What is talent mobility & why it should matter to your company
More than just a catchphrase, “talent mobility” is becoming an increasing priority for organizations as they focus on retaining talent, increasing strategic business development, and take note of emerging market trends. But what is talent mobility and how did the concept originate? What does it look like in practice? And most importantly, why does talent mobility matter for your organization?
Turns out, talent mobility as a descriptor has been around for decades. The term talent mobility can be found in peer-reviewed research in the early 2000’s, and was created to respond to the rise of highly-skilled workers with transferable skills. With the onset of widespread internet use in organizations, the increasing talent pipeline in science and technology to help fuel those industries, and the resulting complexity and scale that occurred as a result of both of these occurrences, talent mobility was a way to name an emergence of a type of attribute where an employee could function in multiple roles, and adapt according to the changes an organization may face. Employees with talent mobility may work at the intersection of multiple departments, embrace several skill sets, and have had adaptations and growths in their career (and job titles) over time.
Today, organizations and business leaders often refer to talent mobility as a broader concept than as an adjective for a person, and are referencing an overarching organizational strategy to help place the right people in the right positions, reimagine their roles, and best utilize current and emerging skills. This has become big business and a huge concern for companies during the “the great resignation” with 58% of UK organizations sharing that they are not sure they have the right people in the right positions for growth, and 71% revealing that they do believe that having the right people in the right roles is paramount for growth. Additionally, companies that were confident in their talent mobility strategies showed the strongest business-related markers, with instances of higher profitability, higher employee engagement, and stronger leadership and success pipelines. This could not be more relevant as, post-pandemic, workers are more likely to resign than ever and seek out career changes if they feel their current employer will not let them grow or provide opportunities to grow with them. As a result of higher turnover, a competitive hunt for talent, and a swiftly-changing business landscape, employers have started to hunker down and address talent mobility to keep the talent they have, help their people shape their careers internally, and also respond to market demands in a way that is more nimble than a revolving door of incoming talent.
When thinking in terms of business strategy, thought leaders have contributed much to specific means of implementing talent mobility as a principle and practice within organizations. For example, Forbes has suggested revisiting and reimagining talent pipelines in a changing employment landscape. Talent pipelines of the past were linear and only allowed limited movement, think old-school Super Mario Bros on Super Nintendo, where Mario and Luigi moved from left and right only. Today’s pipelines are like an open-world video game, where your people take different paths, have multiple personal journeys and are able to take an empowered driver’s seat with their career goals and skills they hope to acquire. What this means is that not every accountant wants to finish their career as the head of accounting, and not every customer service associate wants to lead the customer service department. More and more, people are transitioning skills like customer service and product knowledge into product management, and accounting towards data science or analytics. Emerging statistics back up this ideology, with 53% of Americans leaving their last job for a career change, and because they felt that their new aspirations did not fit the mold of their current employer.
4 Tips for Building & Implementing a Successful Talent Mobility Program
In practice, implementing talent mobility is multi-faceted. Consider the following when it comes to the specificities of your own organization and what prioritizing talent mobility would look like at your workplace.
Conduct an Internal Skills Audit.The first step is an internal audit of the skills that you have, the skills you are using, and the skills you will need in the future. Of course, skills are contained within human beings, so this means having an understanding of the current skills that your people have, how they have grown or what they have learned since joining your organization, and where they are hoping to grow in the future. Workforce intelligence tools like Reejig can help you automatically extract skills from all your existing data sources — from your ATS, CRM, LSM and HRIS to public profiles on LinkedIn as well — to build a complete skills ontology for your organization as well as automated skills profiles for every individual. Once you have this information, and it is up to date, leadership can begin to consider the skills that will be necessary as the organization grows, and how to either hire internally or externally to fill those roles. In doing so, you are utilizing both internal talents and supplementing with external talents without double dipping or putting in extra effort to hire skills that are already contained within your organization.
Create a Plan, and Build your Assets.
Once you have an idea of the skills and knowledge currently embedded within the organization, you can start to lay out short and long-term plans, as well as put together job descriptions that actually fit your needs and the potential pipeline of your people. Too often job descriptions and roles are created last minute with little thought to the actual needs of the organization today and tomorrow. This is the chance to get up to date, using the information you gained from the audit.
