Executives and HR leaders always have a laser focus on talent management: acquiring, hiring, and retaining talented employees.

This is great, but it’s not enough to ensure the long-term success of your company or your talent pipeline. In order to stand out in a crowded talent marketplace, companies must be able to develop a talent mobility strategy and programme that aligns with your employer brand and appeals to candidates or employees who may have multiple offers from your competitors on the table.

The foundation for your talent development and mobility plan is to define and identify the criteria that lines up with your organisation’s high-level goals and identify specific competencies (analytical, technical, education, experience) to cultivate for future growth.

understanding the differences between talent development and talent mobility.

Talent development traditionally refers to the organisational HR processes designed to attract, develop, motivate, and retain productive, engaged employees. Talent mobility is more focused on the career goals of your employees that align with your organisational goals, and engaging employees through your company’s support of workforce education and development programmes.

This means that we have to find out what your employees want to do in the future, and make sure our top performers have a path within your company for developing personal and professional career opportunities.

Talent mobility isn’t just about putting employees on a personal development plan. It is about making sure that every single development/training plan and conversation flows from a larger programme and strategy for your organisation. Once we have these programmes in place, they become part of our employer brand and recruitment marketing, but most importantly, they engage our current workforce and make them part of the conversation about our company’s future.

So where do we begin?

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talent mobility is about making sure that every single development and training plan and conversation flows from a larger programme and strategy for your organisation.

jessica miller-merrell, founder @Workology

establish your talent mobility baseline and pilot programmes.

Most of the actionable steps (or pre-work) for you and your team involves gathering information and developing methodology to turn your business needs and development goals into data points. You can start with industry benchmarks, but you’re still going to want to aggregate the information so that you can establish a baseline that can help you demonstrate return on investment.

1 meet with senior business leaders to understand long-term and short-term business goals and plans to ensure that there is awareness about existing gaps and future talent needs.

Your senior leadership team is the best starting place for you and your team to understand the organisation’s high-level goals for growth and the expectations around competencies you’ll be seeking in candidates in the future. This should be an open discussion and a learning opportunity. It’s not the time to “sell” your company executives on training and development, as you’ll need to gather more information to create a talent mobility proposal. Come prepared with questions that speak to executive leadership, their pain points, and their vision for where your company should be in three, five, and 10 years.

2 sit down quarterly with business leaders to identify employees who are interested in new development and growth. Evaluate their skills and experience and where gaps may lie.

At this stage, you’re conducting a “gap analysis” based on information from your company leadership and team leaders. Your baseline is where you are right now and your target is what skill sets your leadership teams need to close the gap. You can accomplish this through internal surveys, group meetings, or one-on-one intake meetings, but you’ll want to have an idea of how to score current state versus future needs.

This will allow you to collect benchmarking data for a comparison analysis once you’ve launched career development and skills training programmes. (Note: This data will also be key for you and your team to get and maintain buy-in from your leadership team.)

3 create formal and informal opportunities for growth and development.

Based on the information you’ve gathered, you can work with your team leaders to create targeted learning programmes to accelerate skills training and employee development based on the current needs of their teams. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to launch a pilot programme is to do it online (and it works for both on-site and remote employees).

Most employees, given the opportunity to improve their current skills, will eagerly participate in self-paced training, especially when a cross-company, friendly, competitive element is introduced. For example, Hubspot training is self-paced training that is tracked and recorded, and each certificate gained by a member of the team is visible to the entire team.

4 ensure that internal employees know about new career and job openings. 

This is an area that is often overlooked. Many recruiting teams, in an effort to hire more quickly, forget to make current employees aware of openings before posting them to the general public. Talent mobility means that we are redesigning the way employees seek out new career opportunities within a company, and not by just directing them to review internal job postings. This is where you’ll work with company leaders to identify internal candidates they would consider “most likely” to excel in these positions.

Even if you’re legally required to post a job opening for a specific period of time to the general public, creating a method of communicating with your current employees about the open positions before they are posted online can go a long way toward demonstrating that your company is invested in their growth. Failing to do so can create a culture that inadvertently promotes talent mobility roadblocks.

You can work with team leaders and managers to meet with their teams to share the opportunities. You can also train them to be encouraging, transparent, and comfortable working with members of their team who might not make the cut on how they can improve their skills.

Coaching your employees for future internal career opportunities is also critical in helping them put their best foot forward to continue to grow and develop within your organisation.

When internal candidates apply for a position but are not selected, use it as an opportunity to guide them into training and skills development. If they lack certifications, your company can pay for and sponsor the training for the certification testing. If they need managerial experience, consider a formal mentorship programme and connect them with a seasoned manager for development opportunities.

company strategy should guide your talent mobility efforts.

Finally, your company’s strategy for the next three to five years, or even further out, should be what guides your talent mobility efforts. Training and development opportunities will improve employee engagement. There’s no question about that.

However, many companies offer training and development, but fail when it comes to mobility because the training was created with the needs of millennial candidates in mind, not with the strategic business needs of the company. It’s the difference between “where do you see yourself in five years,” and “where do you see yourself in five years at our company,” and then determining whether your company’s needs match your employee’s development needs.

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many companies offer training and development, but fail when it comes to mobility because they created training with the needs of millennial candidates in mind, not with the strategic business needs of the company.

Without that element, your investment could be paying for your employees to get really good at something and then move on to do the same activities at your competitor’s organisation.

The key to a successful talent development programme starts by working to identify and align with your business’s needs and long-term human capital goals. This means having an HR presence in business forecasting and other long-term business planning meetings. This will provide you an in-person and unique perspective, in turn giving you further insights to ensure that your strategies align to the larger business needs.