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Talent Leaders On Establishing Talent Mobility Programs That Work And Scale

Talent mobility has become a hot topic, especially in the wake of the pandemic-fueled changes in the world of work and the evolving expectations of employees. And many talent leaders are now tasked with trying to figure out how to design and implement successful talent mobility programs that meet the needs of their organization and their people.

Leaders are working to decipher what the best practices are, what are the biggest challenges they are likely to face, and what opportunities for talent mobility exist in the current market?

To help answer these important questions, we hosted a live AMA (Ask Me Anything) session with talent mobility experts: Louise Warby, Global Head of Global Mobility at KPMG, and Katie Obi, Chief People Officer at Beamery. The live AMA also featured insights from Yasar Ahmad, Global Head of Talent Acquisition at HelloFresh, who unfortunately could not join the session due to a board obligation. The session was moderated by Kartik Krishnan, Account Based Marketing Manager at Beamery, who has been running roundtables and panel discussions with talent leaders on this topic.

Establishing a talent mobility program

Both of our panelists during this session have vast experience building talent mobility programs – Louise and Katie shared some of their top tips for launching successful ones.

One thing Louise and Katie agreed on was that, if your organization is brand new to the idea of talent mobility, it’s helpful to start with a pilot program. This allows the talent function to collect valuable feedback, make mistakes (slightly less visibly), and make any necessary tweaks before fully rolling out the program. This can be helpful whether you are launching a global mobility program that relocates employees across internal borders or an internal mobility program that moves people to different teams within the same work environment.

Next, the panelists discussed how you can manage stakeholders when launching a talent mobility initiative. There are usually two sides of the coin – leaders think they know and fully understand what the organization needs and, on the other hand, they see employees expressing their desires for specific development opportunities within the organization. How can talent leaders manage those two sides, and which one should take precedence?

Ideally, it was felt, these two sides would meet in the middle.

“With these talent mobility programs, the success (or failure) often boils down to employee engagement. So the priority should be to empower employees to take ownership of their career paths – but with the business needs still in mind.” – Katie Obi

As Louise pointed out, as the world of work changes, and as technology continues to evolve, businesses must consciously fill their talent pipelines with the skills that will meet those future needs. But, at the same time, you can’t forget that your employees are truly your most valuable assets, and their growth, development, and happiness must be considered at every step.

Yasar Ahmad had also sent in an interesting point: that if the culture of a company was right and suited an employee, they would naturally align with the organization’s needs over their own. The employee will ideally see that their growth lies alongside the company’s growth, and hence the interests should merge.

Our panelists also pointed out that not every talent mobility or engagement program looks the same. Some are led by internal leaders, some are mentor-led, and others are employee-led. These can all have a place within a business, but ultimately, the most important thing is that, in order to be successful, these programs need to help ensure that your organization has the right talent with the right skills, in the right roles. That is the ultimate goal when launching any kind of talent mobility program.

Overcoming early challenges

Talent mobility is an excellent strategy if you get it right, but that’s not always easy (especially if you are just getting started). There are barriers that you will likely need to overcome to have a successful program.

Kartik posed a question around manager support to the panelists. There are a lot of managers who tend to feel quite possessive of their talent, because they are the ones who took the time to train and develop them. So why should they have to give up their talent? This lack of manager support is a common hurdle to talent mobility.

Louise shared that although she has seen this problem time and time again, the solution is to really establish a culture of development within the organization as a whole. Managers must embrace the idea of their team members learning new skills and possibly moving into a new role.

“As corny as it sounds, it comes down to the greater good. What is best for the organization as a whole?” – Louise Warby

Holding onto your top performers may not be what’s best for the employee, or the company.

An insight from Yasar Ahmad was that he’s been involved with “no poaching” programs, which is where organizations can label specific individuals as “no poach”, meaning that there is either a succession plan in place for them already or they are happy where they are and they don’t plan on making any internal moves currently. When someone is labeled in this way, other managers can’t “poach” them within the organization because of their tenure, a specific skill, or where they are headed next in their career.

Katie reinforced the fact that management is a team sport.

“Talent hoarding is not the answer, and will likely bring more harm than good. Managers are responsible for contributing to the business’ overall success and, if letting a high-performer go to a different department is going to benefit the business, then managers should be open to that.” – Katie Obi

Moreover, if managers limit the movement of their talent, it’s more likely that their team members will become disengaged and will look for new opportunities elsewhere. If employees don’t feel they are able to pursue professional growth opportunities internally, they will find them externally.

The group also discussed the importance of being strategic and intentional when moving subject matter experts around internally. When one team gains a subject matter expert, another team loses one, so it’s crucial that the organization has the knowledge and skills data to truly understand the skills that are needed on each individual team, at any given time, so others can be developed to fill those gaps.

Scaling your talent mobility program

Once you have established your talent mobility program, the next step is to scale. Kartik asked Louise and Katie to share the most important metrics to track in order to successfully do that.

Katie said she tends to look at more holistic measurements such as employee feedback (in terms of participation in the program), how the program improves retention rates and referral rates, and how talent mobility improves the organization’s succession readiness. Louise shared that at KPMG, they track attrition rates, attraction, retention, as well inclusion. They put a lot of emphasis on diversity and equity in the organization, and they see talent mobility as a way to become a more equitable company. They measure things like gender pay gaps and gender balance, to ensure that their mobility programs are having a positive impact. This is something that is very much reflected in our mission here at Beamery as well.

General ROI is another important metric to track (especially to get leadership buy-in), but it will look slightly different for each organization, depending on what their goals and objectives around talent mobility are. Kartik shared an insight from Yasar – when measuring effectiveness of talent mobility, it’s important to reflect on how that person came into the organization in the first place. It’s possible that an individual is just now in a role (or on a level) where they can really perform to their full potential, and maybe they came into the organization at the wrong level to begin with. So this measurement phase is indeed a time to reflect and consider how your Talent Acquisition function needs to change to prevent people being placed in the “wrong” roles to begin with.

Another important thing to consider when scaling a talent mobility program is career pathing. How much of what you are planning should be tailored to specific groups or roles within the organization, and how much should be more generalized development programs that are open to everyone?

The consensus from both Katie and Louise was that in an ideal state, you should have both. There may be times when having specific development programs for individual roles or teams is needed, but you must always have those general development programs within your organization that are open to anyone who is interested in them. Employees (regardless of their current role) should feel as though they have a next step, or a place to go to learn and develop internally.

This virtual event was a valuable opportunity for HR professionals to learn from these experts, Louise, Katie, and Yasar, and to connect with peers on how to create a culture of talent mobility in their organizations. If you missed the live AMA or want to watch it again, you can access the recording here.

If you want to learn more about talent mobility and how Beamery can help, connect with one of our experts. And watch our webinar with Human Resource Executive on demand, to learn how to get the most from your HR tech stack.