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Talent, internal mobility and workforce agility during the COVID:19

Dan Tesjnak, Head - EMEA and APAC

There are times throughout the year when workers reflect on their careers and look for new opportunities. This can happen after a holiday, post qualification and, as a result of the situation for many implementing now, after being furloughed. 

But talent is hard to maintain. 90% of employers say that new hire retention is an issue. Organisations lose, on average, 30% of new recruits within three months. For some, this figure rises as high as 70%. Given that it costs approximately 33% of a new recruit’s salary to replace a leaver, retaining your best talent can give your organisation a competitive edge.

Talent, internal mobility and workforce agility
Talent is one of your most valuable assets, recognise and nurture the best talent and you will lay strong foundations for the future. One that can adapt to market demand and pressures, and respond quickly. For this, you need workforce agility. If you build a culture where people are placed into (and actively respond to) new roles and opportunities based on their skills and ambitions, you de facto create a more agile workforce. People aren’t siloed into teams or business areas. 

Plus, it can improve your corporate memory. If someone has remained at your organisation for a long time, building a significant body of knowledge and experience, you’ll want them to remain as long as possible. Better still, if they share their knowledge and upskill their colleagues, the result is a team that has cross-functionality, knowledge and, therefore, greater agility.

Knowing you need to improve your internal mobility is one challenge, but understanding how to achieve this is another.

Defining internal mobility – it’s both vertical and lateral
Internal mobility involves moving workers within an organisation. This can be vertically, through promotion, as well as laterally. Lateral moves can help challenge a worker in a different business area and role, helping them develop new and existing skills. It allows for a more flexible career journey that adapts as a worker’s skills and aspirations change. Therefore, if a vertical move isn’t possible, look for possible lateral moves to offer your team – even a secondment in another department or a stretch assignment will prove valuable to them and your organisation.

TJX, the parent company of TK Maxx, follows this approach across various business units like marketing, HR and sales. One such secondment saw a store assistant be deployed within the L&D department, upskilled through this assignment and later moved into a full-time head office marketing position.

Align with your business strategy
If, for instance, you can predict that you’ll need more cybersecurity and data analytics skills in the coming years, your internal mobility programme can complement this. By placing workers who have expressed an interest onto on-the-job learning opportunities, you can cultivate the skills you need in-house before turning to external recruitment. 

Use it to plug your skills gaps and fill leadership roles
Which is an intelligent move long-term, because the increasing skills gap and shift in occupational categories necessitate a change in how workforces are upskilled, retained and recruited. Between 75 million to 375 million workers will shift occupational categories by 2030 due to automation. All workers will have to adapt in some way to automation and artificial intelligence (AI). Internal mobility provides a strong foundation for this. 

To start, when filling internal roles through an internal mobility strategy, it’s wise to prioritise senior and business-critical roles. A worker who is moved internally into a senior role, will already know about your company culture and processes. They’ll have a headstart on an external hire. Meanwhile, junior-level roles can be used as a recruitment tool to attract more people to your workforce. People who can be upskilled over time and mobilised into business-critical and senior positions.

Consider wider talent pools
With an effective internal mobility strategy, when a worker demands a new career challenge, you can readily offer it to them. This can go beyond your permanent workforce to include your external talent (contractors and freelancers), alumni, recruits and consultants. In other words, your Total Talent.

Mobility can go a step further when internal mobility is combined with Total Talent. A permanent employee looking to retire can be retained as an alumnus. Their knowledge and experience will remain accessible to the organisation, for one-off projects, mentoring and consultations. Likewise, a contractor could join a team as a full-time permanent employee, while another employee may choose to freelance for a period to meet caregiving commitments. It creates an extra layer of agility that allows your workforce to expand and downscale as needed, to retain workers and give them autonomy over their career journeys.

Combine your internal mobility with Total Talent
Indeed, the true power of internal mobility is unlocked when it’s applied to Total Talent – and when the talent experience of every worker is considered. Alignment between all talent pools and initiatives will create a streamlined, skilled workforce that’s readily available and qualified for whatever comes its way.

The Queensland Government has been running a project with the goal to increase its cross-agency mobility. Operating in silos created short-term recruitment inefficiencies for the Government and there was no visibility of available workers and their skills across departments. Through building skills profiles of each worker covering their availability, skills, experience and aspirations, the Government increased internal mobility and expects to reduce employee turnover. The project now covers over 5000 workers, 30 specialisations and 24 classifications.

Understand skills, for each worker and your organisation
This highlights a fundamental tenet of internal mobility and Total Talent: skills. By knowing what skills your workers have and what they aspire to, you can empower them with relevant opportunities. It could be positions that they have the skills for currently, or it could be projects and learning opportunities to upskill for. Extending this, you should also consider the skills your organisation will need in the next year, the next 5 years, and the next decade. 

Find the common ground, where an L&D programme, new role, project or stretch assignment can build their skills in a way that fulfils their career aspirations and meets your business goals. 

Set your skills framework
Another key step to complete when collating and assessing your workers’ skills is to define a skills framework within your organisation. Every individual will have different ways of describing their skills, each department will have varying terms for skills and competencies. You must bring all of these together, find a clear definition and consensus for each skill and then ensure every worker and manager is on the same page. 

The Skills Framework shows a form of this in action. Set-up by the CIPD, The Careers & Enterprise Company, Business in the Community, the Gatsby Foundation, EY Foundation and the Skills Builder Partnership, the framework was designed to highlight the skills needed to succeed at work. It offers business leaders, students and educators, a guide for future skill requirements. As Sir John Holman, Chair of the Essential Skills Task Force, explains, “By producing a universal framework of essential skills that are clear, measurable and authoritative, we will give employers a toolkit that they can use to select and train the employees they need to succeed in tomorrow’s workplace.”

Creating a positive talent cycle
Give workers access to the work they want to do, tailored to their needs and ambitions and, which highlights their value. When an individual feels valued, they will remain for longer. When they feel ready, they can move into a new internal opportunity, and then work on improving or learning certain skills to reach the next stage in their career journey. 

Developing your internal mobility strategy is the start to this. Coupling it with Total Talent is the next. The new era of work is coming and organisations with well-mobilised and agile workforces will remain competitive. With workers who are always growing and developing in tandem with their employers, instead of leaving to work for the competition. 

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