Why Talent Mobility Matters

One of the most daunting talent management challenges in organizations is something we call “talent mobility” – the ability of an organization to enable and direct the movement of people from role to role.   In today’s business environment this includes lateral movement, upward movement within a role, movement into leadership, movement into international or global assignments, movement into functional specialties, movement into developmental or exploratory assignments, and often movement from part-time to full-time or vice-versa.

When we launched our High Impact Succession Management® research in 2009 we noted that one of the most common attributes of high-performing, enduring organizations is what we call “Transparent Talent Mobility.”  In fact our four-stage succession management model actually defines level 4 succession management as such, forcing our clients to understand that succession management is not really an end in itself, but rather a very special case of organizational talent mobility.

In the last few months we realized that this topic is now on the minds of most large organizations.  Consider just a few real-world  situations where talent mobility strategies become vitally important:

  • A large midwestern manufacturer which is trying to rapidly globalize its operations.   One of their biggest challenges is convincing high potential leaders to leave the US operations and take key positions in Europe and Asia.  The company has neither trained them nor put in place the rewards and support to make them effective.  And many of them are afraid to take international assignments because they are not sure that they will have jobs when they come home.  A “transparent mobility” strategy will make such a program succeed – and such a program will demand a new type of talent review process, a more transparent set of discussions about leadership and progression, and new rewards programs which incent international assignments.
  • A large Canadian bank is highly successful in Canada (Toronto based) and South America (Scotiabank).  Yet the company does not yet have a presence in Brazil, Europe, or China and feels a critical need to expand into these countries to further leverage its growth plans.  80% of its top leaders are in Toronto, from Toronto, and have never worked internationally.  Its international leaders came into the company through acquisition.  How can it leverage this leadership team to grow into new geographies?  The company needs a talent mobility strategy.
  • A fast-growing retailer (Wal-Mart) now has more than 1.4 million employees and sees growth opportunities to expand domestically and internationally to more than 2 million employees in the next few years.  The top 500 leaders in the company are now expected to rotate among domestic and international assignments and the company expects to grow this pool by a factor of two in the next few years.  How do they extend their mobility strategy to develop from within and attract highly successful general managers from other industries?

Ultimately the whole topic of talent mobility plays a fundamental role in all aspects of talent management.  It drives the way high potential leaders and technical specialists are managed, it drives the use of internal career management in the organization, and it sets the foundation for many of the conversations which take place about “how I get ahead” within the organization.

Our New Talent Management Framework will be published soon – and you will see a major focus on talent mobility and career management throughout this and other future research this year.  We know one thing for sure:  organizations that enable people to move easily, share information about capabilities and opportunities, and openly enable people to fulfill their personal goals in the context of the organization are outperforming those which fail in these areas.  As you start to plan your programs for 2010, consider putting “Transparent Talent Mobility” onto your list of things to talk about.

By the way, we encourage you to come to IMPACT 2010:  The Business of Talent® – on April 4-6 2010 in St. Petersburg Florida.  We expect to have 400 of the world’s leading talent and learning leaders joining us, and we will be discussing talent mobility strategies as one of the many important themes for 2010.