One Potential Key to Retaining Top Talent? Mobility.

As firms continue to search for ways to attract and retain the best possible talent, one expert in the field believes encouraging employees to move around the organization and make the best use of their individual skills is an absolute must.

In the recent webinar, Talent Mobility as a Strategic Imperative, presenter David Taylor from San Francisco-based education technology company Degreed argues that three big shifts in the working world have gotten us to this point: (1) the technology-enabled move in our jobs from the episodic to the continuous (think, for example, of the move in many companies from annual reviews to ongoing feedback); (2) the “great unbundling,” which he defines as the ability to directly engage and manage component parts, allowing for input from more diverse sources for many processes and projects; and (3) changing demographics, which has resulted in a shrinking of the workforce.

David Taylor

These shifts, Taylor says, have resulted in a number of challenges when it comes to talent management. For instance, as Baby Boomers leave the workforce, companies may be beginning to see shortages in crucial skills throughout their organizations as that institutional knowledge walks out the door. They may also be noticing a lack of growth opportunities due to the longstanding (but often suboptimal) practices, processes and capabilities they’ve had in place.

However, such generational turnover also provides the rare opportunity to step back, rethink and reimagine how the organization approaches learning and talent management, and to perhaps start to embrace new ways of thinking. The younger generation is likely to be drawn to, for example, a company that is dynamic and continuously evolving, one with an employee-centric culture and one that places an emphasis on skills and data, as opposed to regimented silos or hard-and-fast rules about tenure when it comes to moving outward and upward.

Talent mobility, Taylor says, can enhance culture and better facilitate the development of a firm’s people. And mobility, he stresses, doesn’t necessarily mean movement – it’s not always about constantly shifting people around and making a mess of the org chart. In fact, the three most important things to consider for an organization looking to encourage talent mobility are: (1) shifting the mindset of roles versus skills; (2) ensuring that employees feel empowered; and (3) understanding the goal behind the move, be it retention, development, engagement, succession or some combination of these.

Even those companies with a clear vision of how they’d like to enact a more talent-mobile workforce are likely to face impediments toward doing so. Taylor says prevailing mindsets, embedded cultural practices and managerial resistance are all common speed bumps on the road to greater mobility within an organization. But by embracing new thinking that breaks down some of those dug-in mindsets, embracing continuous processes that enable and empower more employees and embracing disaggregation, true talent mobility is an attainable goal.

And that’s good, because according to Taylor, it’s an absolute necessity for firms that don’t want to end up on the wrong end of the ongoing war for talent.