High Impact Succession Management: Why Talent Mobility Matters






Talent MobilityOne of the key themes of our exciting new Succession Management research is what we call "transparent talent mobility." It's an important concept in talent management, and one which came to us after more than a year of research into various succession management programs.

Let me start with the underlying issue: today, and on into the future, an organizations ultimate success is dependent on two things:  

1. First, how well do you hire, train, and align your people to execute on your strategy.  

Talent Management, as we define it, addresses this complex set of needs. Today organizations are heavily focused on further defining their core business strategy, understanding the competencies and behaviors of high performers in key roles, and the using talent management tools to make sure they are attracting, developing, and managing people to optimize their fit and skills in these roles. As you mature your talent management strategy, you can start to optimize this process.

Companies like Liberty Mutual, Rogers Communications, Aetna, and others we work with have gone so far as to build "talent dashboards" which provide specific measures to help monitor the health of the workforce in these areas. They include measures like leadership capability, job fit, retention, as well as traditional measures like engagement, performance rating, and even potential. 

It takes most companies several years of effort to reach a point where the "pivotal" talent is defined, the competencies of high performers are well understood, and the performance management and development processes are in place to optimize their talent management program.  But there is a second, equally important need.

2. How well do people move from role to role as business needs change.

The second, equally important problem, is the one of change. How well do people move from role to role (both up into leadership and across the organization) as business needs change? If you think about the "talent management" program above as the "steady state" process for hiring and managing people, what happens when you go through a massive business downturn, restructuring, or migration into a new business?

High performing companies, what we call "enduring organizations," have a complex and powerful set of processes which facilitate and enable such mobility to take place rapidly and effectively. This issue of "Talent Mobility" goes far beyond succession management: it speaks to your organization's true "adapability," represented by its ability to move people when business conditions change. Unfortunately the whole issue of "talent mobility" is lost on many companies, and I have published a few horror stories on this topic. This week another one came up: one of the most talent sales and sales training professionals I know was laid off from a highly successful, very profitable high technology company. Why? Because her salary was among the top 20% in her group. In other words, this company's policy is to lay off from the "top" to gain optimum savings in compensation spending. Is this a good business decision? Maybe, maybe not.

How do you optimize talent mobility?

When you have a new business initiative, how do you really know who should move into the newly created positions? When you have a layoff, how do you decide who to let go? When a new leadership opportunity opens up, which of your leadership potentials should take the new role?

Our research shows that the answer to these problems lay in a wide variety of important talent programs, processes, strategies, and cultures. These include succession management, talent reviews, career ladders, career portals, developmental assignment, rotational assignments, stretch assignments, workforce planning, talent planning, talent segmentation, capability analysis, and even employee alumni programs.

What our research has clearly found is that talent mobility strategies are very valuable. Organizations which have transparent mobility processes are very high performing companies (GE, IBM, Procter & Gamble are among the most visible). They seem to "re-appear" in new markets, new industries, and new product categories with uncanny reliability.

Think about your own company's training, performance management, and succession processes. How well do they facilitate talent mobility? How easy do they make it for managers and executives to find "the right people" for new jobs? How well do they enable your organization to quickly move into new business areas?

Watch for much more on this topic – as always I welcome your comment on how your organization addresses this important issue.  And make sure you read High Impact Succession Management®, developed in partnership with Center for Creative Leadership, one of the world's leading executive education providers.

Josh Bersin


Josh founded Bersin & Associates in 2001 to provide research and advisory services focused on corporate learning. He is a frequent speaker at industry events and a popular blogger. Prior to founding Bersin & Associates, Josh spent 25 years in product development, product management, marketing, and sales of e-learning and other enterprise technologies. Josh’s education includes a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Cornell, a master’s of science degree in engineering from Stanford, and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

Leave a Reply