Talent Mobility – Taking the ‘bull’ by its horns!


Imagine this situation! A perfect start of the week and your CEO springs a new challenge at you. Diversification is the next dream and you are expected to magically close all new open positions for this! And before you can even realize, you have accepted the challenge! Well, now prove yourself. Do you really have a choice other than converting this threat to an opportunity?

“Historically, organizations have been focussing outward into the market to hire resources for new roles. But with the skill scenario dynamically changing and also having to combat other demons of quick turn-around times for onboarding and retention of key talent employees, talent acquisition specialists have started to believe that this is not good enough”

To fuel business agility and growth, organizations need to effectively tap their existing workforce to ring fence those cross-skillable and motivated individuals who are ready to take on the new roles. Therefore, investment on the mobility of internal talent has its advantages of filling up the open positions fast with people who understand the business and are part of the culture.

Some Startling Statistics

Global Human Capital Trends Survey 2019 by Deloitte revealed that 37% of respondent organizations agreed that it is easier to find new jobs in different organizations while only 20% felt that it is easier to mobilise people internally for different roles. What this reveals is the bitter truth that employers undervalue and overlook the potential of their own assets and instead look for talent outside, most of the time paying a premium price. One piece of advice to such organizations is to look at the possibility of exploring talent internally and adopting mobility practices. This can be a great way to blend agility into the organizational culture. This, in turn, would drastically improve employee engagement and commitment. Talking of business expansion, one of the popular ways is to enter into new geographies. What can be a better way than to mobilize their own talent into these countries?

Barriers To Internal Mobility

The prime reason for internal mobility being difficult is that most organizations are hierarchical in structure and over a period of time, this gets further rigid. The fluidity between roles and cross-skilling of the workforce becomes seemingly impossible. By tradition, people enter an organization and performance is linked with only vertical growth and rewards. Moreover, there are hardly any organizations that think of designing incentives for evaluating the potential of existing employees for internal positions. Managers too resist movement of their key talent to other teams or locations out of fear that the team performance may be hampered. Overall, organizational culture could also be a major deterrent for mobility. Talent sharing and decision making around mobility is not built as a norm in most organizations. Systems and infrastructure may also not be designed to support internal mobility. Interestingly almost 50% of the respondents to the Deloitte survey have identified that the top four barriers to internal mobility are:

  • Lack of processes to identify and move employees
  • Availability of internal employees to fill the roles
  • Current manager’s resistance to internal moves
  • Lack of information to employees on available roles

The Other Side Of The Story

While it is widely agreed that mobility is a difficult game, there is almost an equal feeling that it is an important aspect. Therefore, this is yet another topic of focus by business leaders. In addition to just filling newly opened positions, the other reasons for this becoming a trending topic could be:

  • Improve employee engagement and belongingness
  • Build better home-grown leaders with accountability
  • Business agility and rapid expansion of the business including new geographies

To cope up with the fast-paced global economy, organizations have started to acknowledge that they require a workforce that is agile and flexible. It is not enough to hire the best but it is more important to start leveraging and mobilizing existing talent into new roles, departments or even geographies. This mobility enables organizations to quickly meet changing business and market needs, increase efficiencies, unlock talent potential and future-proof their workforce. 

Remaining competitive in a globalized world is no longer about having the strongest legacy or most well-known brand. It’s about being agile enough to respond to industry changes and disruption as it happens, and it’s about having the right talent on hand to meet organizational goals. Talent mobility enables organizations to rapidly adapt to changing environments, with the ability to deploy and move key skills across projects, across the business, and across borders when needed. Mobility provides avenues for staff to progress and evolve within an organization, and can lead to far better processes and consequently more productivity.

The Recipe For Developing A Mobile Workforce

It is time businesses learn to function beyond rigid pyramids and progress to fluid circles. Talent mobility ensures the right people with the right skills are in the right place, at the right time. The Human resource function obviously plays a key role in building a mobile workforce, but where do you start?

Firstly, HR professionals need to understand the business and identify the key skills needed to be developed to adapt and survive. Surprisingly, a much smaller percentage of organizations really understand their current skills gaps. Recent research also shows that less than 45% of organizations believe their company has an established or mature process for moving talent between roles.

To improve skill gap visibility and mobility, organizations should ask themselves:

  • What skills are crucial to our future success?
  • Do we have visibility into the skills currently in our talent pool?
  • What are the current skill gaps and how do we plan to close them?
  • What do we need to look for in new hires?
  • What are the development and career aspirations of our talent?

Answering these questions will help HR professionals to understand the strengths and skills gaps in the organization so that they can proactively build the ‘workforce of the future’.

There are a number of ways to foster greater internal talent mobility. These include:

  • Cultivating internal and external talent pipelines
  • Visible career paths and succession plans
  • Developing existing employees through learning and development programs
  • Encouraging and supporting cross-functional projects, secondments, and rotations
  • Removing internal barriers and silos between teams

Of course, not all roles within an organization can be filled internally – the idea of ‘Build, Buy or Borrow’ should form part of any talent mobility strategy. Pipelines of talent should encompass both internal and external talent, including contractors and freelancers. Having these pipelines available and readily accessible enables organizations to quickly place people into roles when needed.

When the time comes to source new talent, hiring managers should focus on strategic sourcing, rather than pure talent acquisition. This means looking beyond skill-set and experience to hire for attitude and soft skills like creativity, problem-solving, comfort with ambiguity, and willingness to challenge the status quo.

Being an awesome employer is not just about having an open office with colourful décor and bean bags! It is all about looking at the problem in the eye and grabbing the bull by its horns.


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