and when I heard the news, I though it would be interesting to see how she fit in with the three music business experience-rich judges on the panel.

So, here is the first twist in this post. It really has nothing to do with American Idol, but because Ellen is on that show, it makes me more aware of her.

Recently, Ellen has been running a segment on her show looking for talent she discovers on the Internet. The search ended recently with the discovery of sixth grader Greyson Chance performing a cover of Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" in a school talent show.

Ellen's picking up of the video and playing it on her show helped it to go viral, and spawned over 30 million YouTube views. She also had Greyson on her show to perform his Gaga cover and talk to the Queen of the Monster Ball herself. (See, I'm hip! Monster Ball is an adequate Gaga reference, isn't it?)

But wait. It gets even better. Ellen had Greyson on again and awarded him with a check for $10,000 for winning the talent search, and a new Yamaha piano. But the big news was the announcement that Ellen would start her own record label, with Greyson as her first signing. It really is a remarkable story and worth checking out. Lady Gaga's manager, Troy Carter, and Madonna's manager, Guy Oseary, signed on to help nurture young Greyson's effort.

The obligatory tie in. What does this possibly have to do with the workforce? The entire situation underscores a running theme here, and that is that every avenue of talent absolutely and positively must be considered in your overall plans.

Combing YouTube for untapped talent might not work well if you are searching for a Java programmer (though it could be, but that's a topic for another post). But the end results illustrate many of the best practices and methodologies that we have seen work best in forward thinking firms, who aggressively manage their talent portfolios against their strategic plans, and more importantly, their contingency plans.

Consistently Seek Talent Development Opportunities. It's my guess that while Ellen was certainly considering a move, such as beginning a record label (which might explain her desire to accept the Idol gig), it is my bet that the bit on her show to find talent was not an integrated part of the launch strategy.

It is likely that she was prepared for such an occasion, or, more likely, when she stumbled on Greyson, she immediately connected the potential impact his ability would have on future business plans, even if they were only remotely defined.

Temp to Perm. Again, it is hard to say if the rise of Greyson and the development of the Greyson-Ellen partnership was meticulously planned, but casual observation seems to indicate it was more evolutionary in nature.

Greyson appears first in the YouTube video. Producers book him on the show, and he does well, including his phone chat with Gaga (if you are curious where her moniker comes from, you can find out here). Ellen digging her Idol experience and getting the hang of evaluating what can potentially be some big acts. Ellen and Greyson's parents hammer out some possibilities. Ellen advances her record label plans, and voila! eleveneleven productions is the result with fresh new start Greyson Chance.

For those of us in less dynamic professions, we see this for exactly what it is: Hiring on solid, temporary talent to help advance our business objectives. We preach this continuously. Evaluate how you are sourcing your temp talent. More importantly, evaluate their impact to your firm and move them to another area when their initial assignment is complete rather than lose them.

This doesn't just happen, it has to be an active effort to establish performance objectives and continuously measure against them. The immediate impact is injection of quality talent where it is needed most. The long term result is a retained and engaged workforce that has a deeper sense of loyalty because of the course of events that brought them into the ranks of full-time staff.

Collaborative Partners. The above processes can't happen without trusted partners. Gaga and Madonna's managers are in the mix, it seems, because Ellen trusts their ability to do their jobs well. She believes that their expertise will nurture Greyson along so that he can achieve his full commercial potential.

Are providers of your temporary talent doing the same for you? Are they looking out for what is in your best interest moving forward? Or are they simply driving volume of temporaries into your organization so they can collect their margin? If it is the latter, you have a supplier or vendor, not a partner. Partners have their own interests in mind, but they equitably drive their objectives in a manner that helps you achieve yours.

I, for one, will be interested in seeing how eleveneleven fares, and how Greyson Chance matures. It will also be interesting to see if Ellen signs any of the Idol top performers, or continues her search for temp talent that she can flip to a permanent member of her recording portfolio.

One thing is for sure. Whatever happens, and however her new effort progresses, she is sure to continue to do so while bringing a smile to the face of her viewers. Ellen, Lady Gaga, and Grayson Chance -- an unlikely example of integrated talent strategies.

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