Identifying employees for internal opportunities as they grow in their careers has taken on new significance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Companies that needed to restructure quickly found that strong internal mobility programs, aided by talent marketplace technology, helped them redeploy employees to meet quickly changing business needs.
The use of a digital talent marketplace helped global consumer goods giant Unilever reallocate 4,000 employees during the early months of the pandemic to areas with high demand, unlocking 300,000 hours of productivity, said Jeroen Wels, executive vice president for talent for the company. "The talent marketplace is a key tool that helped us move people that had less work to do to areas where business was still growing, keeping our business afloat, protecting jobs and delivering results," he said.
HR industry analyst Josh Bersin said that, "in many ways, the talent marketplace is the perfect reaction to the volatility brought on by the pandemic: Since its start, roughly 40 percent of U.S. workers changed jobs, roles or managers. If you didn't have something like a talent marketplace, you had to do all that manually."
Using the Talent You Already Have
Ruslan Tovbulatov, vice president of global marketing at Gloat, a leading talent marketplace platform based in New York City, said that as many companies expect to reduce recruiting budgets in 2021, investing in employee development has become more critical.
"Companies are realizing that the key to unlocking real speed, adaptability and agility lies in utilizing the talent they already have to the fullest potential for projects, full-time roles, mentorships, and other types of work and development opportunities," he explained. "Increasingly, we see companies bringing reskilling out of the classroom and into the flow of work, to develop employee skills on the job, when and where the business needs them."
Bersin goes further, arguing that the emergence of the internal talent marketplace is about much more than career pathing, internal recruiting, or employee learning and development—it's a transformative innovation that will be central to managing talent in the future.
"The talent marketplace represents something much bigger than HR," he said. "It's the next form of business management. It will facilitate the evolution from the hierarchical model where you work your way up the pyramid to being an agile, creative, resilient organization where people work on multiple projects, move from role to role and embrace job sharing."
Ariana Moon, director of talent acquisition for Greenhouse Software, a recruiting technology provider in New York City, said the shift from maintaining siloed teams to upskilling and reskilling employees is the way forward. "I anticipate that companies will move away from linear career ladders and toward career 'jungle gyms' that can take an employee in various directions based on how they want to grow—intersecting with business needs," Moon said.
Talent marketplaces help make that easier to do. "Essentially, a talent marketplace is a way to see projects and needs and associated skills, and it allows people to opt in and fill those gaps," said Ben Eubanks, SHRM-SCP, principal analyst and chief research officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory, a human capital research and advisory services firm. "At a high level, it allows leaders to see the broad skills in demand across the organization and the organizational skill gaps that may need deeper interventions and investment. Seeing the trends over time as far as projects and demand may also signify how, when and where to mobilize internal talent to fill recurring gaps."
In addition to Gloat, some of the other players in the growing talent marketplace space are Fuel50, Hitch and Workday, which in October 2020 announced that its machine learning-powered skills cloud matches people to opportunities by comparing their skills and interests against the organization's full-time, project and gig-work skill requirements.
Boosting Retention and Career Growth
Mark Lobosco, vice president of talent solutions at LinkedIn, noted that internal mobility programs have been on the rise for years but that the pandemic made the practice business-critical. "Learning and development leaders say internal mobility is more of a priority now than before COVID-19. We're seeing internal mobility rates rise, too—from April through August 2020, the internal hiring rate was nearly 20 percent higher than it was during the same time in 2019," he said.
Retention is the No. 1 benefit of internal mobility, according to talent acquisition professionals.
More than 80 percent of those surveyed by LinkedIn agreed that internal recruiting improves retention, followed by accelerating new-hire productivity and reducing time-to-hire.
"Increased engagement, lower costs and a shorter hiring process are only a few of the perks that are leading this shift, but perhaps the biggest benefit is greater retention," Lobosco said. "Employees at companies with high internal mobility stay almost two times longer than those who don't, and employees who found new roles internally are three and a half times more likely to be engaged than those who haven't."
Retention was the biggest problem Schneider Electric was trying to solve when it invested in a talent marketplace in 2019. "Exit surveys showed that about 47 percent of people who left the company voluntarily said they were leaving because they couldn't find the right opportunity inside Schneider," said Divkiran Kathurian, formerly the general manager for HR transformation at the Paris-based energy management company, and now director of talent mobility with Seagate Technology based in Bangalore, India.
"On the other hand, we found out that our hiring managers were waiting for some critical positions to be filled for 40 and even 90 days," she said. A talent marketplace was the solution to bringing more transparency to the twin issues of supply and demand the company was facing. The company has since matched thousands of employees with new opportunities.
Kathurian said she also wanted to use the platform to create an internal gig economy, to meet the talent demand for short-term projects.
Bersin said one of the biggest benefits of the talent marketplace is that it allows career growth to be everyone's responsibility, not just the manager's job. "It makes people aware of opportunities in the company and matches people to those opportunities; creates connections between project managers and people looking to work on projects; fosters professional development; facilitates teams to get more work done."
Watson Stewart, global head of talent solutions at Standard Chartered Bank in London, said implementing a talent marketplace is an opportunity to become more flexible and agile—the blueprint for the workplace of the future. "It makes it easier to form multidisciplinary teams that don't think of people through job titles, or roles, but think of people for the skills, experiences and potential they bring to solve a business problem."