Blog post

Talent Agility: What it is and how it helps your organization

It is vital that organizations pivot quickly in changing circumstances to thrive.
min read

One thing that the pandemic made perfectly clear to business owners and managers, is that needing the ability to pivot quickly in changing circumstances is vital to survive and thrive in an everchanging business landscape. In this instance, the rapidly changing circumstances were brought about by a pandemic, a situation that businesses weren't able to influence or control. But it forced many companies to implement remote work even if they didn't have any organizational structure to support it. Because of the urgency of the need, many companies found ways to operate effectively with a significant portion of their employees working from home. And now, we have a reality where both enterprises and their employees like the new status quo.

The pandemic jolted the business world into realizing many companies weren't set up for a quick pivot to a new reality. And looking back on the effects, any savvy business manager can see that while we don't know what the next change will be, having the ability to move quickly to respond to a new business reality is essential to a thriving enterprise.

What is Talent Agility?

In a 2015 column in Forbes, Dr. Edward Lawler III stated that talent agility ". . .recognizes the reality that organizations cannot know the future; all they can do is respond to it."

He went on to say that the concept of talent agility in HR management was likely to grow in the next 20 years. Dr. Lawler couldn't have predicted the pandemic which brought the need for talent agility to the forefront.

What is talent agility and how does it apply to your enterprise's HR functionality? describes agility as the ability to move quickly and easily in the physical sense, and also the ability to think and draw conclusions quickly.

  • In the case of talent agility, both definitions can apply. Talent agility is using the talent (employees) you already have in your enterprise to fulfill new roles or work on new projects that they wouldn't have even known about in a traditional enterprise business structure. Talent agility is recruiting internally throughout your enterprise for new roles across your business instead of keeping talent in career path silos. It is giving people the ability to look for new roles inside your organization and simultaneously letting HR find new people for vacant roles by searching for talent within the enterprise.
  • By freeing talent and human resources to look within the entire organization as a talent marketplace for hiring or being hired, you create the reality of talent agility. The need for talent agility and the benefits of using talent agility weren't clear to many corporate managers even just a few years ago. Employees went to work inside their offices and were siloed into a preconceived career track. Meetings were held in person and often necessitated travel to do so.

    The pandemic blew all those customary ways of doing business wide open because we were forced to work from home. We had to find ways to work as teams without being together in the same room or department.

    The success of pivoting to remote work or hybrid work proved that in many circumstances it didn't really matter where someone was physically, they could work together with a team virtually and still turn out high-quality work.
    And companies learned that they were spending money on travel and in-person meetings that they could use for other priorities.

    Your enterprise is filled with talented people that are looking for opportunities to learn and grow in their careers. At the same time, your HR department is hunting for talent to fill positions within your enterprise. By connecting these two groups of people, your talent and the HR department, you can create a talent marketplace that gives your company real talent agility.
  • An agile workforce can meet unforeseen changes with minimal resistance and they can be leveraged as opportunities instead of obstacles.

8 Ways to Build Talent Agility

The traditional method of building a workforce, hiring externally, isn't enough to build talent agility. Instead, to build talent agility the focus should be on employee retention.

As noted by Human Resources Director, "This means growing a workforce that is adaptable: ready to pivot, adjust course, and take on new roles or challenges at a moment’s notice. It means helping employees to feel engaged and valued, supporting them to become multi-skilled and giving them genuine career mobility within a company."

In order to grow the talent agility within your company, you need to change the employee lifecycle to one with a primary focus on employee retention.

1. Employee Onboarding

Since the goal is to prioritize employee retention, the focus on the employee begins with hiring and training. Prioritizing onboarding shows new employees that they are valued, and speeds up how quickly a new hire becomes a productive member of the team. It's not enough to give them just enough training when they begin working for you. Instead, you need to give them the support and training to show that you value them enough to keep them on the team a year from now.

Onboarding is the foundation for employee learning and career growth. This means it needs to be personalized so employees get the mentoring, resources, and active goal setting to continue to be productive in their roles. Onboarding doesn't stop with training new hires, it should become part of the lifecycle for all employees as continual support.

