foster an agile workforce

The year 2020 has presented countless challenges for organizations and individuals alike. But if there’s one lesson we as HR practitioners can learn as we look ahead to 2021, it’s that anticipating and preparing for change is key to continued growth. This isn’t the first time businesses have experienced sudden downturns, with the 2008 Great Recession being the most recent, and it certainly won’t be the last. While nobody could have predicted the pandemic and its widespread impact, organizations with an agile approach to their workforce are better equipped to navigate disruption.

For employees to prosper and businesses to drive success in the new world of work, we must actively foster continuous internal talent mobility and take a new view of the employee journey. Let’s look at why talent mobility is beneficial.

what is talent mobility?

Talent mobility refers to the fluid movement of people within and out of an organization such that their career passions and skills align with the needs of business. Data from the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute found that 80% of HR leaders believe increased talent mobility leads to significant benefits, including lower recruitment costs, reduced times to fill open positions, faster time to productivity for new hires, higher retention, improved career satisfaction and better culture fit.

Not only does talent mobility help organizations adapt their workforces to meet business demands but it also enables individuals to be continuously employable as the world of work evolves. Organizations that embrace talent mobility will be better positioned to survive and thrive through times of disruption by promoting agility at every stage of the employee journey.

supporting rapid redeployment

An impactful talent mobility strategy enables organizations to pursue alternatives to layoffs during challenging times such as the current pandemic. One way for organizations to preserve jobs, maintain cultural knowledge and reduce costs is through rapid redeployment, which enables current employees to move to other internal roles or assignments, either on a temporary or permanent basis, based on business need. Redeployment empowers organizations to better understand and benefit from employees’ untapped skills and gives employees new opportunities for visibility across the company.

Businesses can benefit when they are willing to toss out rigid job descriptions and encourage talent mobility through redeployment. Job descriptions are often written with the ‘ideal’ candidate for a specific role in mind and are focused on right now. Rather than prioritizing immediate needs, organizations should consider hiring employees who are eager to continually learn new skills – and encourage these employees to maintain an ever-evolving skill set once they’re on board.

Organizations that try rapid redeployment often realize that they have talent with untapped skills. When employees have a diverse set of skills, as business needs shift – as is the case at many organizations given the pandemic’s impact – hiring managers will have more opportunities to identify internal talent to fill new roles or take on projects and stretch assignments through rapid redeployment, saving time and resources that would have otherwise been spent hiring outside talent. This also enables employees to bring their full capabilities to work, promoting a growth mindset that is so critical to agility while driving productivity, engagement and retention. According to the 2020 LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report, companies with high internal hiring rates retain employees for an average of 41% longer than those without an internal hiring or mobility strategy.

encouraging managers to share talent

A key barrier that prevents some organizations from fully embracing talent mobility is that managers often want to keep the best talent on their own team. According to the 2019 Deloitte Human Capital Trends Survey, 46% of HR leaders indicate current managers’ resistance to internal moves as a top talent mobility roadblock. This approach prevents employees from expanding their capabilities and fully reaching their potential and can hold an organization back from building an agile workforce.

The Deloitte survey found that 70% of HR leaders believe talent mobility expectations and the culture around talent sharing is either inadequate or fair at their organization. To enable true talent mobility, it’s important to create a culture that encourages talent sharing across all levels and departments at an organization. This includes setting expectations with managers that their teams are impermanent and helping them recognize the value of making talent visible and mobile throughout the organization.

One way to hold mangers accountable to meeting these expectations, as highlighted in the Deloitte survey, is to reconsider managers’ performance KPIs. For example, rather than only rewarding managers for producing business results, success can also be measured based on promoting internal mobility and developing team members’ skills.

While a manager might be hesitant to ‘lose’ a top performer to another part of the organization, a culture of talent sharing also enables these managers to access talent with relevant skills they might not have otherwise known were available. This talent sharing mindset is in everyone’s best interest – it helps ensure employees’ skills and passions align with larger business goals, while simultaneously supporting individuals’ long-term employability.

taking a strategic, flexible approach to learning

Earlier this year, World Economic Forum estimated that by 2022, approximately 133 million new jobs will be created to meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and 42% of core skills needed to perform existing jobs will change. The pandemic has only increased the urgency for organizations and employees to take an approach to learning and skilling that is continuous.

Organizations that have a flexible learning mindset can help employees redefine how, when and where learning occurs. Rather than approaching learning as something that only occurs through a formal course or in a classroom, agile organizations support continual on-the-job learning through opportunities such as projects and stretch assignments.

It isn’t enough to simply provide a list of open internal opportunities, online courses and other resources for employees to pick and choose from. Rather, strategic upskilling and reskilling requires guidance and a learning plan – what we call a strategic skilling roadmap – for employees to align their interests and capabilities with business needs.

An effective skill-building strategy combines technology such as access to online courses and job market data with personal guidance from a career coach, a career concierge and a certified learning advisor. Working with a career concierge and learning advisor enables employees to develop and follow a tailored learning plan that will help them meet their goals and close skills gaps – which is beneficial to both your success as a business and individuals’ long-term employability.

To maintain simplicity and maximize your effectiveness, it's essential to have a single technology platform for internal talent mobility, and if you have other major workforce development systems already in place, a platform that easily and seamlessly integrates with what your organization has already invested in.

jeanne schad.

talent solutions and strategy practice leader

24 November 2020

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