Prediction 6: Talent mobility and career management strategies will become necessary to compete

By Josh Bersin Jan 7, 2015
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Today, many organizations still struggle to facilitate internal talent mobility, and fewer than one-third have formal succession plans for all but the very top levels, according to the Bersin by Deloitte High-Impact Succession Management: Key Findings and Maturity Modelreport published in November 2014.

Why is this issue so important now? Quite simply, it is good business. High-performing companies around the world have highly tenured people. Not only are these folks more skilled, they also understand how the company works, can build on relationships to get things done and have the confidence to initiate change.

When an employee leaves a company, we are forced to bring in someone else who starts at the bottom of the curve. This means we incur the cost of hiring (often a half to a third the salary of a senior person), the loss of productivity (the area under the curve) and the diminished learning curve of the new employee. Yes, the new person may have excellent skills and perspective from the outside, but in many cases it will take years to realize those benefits.

On the other hand, if we offer people “facilitated talent mobility”—meaning that we allow them to move to new roles with some logic and process in place—we avoid a lot of these “low performance” changes in position. It’s a win for everyone: People are constantly being developed and challenged, the company thrives on a strong internal culture, and engagement goes up.

Unfortunately, creating such a process of internal mobility is harder than it sounds. In 2015, companies should formalize this process and consider some of the following steps:

  • Make sure that all posted positions are marketed internally and that employees are encouraged to apply for them.
  • Let people shop for new jobs internally by creating incentives and rules that encourage managers to make it culturally OK to move from one position to another without a promotion.
  • Invest in onboarding and new-hire orientation, making it clear this is part of a manager’s job. As internal mobility increases, so do the number of people who are new to their position—so we need to give people the support they need to do their new job.
  • Assign career coaches (not necessarily managers) to map patterns of movement, help people find the next logical job and document career paths the company wants people to take.
  • Promote people based on their breadth of experience, not just functional expertise, showing that changing jobs internally is good for their career.

Take a lesson from the military, which actively moves professionals throughout their careers. A new officer who may start in an internal domestic assignment could easily be transferred across the world to a new one, then come back to a staff assignment at a higher level. This process of “tours of duty” is healthy for the company, the individual and the organization.

Josh Bersin is the principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, a research and advisory consulting firm in enterprise learning and talent management.

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