Create Resources for Your People and New Hires.To help your current employees level up their skills and make small pivots in their careers (while staying at your organization) you need to provide them with the resources they need to learn and grow. This step is extremely important because research shows that Millennials and Gen Z value skill development at work, and the lack thereof is a major consideration when they decide to leave or stay with an organization. What kinds of training programs do you currently have available? How can employees currently learn new technical and managerial skills and grow? Consider your current toolbox of resources and whether there has been enough promotion of ways that your people can grow. Then consider additional resources as necessary. Resources can be formalized (such as University courses or online certifications), or less formal such as Coursera, Treehouse, and Kahn Academy. To successfully do this, you need to deliver personalized learning resources and experiences that match individual careerways based on skill adjacencies, organizational skills gaps, and their career interests. With tools like Reejig, you can reach out and nudge employees for new opportunities to promote self-driven learning and drive the consumption of L&D programs mapped to the skills you need.
Inform Your People and Promote the Process.While this is the last step, this really should occur throughout the process. Your employees will respond well if they understand why you are asking them about their interests, why you are writing job descriptions, and why you are conducting this audit. If they understand this is to retain, engage, and assist them with pursuing their passions, it will be well-received. If there is not adequate information, employees may become nervous that their jobs are in jeopardy or that a layoff or downsizing is in the works.
Benefits and Challenges in Starting a Talent Mobility Program
Ultimately, talent mobility and implementing strategic mobility only matters to your organization if it has tangible outcomes, right? Here are a few considerations for you to weigh the pros and cons of talent mobility.
Pro - Reduce Turnover Costs.When employees leave the organization, often some of their knowledge and expertise leaves with them. Then a new employee must be trained, get up to speed, and learn new processes in order to be up and running, which takes time and money. By empowering and energizing current employees with new opportunities, ways to grow, and strategic talent management, organizations can reduce turnover cost long-term. A 2020 Linkedin survey found that employees stay at organizations that practice internal hiring and training 41% longer than those that do not.
Pro - Increase Job Satisfaction.Peer-reviewed research indicates that when employees are motivated and engaged, their job satisfaction increases. One way to increase employee motivation and engagement is through learning new skills and facing new challenges at work, allowing employees to work at the edge of their skills, and feel the slight pull of learning something new and challenging themselves.
Con - Up-front Internal Organization and Administration.Of course, the con to getting organized in order to effectively implement talent mobility at your workplace is actually…getting organized. For every organization, this might manifest in different challenges, it might mean digitizing paperwork, it might mean reworking how HR handles hiring, and it might mean relying on current employees for information. However, for most organizations it cannot be denied that creating a true talent mobility pipeline, while worth it, will require some up-front dedication. The good news is… the surge of Workforce Intelligence platforms is taking a lot of the heavy lifting out of traditional internal mobility efforts through using Ethical AI to automatically create skills profiles for every individual in your ecosystem, identifying skill gaps at scale, and matching individuals to opportunities based on skills.
Con - Centralizing Resources and Opportunities.Once you have organized your people and skills within the organization and allowed for reimagined and re-engineered career pipelines, your organization must provide a central hub for employees to learn and grow. Managing links to certifications, places to update new skills, and portals to express passion and enthusiasm for new projects need to be easy to use, centralized, and accessible for everyone in order to be best utilized. The good news is… Workforce Intelligence can support your organization in creating a central nervous system for all talent decisions — aggregating all your role-based opportunities from your ATS alongside non-role based opportunities (projects, gigs, etc.) into a central opportunity marketplace for talent teams, people leaders and employees to access.
Of course, true talent mobility does not happen overnight. Think of it more as a goal for the future, where your organization makes changes on a monthly, yearly, and long-term basis to help mitigate losing talented people, engaging the talent you have long-term, and hiring even more strategically to fill any remaining gaps. As you do so, you will find that your employees take notice, respect your transparency, and feel a sense of shared commitment to the success of the organization and to succeeding in their new roles as they continue to grow under the support of the organization. Not to mention, talent mobility creates a new lens to understand your leadership pipeline, with employees able to move in different directions, lead in new ways, or establish themselves as future leaders in new areas that the organization might not have originally considered. Research shows that learning new skills and creating a culture of learning are all part of where modern organizations are headed (and what is helping them succeed).
Now that you have had a deep-dive into the benefits of talent mobility and the value of strategizing ways to keep your current employees engaged, it is time to set the plan in motion and embrace the future of multi-faceted and talented employees who can contribute to your organization in new and unexpected ways in the face of a demanding marketplace. Set up a brainstorming meeting with your organization’s decision-makers and put together and outline on getting started, digital solutions and partners that can help you get there, and what success means for you and your people.
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