Development & Retention / Leadership

Embracing Agility in Talent Management

It’s a candidate’s market, and the skills you need most to succeed may come at a high price in the external talent marketplace. An effective internal talent mobility strategy can help you close the gap between the workforce you have now and the one you need for the future.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents in LinkedIn’s 2020 Global Talent Trends report said that internal recruiting is becoming more important to their talent strategy. LinkedIn's research also found that organizations with high talent mobility keep employees 41 percent longer than companies without a strong mobility culture. It supports better agility, too, because companies with fluid org charts can flex without breaking in the face of unrelenting change.

Here’s what you need to know to develop an internal talent mobility strategy that can empower an agile approach at your company.

3 Elements of an Internal Talent Mobility Strategy

You need to be intentional and strategic to improve your organization’s internal mobility. Invest in these elements to implement internal mobility at your company.

Ongoing Needs Assessments

Your company’s workforce needs are constantly changing. To develop an effective internal mobility program, you need to understand the business strategy and forecast the business’s talent needs.

Review the business’s one, three, and five-year plans. Where do you want to go? Will you be entering new markets or expanding products or services? Use the answers to these questions and begin working backward to understand your skills gaps.
Compare the skills you’ll need to reach your business goals to the skill sets your workforce already has. Look at where those skills are located within the company, too. For example, you can cross-train employees with transferable skills from another department to fill those needs instead of hiring externally.

Improved Talent Acquisition Processes

Modify your hiring processes for attracting, interviewing, and onboarding internal talent. For example, employees shouldn’t have to input data from their resumes since that information should already be on file. Small barriers like that can discourage internal candidates from applying for a different position.

Many employees find internal job boards challenging to navigate and may not even see internal opportunities in the first place.

Internal candidates may not know which opportunities they’re qualified for or how to narrow down their search to find them. As you revamp internal hiring processes, define clear criteria to help internal candidates navigate the openings where they’re qualified to apply.
Make it part of your talent strategy to advertise open positions better internally and to make these openings more accessible to internal candidates.

When considering internal candidates, take their institutional knowledge and cultural alignment into account. Even if they lack experience with specific tasks, could they effectively be trained to fill the role? Develop guidelines for weighing these qualities differently in internal versus external candidates.

A Culture of Agility

Employees may not realize the options for mobility available to them or feel like they need permission to explore other roles within the company. To promote internal mobility, employees need to understand that internal moves are both encouraged and supported. If they fear repercussions from their manager for asking about other opportunities, they may not pursue their interests within the company.
The best way to give employees permission to explore internal career opportunities is through cultural reinforcement. When employees understand that business leaders want them to find their potential and that managers must coach them through that process, they are more likely to move within the company.
Curating cultural norms can be challenging, though. A supervisor’s attitude or body language could be enough to dissuade an employee from pursuing their interests. Changing your culture may require adjusting rewards to incentivize the behaviors you want to see.

How Internal Mobility Supports Agility

Talent management in agile organizations is a complex process. It requires a shift in how we think about training and deploying talent. But developing agile talent management through internal mobility can generate tremendous dividends.

Talent Sharing Opens Access to Skills

An open record of the skills in your workforce and where they’re located allows managers to fill gaps in their teams. Flex teams, or agile teams, pull employees from across the organization to work on designated projects. These teams are fluid and change in real-time in response to specific needs.

Talent sharing allows you to prioritize team performance and the needs of the work over a fixed organizational structure. AstraZeneca, for example, pulled the talent it needed from across the organization to rush product development of its COVID-19 vaccine. This fluidity ensures that you have access to the talent you need when you need it without relying on the whims of the external talent marketplace.

Internal Mobility Offers Employees Opportunities to Grow

When employees are exposed to different tasks company-wide, they can find their strengths and identify better opportunities to reach their full potential. Create job structures that allow employees to visualize points where their skills could have the most significant impact.

Some companies have even developed internal “side gigs” where employees can apply to work on specific projects. The gig structure supports a mobility culture, creating a more resilient, reactive workforce ready to absorb change.

Transferable Skills Gain New Life

Transferable skills (like communication, adaptability, or collaboration) can be maximized in various contexts and roles. Talent sharing allows business leaders to optimize these skills by moving employees into projects where they can use them to their full potential.

For example, scrum masters and product owners use similar soft skills to support agile software development. Employees in a product owner role could pick up gigs as a scrum master (or vice versa) on a project basis, giving them opportunities to exercise transferable skills in different ways.

Use assessments to help employees understand which transferable skills are the strongest.

Train managers to interpret assessment results and apply them to your org chart, assisting employees in seeing their opportunities to continuously improve their skills within the company.

4 Challenges to Achieving Internal Mobility

Managing talent in an agile organization can be highly complex. It’s an agile organization’s best practice to flex with change, and change is constant. Here are some challenges you can anticipate as you develop your internal talent mobility strategy.

Gaining Management Buy-In

Without buy-in from middle management, it’s nearly impossible to gather skills data and implement mobility within your company. But that buy-in can be hard to get from managers who are laser-focused on meeting their team’s objectives.
Talent hoarding is a significant barrier to internal mobility. Managers may hoard high-performing employees instead of making recommendations for where employees could better fulfill their potential. To prevent this from happening, modify your rewards system to incentivize talent sharing. For example, reward managers for making good placement suggestions rather than just delivering on their objectives. Help managers understand how they and their departments can benefit from talent sharing, too. After all, with an effective mobility strategy in practice, they can pull the best talent from around the organization to support their objectives, improving performance outcomes for their projects.

Providing the Right Learning Resources

Developing an upskilling program that keeps up with the pace of change is an imposing task. Technical skills change every few months as technology evolves, but the soft skills needed to thrive in a digital environment provide a solid foundation for upskilling your workforce.

Focus on evergreen skills, like learnability and adaptability, to support continuous delivery of your business objectives, even as technical skills change. Prime employees to learn how to learn. Use cross-training to give employees opportunities to apply new skills in practice.

Optimizing Career Paths

Find the right balance between a set job architecture and fluid opportunities for employees to experience work at different points across the organization. Employees should see the organizational structure at a high level and their options to move within it.

But job roles need to be flexible to allow employees to chart their paths. Agile methods dictate failing fast to learn fast. By empowering employees to explore their options, you can refine roles and responsibilities across the organization.

Moving Employees Within the Company

Simply communicating the options for mobility to the workforce is a massive step in creating internal mobility within your company, and it starts at the top. Lay out a clear, visual org chart and make sure each individual can see their place in it. Flesh out your chart with specific roles and the skills needed to perform them.

From there, much of the communication around job mobility should go through frontline managers. Train managers to interpret their reports’ performance results in the context of your job architecture. They should be able to show employees their options for mobility based on their strengths and potential.

Embrace Agility Through Mobility

More companies have adopted agile methodologies to improve processes and ensure customer satisfaction. But to truly embrace agility, you need to put internal mobility into practice. When you have the necessary talent resources accessible within your workforce, you don’t need to rely on the external hiring market—giving you a distinct advantage over your competition.

Put agility into practice at your company through your internal talent mobility strategy.

Aon | Assessment Solutions

Aon's assessment solutions provides clients with powerful tools and insights to help them make better talent decisions at every stage of the employee lifecycle. This includes pre-hire assessments, identifying future leaders, screening for digital skills and agility, and AI-enabled solutions.

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