What Today’s Events Teach Us About Talent and Skills Mobility


Talent (and specifically skills) mobility now, more than ever, is a priority for organizations as people across industries are redeployed to support Covid-19 efforts.

Mobilizing your talent based on their skills builds long-term agility into your workforce. It can help to retain and occupy workers during a challenging time and provide much-needed skills and experience to other industries. It also helps workers to develop their skills and experience, and their cross-functional knowledge. Talent that is mobilized can learn new skills and broaden existing ones — and bring that back to your organization. Setting up your workforce to operate in this way creates a talent pool of readily sourced on-demand talent that can be resourced quickly, to fill gaps across other parts of the business.

Transferable skills. Many skills are applicable in multiple contexts. EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic cabin crew — skilled at supporting and work with people in multiple situations, used to working long hours, and provide first aid under pressure — have been redeployed to help with the UK’s temporary field hospitals. Scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts recently refocused on research and testing, running up to 2,000 Covid-19 tests every day. Meanwhile, Toronto-based TD Bank has redeployed 2,000 workers from its retail locations to help handle upsurges in its contact centers.

The true potential of this really comes to the forefront when you consider the contingent workforce as well, mobilizing people across various work styles, from semi-retirement to freelancing, contracting to permanent, adds another level of responsiveness and agility. For instance, 20,000 retired NHS workers have returned as temporary doctors and nurses in the UK. Likewise, several US states sought specialist (and mostly retired) Cobol developers to upscale their unemployment portals to meet unprecedented demand.

Start with skills data. The ability to mobilize talent begins with knowing what skills every individual has. Hiring managers need accurate and up-to-date skills data to make the right placement decisions. HR leaders can use this data to upskill workers for future opportunities, and senior leadership needs a complete view of all skills in their organization to inform their current and future workforce strategy. The first step in mobilizing your talent, therefore, is to ensure all your skills data, from learning systems to human capital management systems, applicant tracking systems, vendor management systems, recruitment, and so forth, is in one place.

PREMIUM CONTENT: COVID-19: PPP Loans and Paid Leave FAQs

Mapping skills to match need. The ideal scenario would see workers’ current skills mapped, then matched to current and future business needs, and then relevant opportunities offered to each worker based on their skills and aspirations. Refocus efforts in this way — ensuring companywide that all workers are naming and recording skills (a skills framework, in other words), plus widespread cultural change and buy-in at all levels. It also requires the right infrastructure to enable a person’s skills to be matched to work and learning.

The next step is to look at existing skills across all talent pools and determine where this aligns with the skills your organization needs now (and what functions require them), what you need in the near-term to ramp-up production when it starts, and what your business needs in the coming years to remain competitive. In short, look at what you have, what you need and use this to inform ways of getting missing skills — from using contingent talent to upskilling existing workers.

People-centric. You must also consider each worker’s career goals when offering them opportunities to move. Each individual must decide when they feel like moving onto a new task, project, role, or learning opportunity. That way, they can be continuously engaged in work that interests them and helps them build their careers. This is especially relevant now when many workforces are remote and distributed — a top-down approach to mobility and upskilling will fail to engage.

A workforce evolution. What you’re experiencing in the workplace now is the first step toward a wider skills revolution. Our workforces are becoming more agile, more responsive, and better able to mobilize people into the roles that need them most. This will help people build long-term fulfilling careers that will continuously engage, interest and challenge them.