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Workforce Insights: Embracing Talent Mobility

Home / Workforce Insights: Embracing Talent Mobility

Posted on Nov 03, 2016

Embracing Talent Mobility to Enhance Employee Engagement

Substantial research supports the notion that organizations committed to a talent mobility strategy achieve better employee engagement and outperform their peers, be they bottom-line-oriented in the case of private industry, or mission-oriented in government and non-profit organizations.

All organizations are challenged with rapid changes and application of technology that are changing the nature of work and the workplace, differences in generational values (primarily among millennials), and the increasingly interconnected world (driven in large part by technological advancements).

Organizations that find effective ways to engage their employees gain the benefits of a happy and productive workforce. In the federal government community, agencies that have the highest scores in the “best places to work” studies consistently point to the fact that employees are more highly engaged in these organizations than in agencies scoring lower in the surveys.

What is talent mobility? It’s largely the movement of talent across projects, roles, teams, divisions and locations to drive employee engagement and retention. Bersin and Associates defines it as “a dynamic internal process for moving talent from role to role — at the leadership, professional and operational levels.” More traditional terminology often heard in organizations in regards to talent mobility, is succession planning or career planning. However, all these terms really point to the preparedness of an organization to facilitate the movement of talent across the enterprise, while “building an adaptable and enduring organization.” (Bersin)

Or put another way, it is about maximizing the contribution of people already in the organization by providing diverse experiences, and enabling them to apply and learn new competencies and skills to “deliver on the strategy and goals of the organization and the aspirations of the individual.” (Matt Russell)

A recent LinkedIn survey found that one out of three employees are actively looking for a new job, and over 50 percent would positively respond to being recruited. This is not surprising, and it points to the fact that people want to be productive and feel that they are tangibly contributing to the goals of their organization. The study also found that most employees want to grow with their current employers but say that such opportunities are few or lacking.

Millennials have consistently rated training and development as their top choice of benefits, supporting their interest in job flexibility and mobility. Meanwhile, executives and human resources professionals indicate that retaining their best and brightest team members is among their biggest challenges. It is important to keep in mind that many federal government jobs are set in a career ladder.

For example, HR assistants can be filled at the GS-5-7 levels and HR specialists at the GS-5-13 levels. Such classifications relate to much more than pay. They also define levels of knowledge and responsibility, and the qualifications necessary to move individual employees through the career path.

However, traditional career pathing is changing and the opportunities employees are seeking to advance their careers and attain a true sense of contributing to mission accomplishment. In government, it is not an easy proposition to implement change given the HR laws, regulations and rules that often must be contended with. For government leaders and managers, how can career ladders and talent mobility tools be creatively used to increase employee engagement, contribute to succession planning, and drive results?

• Cultivate strong collaboration among leaders/managers, HR, and professional development experts to create more cross-functional tasks, job rotation, and stretch assignments that offer a better balance of experience, and thereby enhance development and succession efforts.

• Enhance readiness in the organizations to move talent across the enterprise.

• Make sure jobs are clearly connected to mission so each employee has the line-of-site from individual and team contributions to mission accomplishment.

• Commit the organization to making improvements to engagement and job satisfaction.

Finally, I would say that organizations will be served well by putting employees in charge of their learning experience to support their aspirations and develop their capabilities to serve the mission. The implications for professional development and training organizations, such as Graduate School USA, is that we must move to more agile, on-demand learning platforms that provide customer-focused experiences in order to be effective learning partners.


Jack Maykoski holds the position of President and CEO at Graduate School USA. Previously, he served as Vice President for Training and Program Management with oversight for leadership development and government training services, contract administration, and customer service. With more than thirty years in the fields of professional development and training, and international development, Mr. Maykoski has extensive experience leading results-oriented capacity-building programs and providing technical assistance in many regions of the world. He has served on a number of boards and is currently President of the International Consortium for Government Financial Management.

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