Internal Talent Mobility: Think Projects, Not Jobs!



As the curtain falls on the infamous year 2020, recruiters face an increasingly challenging climate. Close to 60% of companies have hiring freezes in place and many have downsized during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, global talent shortages are at an all-time high. More than one-half of the companies in the world are unable to find the skills they require. So, how does a recruiter help to fill skill gaps with fewer job openings?

A New Model: Optimizing Internal Talent

We need to rethink the way we work because the old ways are meeting neither the demands of productivity nor the needs of employees. This new model – we call it the Inside Gig strategy – optimizes the hidden talents within your organization. It actively encourages internal talent mobility, distributing skilled people more freely between the functions and other groups within the company.

Not only should companies enable internal mobility and reduce the barriers to cross-organizational moves – they should dynamically and proactively match the right talent to the right work and enable employees to opt into projects that match their skills,  experience, and interest. This facilitates organizational agility, which has been so critical during the current pandemic.

There is enormous potential in unlocking the hidden talent within our organizations, fully leveraging all of the skills your employees have – not just the ones they use in their core job responsibilities.

The Inside Gig Strategy: Unleashing Untapped Capabilities

Traditionally, we have thought about internal talent mobility as moving employees to different jobs to create learning opportunities. But we all know that managers hate losing employees to a developmental rotation. The Inside Gig strategy approaches mobility much more flexibly by breaking jobs into projects. Employees are then enabled to make room for an extra project outside of their day-to-day responsibilities – without changing jobs. By sharing talent across departments or functions, we can redeploy skills to where the company needs them most.

Implementing this innovative practice requires managers to shift from a talent scarcity mindset – where managers covet and hoard “their” employees, to an abundance mindset in which managers view all of the company’s employees as a potential source of talent. By operating in this manner, managers can access the capacity or specialized skills they need to get critical projects completed without hiring external contractors.

Tools for Managing the Talent Supply Chain

To manage the company’s Talent Supply Chain, you need to have an accurate count of all the skills and expertise within the company – not just what someone does in their job, but what people can do if needed. It is astonishing to think that most companies have no idea about the goldmine of talent at their disposal.

One of the most important tools for managing the Talent Supply Chain is an accurate, up-to-date database of the skills and expertise you have available within your company. In my experience, very few companies have an adequate understanding of all the skills and capabilities available to them internally. Most of our Human Capital Management systems include job title information, not skills. Even if they include job descriptions, these are often out of date and fail to include expertise the employee has but does not use in their role.

Today’s technology can help us to know what we have and enable greater talent mobility via talent marketplaces. When I first started studying early attempts at talent marketplaces, all of the companies I spoke with developed their own supporting technologies. Since that time, several talent marketplace platforms have become available for purchase.

Such systems match people’s skills to project-based opportunities regardless of where they sit in the company – or who they know! Such talent mobility platforms make available opportunities transparent to everyone within the organization.

A Talent Marketplace in Action

A few years ago, Cisco Systems transformed its business model, moving away from its core server technologies to cloud-based applications and a new focus on the Internet of Things. This meant having a completely different set of skills within the company. They were unable to recruit the number of people who had the new cloud-based skills they needed because, sufficient quantities did not yet exist in the labor market. So rather than create a buy strategy to acquire the skills they needed, they created a build strategy. 

To do this Cisco Systems created an internal opportunity platform, where people could opt-in to small project assignments where they would gain exposure to projects related to the Internet of Things. Thus, their employees got to learn while doing important work that would help the organization’s transformation and build the skills they needed for the future of work.

Visualizing A Talent Optimized Organization

When you recruit someone to your company, you often look at not only the relevant job skills they have but also other talents and experiences they bring with them. Most companies, however, soon disregard the full range of the recruit’s skills because they are deemed irrelevant to the task of the moment.

Imagine what your organization might look like if you managed the pool of skills differently. Imagine if you implemented an Inside Gig strategy that can…

  • Optimize the talent you have in your company by tapping into hidden skills and letting people work on projects of their own choosing.
  • Improve organizational productivity by providing a process that will help your company work in a more agile manner to get critical project teams formed quickly and with the right talent.
  • Increase access to personalized learning experiences as employees opt into projects that they value for their career development potential – critical for reskilling your workforce.
  • Create the experience employees want, which leads to increased engagement and improved retention.

The Inside Gig strategy enables employees to bring their full selves to work and to make use of their skills and experiences where they are needed. It requires a new way of thinking where we focus more on the work that needs to get done, and on our employees’ skills, and less on formal structures, job descriptions, and departmental boundaries.

The Future of Recruiting: Matching the Right Talent to the Right Work

The future of recruiting is in dynamically matching the right talent to the right work, at the right time, without constraining people to an overly narrow job description. Recruiters today can lead their organizations to this new more flexible approach to getting work accomplished.

The key is to optimize the talent that exists within your organization and shift talent to the most pressing business objectives. This is only possible where a company has an accurate inventory of the skills, expertise, and capabilities available at any given moment.

A first step? Start thinking in terms of projects, not jobs!


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