Building a talent mobility culture By Olivier Meier, Mercer Having competitive talent mobility policies is not always sufficient. The internal processes and cultures of organizations often slow down the mobility of talent and create unnecessary barriers. These barriers are linked to inefficiencies in the internal job marketplace, cost allocation issues, reluctance of managers to lose their best performers, and lingering stigmas attached to cross-functional moves. The role of mobility is shifting from fixing issues to sourcing and developing talent. In this new talent brokering role, HR and mobility teams need to refocus their efforts on workforce upskilling and reskilling issues. They must work with other parts of the business to make sure that talent can be redeployed quickly to areas of priority as well as increasingly rotate between functions. Internal job market transparency Are organizations really tapping into the wider talent pool or just fishing in a small candidate pond? Numerous inefficiencies can lead to an imperfect internal marketplace for mobile talent. We should not assume that all employees are aware of all mobility opportunities and that all potential candidates will consider the assignment offers, as a lack of diversity and inclusion support or role models often lead candidates to dismiss themselves. Informal recruitment short circuits can defeat official talent selection processes and increase diversity gaps. We should not underestimate the asymmetry of the information flow about internal jobs and opportunities: there is a lack of full information for employers about labor availability and quality and for employees about job availability and quality. Mobility teams often are not involved in the assignee selection process, but the impact of a flawed selection reverberates across many aspects of mobility. Relying on just a few candidates could lead to higher costs, lack of diversity and even performance issues. Address affordability issues Cost is one of the main barriers to mobility. But is the question purely about cost or rather about the perceived value of assignments compared to their associated and highly visible costs? How are costs split between the home and host countries? Is the split unsustainable for some of the business units involved, especially host country operations? If necessary, reframe the discussion and review the cost issue within the broader context of business value, processes and talent mobility within the organization. The allocation of costs might create issues for talent mobility. Central or regional budgets can sometimes be used to avoid inequities among business units. If only the largest business units can afford top talent, that could lead to a skillset imbalance within the organization. Overcoming reluctance to share talent Talent mobility benefits the overall organization, but managers may understandably be reluctant to lose their best performers. They may not be supportive of mobility efforts if there is no incentive to share talent with other business units. Ultimately, this could limit efforts to widen the internal talent pool and create retention issues with employees who do not feel that their aspirations are supported. Business unit managers should be viewed less as “talent owners” and more as “talent brokers” who encourage the rotation of talent. This will work only if managers are rewarded for participating in the global sourcing efforts of the company and the development of talent. A business unit that is known as a talent hub and offers developmental opportunities for employees attracts more candidates than one operating in a silo and trying to resist cross-functional mobility. Reward lateral moves From a career management perspective, lateral moves are about moving between types of jobs as opposed to being promoted within the same job family (vertical moves). Such moves are a precondition for talent retention as the number of senior manager positions available in a given company is limited and not all employees can make it to the top. Lateral career moves can be important for repatriated assignees. Companies struggle to guarantee them a job upon repatriation, and facilitating lateral moves instead of trying to implement straightforward promotions following an assignment could be part of the solution. Lateral moves are also a way to build up talent within the company by exposing employees with high potential to the realities of different departments. It is necessary to develop those with “hybrid talent” who master the skills of different functions and are in great demand. In traditional siloed organizations, only vertical promotions are valued and lateral moves can jeopardize a career. On the contrary, lateral moves in more agile, flatter companies can unlock more opportunities and rewards. This works only if these companies develop a skill-based approach rather than one focused on job titles. Linking mobility and skills acquisition Organizations are increasingly paying for skills rather than for positions. Employees possessing skills that are in high demand can expect a premium compared to their peers. This implies an understanding of the relevance of potential candidates' skills and experience (skill depth), the business priorities in terms of upskilling (and urgency) and the global competitive environment (skill supply). In the context of a skilled talent shortage, talent mobility’s purpose is to shift from fixing business issues to skills sourcing and development. Upskilling the local workforce and developing international managers with global skills is difficult without international mobility. This has led to a rise in moves from and among emerging markets and regional hubs, as opposed to moves from HQ. These moves serve both a leadership development purpose and as an incentive to attract and retain top talent. Push and pull approaches HR & mobility teams do not always control the full recruitment process, but they can rely on a mix of push and pull approaches. A “push” approach is about promoting existing mobility opportunities, amplifying communication about international jobs initiated by local HR teams and specifically targeting groups who might be interested in jobs abroad. The “pull” approach is about communicating success stories and promoting role models (essential to promoting diversity and attaching under-represented employee groups), as well as making sure that mobility is integrated in the employee value proposition and overall employer branding. Organizations with integrated mobility strategies usually rely on a “pull” approach and make mobility an important part of their employer branding. Organizations with reactive mobility may be reluctant to create excessive expectations and instead focus on more targeted “push” approaches for selected jobs/categories of employees. The rewards of a true talent mobility culture The winners in the new world of work will be companies that can identify and remove barriers preventing the flow of talent to and within the organization. This is a delicate exercise because it requires a rethink of deeply ingrained habits, existing processes and talent frameworks. Implementing innovative policies or adding new benefits is not enough if these changes do not take place as part of a broader reflection on talent mobility.