Employees Crave Career Growth. Talent Mobility Is the Answer
Today’s talent market is confusing to say the least. We’re all trying to make sense of unemployment numbers, layoffs, openings, hybrid work and the desired experiences each of us wants to have in the world of work. I was talking with a former Deloitte colleague, Alyson Daichendt, and we decided to write about the changing landscape of mobility.
Mobility and moving are not the same thing.
Let’s take the more tactical one first: moving. When an employee changes work locations at the request of the firm, that move sometimes comes with formal relocation support. Those benefits can include temporary housing, visits to the new location to assess personal fit, moving household goods, engaging a realtor and even being reimbursed for real estate closing costs. In today’s hybrid world of work, far less relocation is happening, which seems to suit most employees and employers. Not to diminish the seriousness of moving — it’s risky for both sides. The work might be interesting, but when someone’s personal life is disrupted, work will be impacted as well.
Mobility is quite another matter. Fundamentally, it’s a talent strategy grounded in the belief that the most relevant professional growth happens through a variety of on-the-job experiences. It means knowing your top talent — their aspirations and capabilities — and making purposeful choices about how to simultaneously develop an individual while strengthening the bench.
How Does Talent Mobility Impact Organizations?
First, it’s a “build vs. buy” decision. Some of the greatest brands — IBM, UPS, Cargill, Unilever — share a strong belief that growing internal talent through rotations, targeted assignments and exposure to different markets is essential to building a strong leadership pipeline.
Second, it’s a form of risk mitigation. Through the succession planning process for critical roles, organizations can protect themselves against unplanned talent gaps by carefully managing the mobility of their talent pool. In some situations, multiple potential successors could be developed for the roles, that if suddenly vacant, would leave the organization overly vulnerable.
Third, for those in regulated industries, it’s essential to demonstrate a state of readiness for individuals in roles that frequently interact with the regulator. Working in multiple functions, businesses or geographies exposes talent to the nuances and interdependencies within the business, which can be appealing to regulatory bodies that dislike surprises.
Fourth, the global nature of work frequently requires an understanding of the laws, customs and business practices outside one’s home country. Assignments that enable purposeful interactions across differing cultures are often the most rewarding, both personally and professionally.
Lastly, managing the mobility of top and emerging talent is a great way to minimize unexpected talent acquisition costs. Lack of professional growth and development are always in the top three reasons that people leave firms. Get ahead of that curve.
Editor's Note: Join us at Reworked CONNECT, May 10-12 in Austin, Texas to hear more of Mary's insights on Employee Experience
What Does Mobility Mean to Employees?
This is best answered through the filter of human motivation. Many aspects of mobility directly speak to how our brains are wired and the preferences we humans share.
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We are happiest when we have a sense of control and predictability. Working with colleagues to think through how mobility could be integrated into their career plans can provide greater career clarity and a sense of future focus.
Over the last three years, flexibility has come to have specific and personal meaning to each of us. Conversations about mobility will shed light on both career aspirations, but also how timing factors into career moves. Different phases of life require different degrees of flexibility.
Much of the industry research points to how employees are seeking a greater sense of meaning and purpose from their work. Helping colleagues move into areas of work that inspire them is a clear win-win for individual and the organization. Even short rotational assignments that are linked to community, recruiting, philanthropic or mission-driven work can drive talent retention.
Talent mobility is a great way to model inclusiveness and showcase underrepresented colleagues. It signals to others that there is a place for them within the organization and that career progression is real. There are many demographic filters that can be applied, one of the stronger ones being the movement between countries in global firms.
Related Article: Workers Are Lonely. Here's What Leaders Can Do
What Does Talent Mobility Mean to the Labor Market?
Employees continue to seek an exceptional employee experience, which includes career growth. We’ve seen a surge of software development that supports internal talent marketplaces. One example is ServiceNow's acquisition last year of Hitch Works. Internal mobility is a real need and a compelling part of talent retention. Without internal talent mobility options, employees are left with external talent mobility, aka resignations and regrettable attrition. Even in the face of short-term economic pressures, now is the time to amplify internal mobility programs to support employees' professional growth and retention.
Dr. Alyson Daichendt is a private consultant, supporting organization and people objectives for her clients. A behavioral psychologist by trade, Alyson specializes in organization design, culture, capabilities definition, leadership development and talent management.
Workforce mobility used to mean how geographically mobile a worker could be. A common ask was “are you relocatable?”
In the last several years, this definition has evolved into giving people new and different work opportunities as a mechanism to retain and grow the best talent. An employee mobility strategy that emphasizes differentiated experiences and new opportunities can dramatically improve an employee’s overall experience, career trajectory and willingness to stay. Additionally, having a mobility strategy dramatically improves an organization's position in the race for talent in a talent-short environment (EY 2023).
This cannot be a task for Human Resources alone. Rather, business leaders are incumbent to look at their businesses and determine opportunities for cross-pollination with roles that are temporary or permanent, and then work with HR partners to define sustainable programs for development. How can they achieve this? Investigate and network to determine best-in-practice companies who are doing mobile programs well; analyze roles across department/business areas that could be considered for mobile talent and create supporting policies to govern such programs; poll workers for interest in mobile career options; execute mobile programs; and measure program effectiveness to assure return on investment.
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About the Author
Mary Slaughter is a global human capital executive, consultant, executive coach and published author. She has held enterprise roles including CHRO, Chief Talent Officer, Chief Learning Officer, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Head of Employee Experience & Communications, as well as Managing Director in large consulting firms. Connect with Mary Slaughter: