Chapter Five

Talent Mobility

Chapter Five: Part One

Talent Mobility

A Playbook for Talent Mobility

With the talent market being as competitive as it is, organizations are more determinedly looking to fill talent pipelines internally and to create talent pools of candidates for future roles. Talent mobility is not a solution of just moving people around; it is a way to say that you have a commitment to internal talent.

Talent mobility is a strategy with clear intent and actions directed at a particular outcome. Here’s how I define it:

Talent mobility is a dynamic internal process for moving talent from role to role—at the leadership, professional, and operation levels. In this context, employees move seamlessly from one job to the next, vertically and horizontally—often crossing business, function, and geographical lines. The ability to move the right talent to the right place at the right time is essential for building an adaptable and enduring organization. The ultimate goal of mobility is to optimize the investment a company has made in its people.

Talent mobility requires that you pay attention to all elements of your talent-management strategy. It is the interplay of organizational strategies and practices that impacts developing bench strength and building talent pools. As part of your talent strategy, this will help you source key roles in your organization.

Components That Impact Talent Mobility

This framework will give you an idea of the components
that impact talent-mobility decisions.

Utilizing a talent-mobility strategy often requires a shift in organizational mindset. You have to confront the difference between talent mobility and what people perceive as the promotion process. Even with all of the messaging over the last few years that career development often consists of a series of lateral moves to build skills and capabilities, people associate talent movement with promotion. Additionally, the expectations of the workforce are for movement with promotion and a raise in pay.

People still think about climbing the “career ladder” instead of a “climbing wall.”

For a talent-mobility strategy to really work, it has to be part of a manager’s accountability rather than an HR-driven process. Talent mobility is an ongoing dialogue that always takes into account the changing needs of individuals and the business.

Talent mobility is not without its challenges. While it can help you focus on building internal talent pools as well as identify external talent you may want to tap at some future point, it also carries with it unintended consequences that may be in direct conflict with the expectations of your workforce. If, as part of the recruiting process, you highlight your organization’s talent-mobility strategy, then without even realizing it you could be making implicit promises and setting expectations in the mind of the candidate.

First, not everyone will agree with a definition of timing of moves. Your people may have a very different view of how often they should be moving into new roles. If your employees associate movement with promotion, they may be disappointed with how your talent-mobility strategy works. Another reality of the expectation of upward mobility is that many organizations have been working off flattening levels over the years, so there simply are not enough manager, director, and vice president roles to accommodate the people who
expect and want roles at that level.

I think you have to strike a balance between moving someone into a role to build their skills and capabilities, and their expectations around how quickly they want to move from job to job. Organizations often set guidelines around talent movement, including a defined time period in their current role as a requirement for consideration for a new role. Sometimes this is disappointing to the individual, who may have a very different view of the pace and timing of their development moves, so expectations must be managed.

It is important to connect your mobility strategy with pay practices. How are you going to compensate people for moves to roles where they further build their skills and capabilities?

Do you connect pay increases to lateral moves, or is a raise connected to upward mobility only? Getting clarity early on will help you set realistic expectations for your people. You also need to address messaging. It is important to connect mobility with a business mindset. Share the desired outcomes of your mobility strategy. Make it personal.

In organizations today, you’re often dealing with a situation like an “N of 1” trial. So you’re not winning over an entire workforce, but each individual person, one at a time.

Where Do You Start?

You need to define an approach that makes sense for the organization. The goal isn’t to be moving everyone all the time. A good place to start is by identifying roles that make a material difference to the organization.

Examples would be:

Roles that are revenue-generating

Roles that are customer-facing

Roles that require distinctive skills or capabilities that are often difficult to find in the marketplace

Key management roles

Sometimes organizations focus on their top 200 jobs, or top 50 jobs, or just on critical roles. There are many variations of what your plan could be— the important thing is that you have put together a framework that is going to create great results for your organization.

Once you have identified your key roles, it is important to ask: What skills, capabilities, and talent are needed for these roles? How have you defined expectations, and results? Can you articulate what “good” looks like for each role?

Finally, consider creating a guideline for time in role before a person can move to another job. People need to experience the impacts and consequences of their decisions, and moving them too quickly in a series of roles means that they never get to live with the outcomes and impacts of their actions.

Mobility Can Also Be Outside-in

Talent mobility needs to have a broader view. In order to make your strategy effective, it is helpful to have an outside-in approach. How can you fill your open positions with people from your outside talent pipeline? Not every talent need is going to be filled internally. Here’s how you can build your external pipelines:

Know your marketplace.
Who is in the marketplace
that you think would be a good hire for your organization? You will need to monitor their careers.
Stay in touch with them on social sites and through professional organizations.

Leverage connections
that your senior leaders and managers have in their areas of expertise. When they go to conferences, gather postevent information
for your pipeline.
Whom did they meet? Who did they find
o be impressive?

Invite people to blogs, competitions, and
projects. How would you involve contingent and contract workers in your external strategy?

Timing is everything. Connect with external
talent, and understand
their individual career aspirations, and their particular timing for
making a job move.


Talent Pools and Bench Strength

It is important that your talent-management strategy is the guide for building robust talent pools and bench strength. Here is how you can leverage talent-management practices:


Make development a business priority. When you make a commitment to talent mobility, it takes work to do it well. It takes commitment and conscious effort on the part of every people leader.


There are many ways to develop leaders that can help build your organization’s future. Here are the basics:

  • Formal training and learning

  • Self-directed or virtual learning

  • Rotational assignments

  • Leaders developing leaders

  • External coaching and mentoring

  • Short-term project assignments

  • Internal contract marketplace


Hold leaders accountable for people results in the same way that you would hold them accountable for business results.


To attract and retain talent, employees need multiple relationships across the organization and they need exposure to senior leaders.


Use talent movement as a way to build organization capability and capacity.

When you begin to build your talent-mobility strategy, it is helpful to evaluate your current talent pools. First, take a look at your incumbents. Are they performing as expected in their role? Would additional development investment help? Is a change needed?

It is also important to evaluate the strength and quality of your succession pools. How are people doing with stretch assignments? Do you have anyone who was overpromoted who is vulnerable? Do you have people you are at risk of losing because they have been in their role too long? Are you at risk of losing great talent because you lack opportunities for them?

Finally, evaluate your development pools—these are individuals that could be as much as five years out for senior roles. Do you have the right people in the right jobs to build skills and capabilities for the next role? Do you have strong development and retention

plans in place? In these development assignments, make sure that they have opportunity to build both technical and business acumen along with building leadership capability.

Every manager and supervisor is a talent manager, and they need to be accountable for building a talent culture. While HR may guide talent and performance processes in an organization, leaders are accountable for implementation, and the actions and deliverables that follow. Employee feedback and development is in real time and they own the employee dialogue about development and talent mobility.

It is important that leaders know what is happening with their people. The use of workforce analytics is important so they have a dashboard where they can view retention/attrition,

strength of talent pools, at-risk team members, performance outcomes, and development plans. Managers need to be equipped with workforce intelligence to have insight into their talent plans and talent-mobility recommendations.

In September of 2015,
David Letterman, long-time host of
The Late Show, was famous for his top 10 lists, which featured nightly. Sometimes the lists were funny, sometimes serious, but always interesting.

So let’s do a top 10 list here … Drumroll please …

The Top Ten Things You Can Do to Insure Your Organization Is Ready for Talent Mobility

Have a clear framework for how talent movement will work in your organization.

Communicate your talent mobility principles to your people.

Connect your career-development value proposition to your employee value proposition in the recruiting process.

Determine what is needed to build the capability of your managers.

Build talent leadership into your management and executive development.

Insure visible signs of success. Publicize what is working well.

Develop practices that bring visibility to opportunities and candidates, such as weekly talent-movement calls.

Have clear goals and metrics—retention/ attrition, internal versus external placements, turnover costs, and shifts in demographics.

Link talent mobility to long-term strategic planning, such as business continuity planning. Make it a part of your annual review with the board.

Build talent mobility in alignment with your business strategy. Recognize that different strategies call for implementing talent mobility in different ways. (i.e. different geographies, growth trajectory of the businesses)

And here it is … the number one thing you can do to insure that your organization is ready for talent mobility …

Chapter Five: Part Two

Workforce Analytics

The Basics of Workforce Analytics

One of my favorite business cartoons is a depiction of a meeting in a conference room where everyone is sitting around a boardroom table with charts on the wall behind them, and the caption underneath reads, “What if we don’t change at all and something magical just happens.” Whenever I see this I always chuckle just a bit, because it describes part of the workforce analytics continuum.

Hoping for magic is one perspective; developing robust analytics and putting resources in place is further on the continuum. Then we get to the far end, where from time to time you see organizations that measure everything that is not nailed down, to the point of creating stacks of data people do not understand or know how to use.

What we are aiming for here is building the analytics strategy and a plan that informs decision-making for your organization. It should be linked to your business strategy, and address all the people dimensions that are relevant for you. This is where organizations sometimes get stuck: trying to measure too much or gather data that is not relevant for them.

In this section, we will look at the business case for using human capital analytics, and offer frameworks and suggestions on how you can approach this in your organization. In this highly competitive talent market it is a distinct advantage to have the information that will best equip you to make informed talent decisions—whether it is retention, areas of turnover, or predictive analytics giving you data on who is at risk for leaving. In Connecting Workforce Analytics to Better Business Results, Harvard Business Review, April 2016, they surveyed organizations and put them into three categories. The first was those who used workforce analytics heavily; the second was organizations that used them marginally; and the third was companies that did not use them at all.

Just to highlight key findings:

  • When it came to finding the right people, companies that used workforce analytics were twice as likely to achieve better results than those that did not.

  • Companies that used analytics outperformed companies who did not when it came to managing a global workforce: 40 percent versus 14 percent respectively.

  • In managing turnover, companies that used analytics were over 1.5× more successful in retaining talented employees.

Analytics Drives
Financial Performance

There is a growing amount of evidence that investing in analytics pays off big-time. Armed with analytics, companies are:

  • Twice as likely to turn in top quartile financial performance.

  • 5× more likely to make decisions faster than their competitors.

  • Three times more likely to execute decisions as intended.

  • Twice as likely to use data very frequently when making decisions.

The information then informs decisions and allows for those organizations to examine options and gain clarity on direction more quickly. Having analytics not only gives you a view of what has happened (often termed a “lagging indicator”), but can also give you a view to the future by using predictive data looking at issues such as predicting attrition and who is most likely to leave and based on what factors.

As organizations begin to work on their plan for workforce analytics, it’s helpful to have a basic framework.

Analytics Drives
Financial Performance

Think of your approach to analytics in this basic equation:

Improving the
work experience

(Culture, purpose, values, wellness, job satisfaction)


(Individual, team, and organizational)


(Business continuity, hiring, retention)

Actionable insight

Building Your
Workforce Intelligence

Oracle HCM has partnered with the Talent Strategy Institute to deliver webcasts on workforce planning and analytics. Al Adamsen, executive director of the institute, shared this model of workforce intelligence (see right).

What I like about this model is that it knits together all the foundational metrics that build solid capabilities in workforce analytics, and gives managers actionable data when examining key aspects of their business. It is an easy way to picture all of the operational data elements that are necessary to make better people decisions and gain understanding that informs decisions on building a talent pipeline, investing in talent retention, and forecasting the talent necessary to sustain and grow the business.

The Talent Strategy Institute’s Model of Workforce Intelligence,
Showing Enablers of Operational Excellence

Workforce Analytics

  • Predictive Analytics and Linkage

  • Big Data and Machine Learning

  • Social Network Analytics

  • Experimentation

Workforce Planning

  • Forecasting Labor Demand
    and Supply

  • Gap Analysis

  • Modeling and Scenario

  • Talent Strategy Optimization

HR Metrics and Reporting

  • Descriptive Statistics

  • Cluster and Basic Analyses

  • Compliance Reporting

  • Dashboards and Scorecards

Workforce Management

  • Payroll Allocation

  • Labor Scheduling

  • Modeling and Scenario

  • Productivity Optimization

As a part of an annual, or more likely, a continuous talent-planning process, organizations attempt to produce a workforce plan. Simply put, a workforce plan flows from your business strategy and takes into account where the business needs to grow, where it will maintain its present course, and in some cases, where it might need to contract and redeploy talent to other places.

Overleaf is a comparison between workforce planning and workforce analytics. Both sources of information give you a view of the strength of your talent pipelines, and how you will need to adapt and grow to have the talent required to deliver on your business strategy.

Workforce Analytics Versus
Workforce Planning

Workforce Analytics

  • Looking at the past (like turnover trends) or very recent past (survey, performance management) to uncover what leaders “should” do—relative to other possible investments—to positively affect desired business outcomes.

  • Deliverable: Insight into what likely drives key performance indicators (employee engagement, retention, customer satisfaction, and so on)

  • Analogous to market research

Workforce Planning

  • Looking at past group or organization growth rates to anticipate the future supply of labor. This is reconciled against the needs required by HR to execute the business strategies (labor demand). The resulting gap informs the HR strategy.

  • Deliverable: Insight into the gap for labor at a future point in time, along with strategies to fill that gap (FTEs, contingent labor, and so on). When filling gaps with external talent, you need to think about whom to hire and when you will need to hire them. For filling gaps with internal talent pipelines, you must consider whom to develop and when to begin.

  • Analogous to supply chain management

When you are beginning workforce planning, it is essential that you start with some basic building blocks.

First, it is important to partner with the business/operations leaders to gain understanding of shortand long-term operational plans. Second, having a strong talentreview process will help you understand key roles, bench strength, and where you have talent gaps. It is always helpful to know the talent market. This would include knowledge of general trends, sources for your external bench candidates, and strategies for identifying external candidates.

When doing workforce planning, it is important that this be an ongoing business process and not just a yearly event. The market is far too competitive these days to rely on information you only update once a year.

It is important to know how workforce planning fits into your broader HCM analytics framework. Think of basic HR metrics as giving you a view into what is happening across the organization (including talent acquisition, attrition, performance, development planning, and career management).

Workforce planning should help you answer these questions: How many people do we need? What are their skills and capabilities? Where do we need them? Are we prepared for shifts in the business? What leadership skills and capabilities are needed? Where do we have gaps? Can gaps be filled from within? If not, where would we find these people externally?

Results Any CFO Would Love

Every year, Sierra Cedar produces an annual report on HR technology. If you have never read it, I encourage you to at least take a glance at the summary material. It is perhaps the best view of what’s going on in HCM in the industry today.

As part of this report, they look at the impact of workforce planning and analytics. They basically put it like this:




Higher HR, talent, and business outcome scores

Increases return on equity;
31 percent higher than lower adopters

Sierra Cedar also reports that organizations that use
analytics have a 79 percent higher return on equity!

There is a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow

Begin by:

  1. Connecting business strategy to workforce planning processes

  2. Building analytics understanding, capability, and capacity throughout your organization

  3. Focusing on career development, and growth of your skill and capability portfolio

  4. Making investments in HCM cloud technology that delivers the infrastructure you need to access the right data and information at the right time. Insights used to inform business decisions and build strong talent pipelines that sustain and grow the business

Companies who have made the investment
in analytics see big payoffs. They have:


more talent available when needed


higher employee performance


better quality
of hire




better talent

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