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Editorial Team
20 Feb 2020

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Why talent mobility is a must-do strategy for HR

Talent mobility makes the right skillsets available to the relevant roles within an organization, making it a strategy that HR can scarcely afford to not emphasize in its operations.

When talking about talent mobility, Chris Alexander, Senior Director of Global Marketing at relocation services provider Paragon Relocation, said: “Mobility as part of the employer value proposition is fundamental to robust talent management and business success.”

Interesting, but what is talent mobility?

According to the Echelon Group, talent mobility is defined as “the practice of moving people within an organization, in hopes that new skills will be gained and sharpened through the employees’ new roles and responsibilities.”

Talent mobility rests on three pillars:

  • Career development
  • Redeployment
  • Outplacement

Talent mobility can be:

  • Employer-driven: the employer desires to move the employee to a different role or department
  • Employee-driven: the employee desires to move to a different role or department

Seems like mobility is important.

There is a shortage of suitably talented people in the market, making it imperative to allow people to move more effectively between jobs, projects, and even geographies. This will mean that some – if not all – such employees will need to be suitably skilled, or equipped with skillsets not required in their previous role.

In the past, organizations have looked outward for people to fill new roles. Growing skill shortages and low unemployment rates, however, have meant they cannot get the capabilities they need through just acquisition. Their growth aspirations can be fueled only by effectively tapping the current workforce.

Has this changed the focus of organizations?

Companies are now looking to implement new ways to engage talent and retain employees for the long term. Upskilling and reskilling are in focus, as these help to:

  • Create a talent pool so that open roles can be filled quickly
  • Achieve higher productivity faster
  • Provide an engaging experience for employees

It sounds like something every organization should do!

It is not so simple. In a Deloitte survey, just 6% of respondents believe they are excellent at moving people from role to role, and 59% say they are fair or inadequate.

Company culture can get in the way.

For instance, a merger of two organizations results in a conglomeration of cultures that each maintains their legacy identities. Imagine the challenge for an HR leader to deal with employees moving to a division of the other organization and interpreting policies their own way!

There is also the perception that what an employee is currently doing in an organization indicates what he or she can or cannot do. It thus becomes more difficult to convince internal people that the employee can perform in a new role requiring those very skills.

Systems and procedures often are hindrances.

Take the case of branding dictating the choice of separate email addresses for different divisions. Employees find it cumbersome to contribute to other divisions, as it would need new email addresses.

Job levels can also be a concern. A company may mandate only lateral transfers could be made internally and with the manager, prior approval after the employee has been in the role for at least two years. The employee might be eligible for a higher level, but preference would be given to outside candidates for these roles.

Then, there is management.

Managers often hold onto talent and keep individuals from making internal movements. They claim to support people's mobility, but their unintended incentive is to encourage employees to stay. This also helps them score higher on productivity by keeping the same people at the same place.

Uh-oh… alarm bells for the HR?

Yes, if HR does not take redemptive action for the organization at the earliest. the following steps could set the organization on the right path:

  • Cultural barriers
    • Confidential discussions with employees to know why they did not change their roles internally
    • Explaining to employees why a proposed new destination division is in truth a high-potential division
    • Rewarding early adopters
    • Creating a skills inventory
  • Systemic barriers
    • Conducting employee engagement surveys and acting on the results
    • Uncovering hidden procedural challenges by interviewing those who successfully transitioned to new roles
    • Exit interviews with internal process questions
    • Managerial barriers
    • Establishing performance metrics based on the ability of a manager to develop talent

Look inward!

There is no better way to facilitate talent mobility than by looking inward to uncover the high-impact, apparent barriers to the same in spite of no policy to the contrary. Gradually removing these will set the organization firmly on the path to becoming a more agile, competitive business.

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