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How talent mobility develops an adaptive workforce while retaining and growing talent

By Nicola Vass - 28th March 2018  |  Government , Mobility

Public sector organisations can respond better to internal and external change by facilitating talent mobility to priority areas when needed. Whether a significant shift in public policy, increasing adoption of new technology, or a refocusing of an agency’s priorities, change continues to occur.

We have all seen the pain of a senior manager struggling to get his department to respond to a new change because they didn’t have the right people in place. Even when you can attract people with the right skills, they take time to integrate into your culture and become effective. Or worse, when a senior manager loses their top talent to another employer because they have outgrown their role. As a HR leader, one of your jobs is to ensure your senior managers have a capable workforce that can adapt and thrive with ongoing organisational change.

Traditional strategies to increase employee attraction, hasten on-boarding, develop, and retain staff are all key to getting this job done. Leading public sector organisations are implementing talent mobility programs to help employees thrive and, as a result, help the organisation adapt to change and thrive. Empower your employees with greater control over their career development, helping broaden their skill sets, and sharing their knowledge and experience. All this comes in addition to the substantial direct and indirect financial savings that effective talent mobility can provide.

Rather than constraining employees’ career paths, employers can instead encourage employees to gravitate towards the positions they are best suited for. This is easily done with proper implementation of the capability framework. Over time, this will lead to a more productive workforce, in which employees are able to develop their skills and careers based on the changing environment and their own personal goals. This is important in areas of the public sector that are currently experiencing rapid change or foresee a reform.

Smiling coworkers looking at camera in the office.

Talent mobility is needed to manage the rapid change in work practices

New technologies, including automation, are changing the employment landscape in Australia. As a result, the need for individual roles is changing more frequently. Some roles disappear, some change significantly, and new roles are created. If you have a culture of acknowledging and building on transferable capabilities, you can resource for much of this change internally. But, an organisation with poor talent mobility will tend to look outside for new and changed roles, which often could be filled by an internal candidate. Talent mobility does not replace external recruitment, it just reduces the need for it.

Work in the public sector is often project-based, and these project roles are often filled by external contractors. Using operational staff for project roles provides them with a huge development opportunity, and retains significant project knowledge in-house after the project. A talent mobility program will create a pool of these temporary project roles, and other temporary secondment as development opportunities for interested staff.
By improving workforce talent mobility, organisations will be able to create a pipeline of talent and future leadership, improving the organisations ability to respond and adapt to change.

Retain your good staff

According to NSW Public Service Commission, 41% of employees are currently looking for, or thinking about looking for a new role within the NSW public sector (People Matter Survey, 2017). The main reason cited is that employees want a new position to broaden their experience. Indeed, the opportunity to grow one’s career internally is becoming a defining feature of employers of choice for top talent.

As employees grow, their personal goals change, and it is not always easy to align these goals with their current position. When they can take advantage of a talent mobility program, they can move into a new role where they can grow and continue to contribute to the organisation. As a bonus, these employees often become more engaged in their work, strengthen integration between business units, and spread good practices.

Choosing not to deploy a talent mobility program because managers in the business don’t want to lose staff doesn’t make sense. They will lose staff if their staff are ready for a new role. The question is, does the organisation lose them too?

Leading HR organisations create development pathways for staff to move through key role types as their need for career development arises. This leaves the organisation with highly capable staff, experienced in multiple parts of the business, highly engaged in the organisational purpose.

The alternative is an organisation of stultified staff who feel thwarted in their career, uninterested in working hard, and a pool of recently recruited staff who are swimming against this current, trying to get up to speed.

The difference is how much you facilitate workforce talent mobility. Internal recruitment is just the beginning. Developing a talent mobility program that actively sources secondment and transfer opportunities, matches talent to these roles, and coaches interested staff to develop their career plan taking them to the next level is very achievable.

Talent mobility between organisations strengthens and diversifies the sector

The NSW Government is currently running a talent mobility program for the Department of Family and Community Services to other state government agencies. Indeed, the NSW Government has a policy of talent mobility across the sector to create a more adaptive and professional workforce.
The opportunity to work in different government agencies provides employees the opportunity to learn new ways of completing objectives. Additionally, it gives each employee a solid foundation on which to work, as they will have a better understanding of the ‘bigger picture’. This benefits organisations by reducing the risk of ‘group think’, strengthening links with other agencies, and creating empowered employees with a broader vision of public service.

Adaptive organisations thrive

Increased change requires increased adaptation to the changes. Organisations that can adapt to change well, deliver their Corporate Strategies better, and become an example for other agencies across the sector, and the country.

Adaptive organisations create more engaged employees; employees who are interested in growth, advancement, and agility. Agencies that develop a talent mobility program become more adaptive to change and become a leading contributor to the improvement of the public sector.

Ultimately, a talent mobility program will aid your employees in fulfilling their own professional workplace goals, while giving your organisation an agile, knowledgeable, and well-trained talent pool to draw from. Through better mobility, your organisation’s senior managers will be able to acquire, develop and retain talented employees, while pivoting towards new focuses and directions.

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