The Answer is Talent Mobility. Now, What’s Your Question?

If there were a secret sauce to organizational success, then you would find “Effective Talent Mobility Program” as one of its first ingredients.

From addressing the top concerns of CEOs to the daily challenges of line of business leaders and the concerns of individual employees – an effective talent mobility strategy can have significant positive results at all levels, and on the business as a whole.

What is Talent Mobility?

Fundamentally, talent mobility is about the movement of talent across the organization (across projects, roles, teams, divisions, locations, etc.).  Based on the driving party, these workforce initiatives are typically called succession planning (employer-initiated) or career planning (employee initiated), but at the end of the day it all comes down to the readiness for and actual movement of talent in the enterprise.

When I refer to talent mobility as part of the “secret sauce”, I’m not talking about  yesterday’s strategies – where succession plans are based on senior job titles;  where “internal recruiting” means a job is posted internally for five days and then routed to the external job sites; or an employee seeking career growth is handed a listing of the next three job titles up the ladder and the associated required training and tenure for each role.

Instead, I’m talking about talent mobility for the future of work  – what works in an environment where five generations are converging on the enterprise but bringing divergent perspectives on work, rewards and motivation; where hierarchies give way to networks, and influence is the new social currency; where virtual teams and mobile devices drive expectations for an always-on, always-connected, always-informed experience.

What’s The Risk?

You can hardly view a blog, tweet or magazine article without hearing the extent to which employees are disengaged, mistrustful of leadership, and open to being poached by competitors. Consider the following stats:

  • At any given time, more than 2/3rds of a company’s workforce is disengaged1 – workers are essentially sleepwalking on the job.
  • 65% of employees are looking – either actively or passively – to leave their organization.2
  • Only 18% of Millennials expect to remain in their current job for the long term;3 37% say they do not trust “big business” (read this one as “we’re recruiting challenges for big firms!”)

Improving employee engagement is paramount, as study after study correlates improved engagement with improved retention, productivity and business outcomes such as customer satisfaction, profitability and brand.  According to the Corporate Leadership Board4,

Employees most committed to their organizations put forth 57 percent more effort and are 87 percent less likely to leave their company than employees who consider themselves disengaged.

By incorporating a few key design tenets into their talent mobility strategies, organizations can propel engagement and bottom line results across the organization.

Five Tenets for Effective Talent Mobility

  1. Focus on people, not titles.  Succession plans focused on replacements for certain titles and roles fail to account for the valuable hidden talent of the organization.  Such an  approach also fails to plan for the departure of critical employees who, despite being in individual contributor roles or holding nominal titles, nonetheless serve pivotal roles in greasing the wheels of success in the organization.  Uncovering your hidden talent is possible when social tools are part of the enabling technology of your mobility programs:  expanded profiles allow for greater talent insight, while social network analysis can uncover critical connections and impacts previously undetected.
  2. Eschew the corporate ladder; embrace the corporate lattice.  The latest generation of worker is less motivated by factors such as pay and job titles, and more by recognition, engagement at senior levels, and the ability to work on projects of high interest. However, lateral or even downward moves in the organization may be required to access these opportunities.  If your company culture only values upward mobility, then your development, retention and mobility strategies can have limited results at best.  Embracing and celebrating moves anywhere along the corporate lattice will foster corporate agility while engendering improved trust and motivation from individuals. (Note: embracing the lattice also means embracing the actual movement of talent…an increased volume in transfers and cross-team assignments, or some level of ambiguity around corporate hierarchies, will be standard in such a culture.)
  3. Broaden the focus beyond “jobs” to include “opportunities”.  Expanding one’s skills and experiences should not always require an official job change.  Temporary project assignments, virtual teams assembled for a defined period of time, dynamic org structures that constantly reform around strategic initiatives: these are the emerging realities of workplace structures in the future of work.  Beyond support for managing job openings, tools are emerging that enable users to share these more project-based initiatives across the enterprise social network.  Instead of staffing ad-hoc or short-term projects with the same resources again and again, extend visibility of the opportunities across the enterprise, creating new options for employees and improving communication, transparency, trust and engagement.
  4. Incorporate mentorship and coaching. Process-wise this is a no-brainer, but many organizations still do not officially support mentor/coaching programs as part of talent mobility programs.   Today’s technologies support mentor and coaching relationships that range from highly informal and unstructured conversations to richly choreographed relationships with milestones, tracking, reviews and more.  The use of social technologies makes finding and connecting to mentors or coaches easier than ever before, and matching algorithms in the technology can further automate the mentor/mentee connection process, refining its calculations over time.
  5. Give employees the tools they need to drive their own success. With today’s technologies, talent mobility does not have to remain a top-down process managed in complex systems.  Today’s social-infused tools foster employee engagement throughout the mobility program; recommendations of potential job or opportunity matches (for “passive” internal candidates) are delivered to employees’ devices of choice; individuals can scan or search across opportunities, engaging in conversations with opportunity owners and others; employees are able to promote their ‘brand’ by communicating successes, soliciting feedback and engaging visibility across the enterprise.  Intelligence in the form of recommendation engines, analytics and visualizations are part of the experience to drive employee self-sufficiency.

Internal mobility programs that continuously engage the workforce will also have beneficial effects on external recruiting initiatives, as members of your engaged workforce become positive brand ambassadors for your organization.

Want to hear firsthand how one Silicon Valley leader is doing it?

Join us for an exclusive luncheon in Palo Alto on Wednesday Sept 12. 

If you’re going to be in the Silicon Valley on Wednesday, September 12, please join me as I talk with Michael McNeal, Intuit’s VP Talent Strategy & Acquisition, and senior executives from UpMo, innovators in social talent management, on this topic of talent retention and mobility.  You’ll hear about Intuit’s path to creating a talent mobility culture and engage in an interactive session with peers from across the Valley on the cultural, technological and business implications of these initiatives.  This is a complimentary event, being held at the Four Seasons Silicon Valley in Palo Alto.  Register here

Exclusive Luncheon sponsored by UpMo.

Data sources:

1 US Employment Engagement Survey, Gallup Management Journal 2012
2 Deloitte “Talent Edge 2020, Building the Recovery Together” 2011
3 PWC “Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace” 2012
4 Corporate Leadership Council “The Role of Employee Engagement in the Return to Growth” 2010

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