2. Performance Reviews and Employee Development

Traditionally, employees receive evaluations and set career goals during their annual review. However, that means that the discussion and mentoring they need to stay productive is only once a year. How many employees are surprised by their annual reviews, causing them to be unhappy in their roles?

Effective onboarding involves continual and frequent interactions between employees and management with consistent periodic reviews, setting goals, and employee development. By providing employees with frequent feedback, they have a better understanding of how to perform and be productive.

3. Learning New Skills

In a study of employee engagement noted by the Harvard Business Review, researchers found that the three environments that mattered most to employees were cultural, technological, and physical. The study also showed that engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave a company.

Employees want to have opportunities to develop their skills and build experience as professionals and want their employers to provide those opportunities. Millennials especially are focused on careers as a set of experiences, not a linear promotion track within a company. They also value a work-life balance, with a focus on learning new skills as a way to grow.

Providing employees with the ability to learn and grow within your organization gives you a continuous group of talent whose personalized learning experiences mesh with the company's need for changing skillsets that can be scaled within the organization.

4. Digital Tech Skills

Technology is continuously evolving, creating a constant need for employees with the skills to work with that new technology. Providing employees the opportunities to learn these skills results in already having the people in place within your organization that can be tapped as machine learning experts, data scientists, IoT engineers, etc. Identifying this talent within your enterprise is made easier by providing proven learning tracks as training.

This allows you to retain people while opening up career opportunities for them.

5. Diversity

Another study by the Harvard Business Review examined the relationship between diversity with respect to gender, nationality, career path, and other factors to the percentage of company revenues from new products. The study found that more diverse businesses were more innovative with higher revenues and new product selections.

An agile workforce is made up of diverse individuals who bring unique experiences to the business.

6. Easy-to-Use Technology

With the rapid development of consumer technology and the common usage of smartphones, employees expect their workplace technology to be just as easy to use. Installing an app-centric tech platform as simple to use as current consumer technology that's also visually appealing, improves team collaboration and workflows within the company which in turn drives employee engagement and utilization.

For enterprises, using app-centric software can offer sophisticated business integrations including analytics, data collection, and intelligence. And monitoring the use of these apps gives HR a picture of employee engagement, workforce skills, company culture, and where they have talent that can be tapped for new roles.

7. People-Centric Retention

What it comes down to is that the way enterprises can pivot to respond to new business realities is by focusing on the people that work for them. This is the opposite of looking at a business from the top down and looking for outside people to fill new positions.

Instead, it is a people-centric solution, looking at how to use the people already working for your enterprise, who are familiar with the company culture and operation, to fill opportunities. It is hiring from within and using the skills and knowledge you've provided training for to grow your workforce.

8. Culture and Relationship Building

Building camaraderie through formal and informal interactive social events, cross-department working committees, and company sponsored gatherings for charitable causes will positively affect company culture. Relationships built during work-sponsored events can continue throughout an employee's tenure, strengthening work collaboration. As employees become more invested in the company culture, they can tap relationships to find out about job openings, project openings, and other opportunities. Supporting each other during changes sets them up for success.

talent agility illustration

The Impact of Talent Agility

What is the impact of talent agility on your organization? What are the benefits for your enterprise? These are the ultimate questions business leaders, managers, and CEOs need to ask themselves.

A study by PwC in 2022 found that 77 percent of respondents said that the ability to hire and retain talent is critical to achieving growth while only 31 percent expect talent shortages to ease this year. The same study found that 60 percent of executives say digital transformation is their most critical growth driver in 2022.

In this demanding climate, an enterprise's talent agility is extremely important. With the talent marketplace outside your business limited, it emphasizes how talent agility can sustain and provide positive growth for your business.

In 2022, the impacts of inflation, talent shortages, and supply chain issues are influencing your company's revenues and profits. For your company to thrive, investing in growth of talent agility will give your company the ability to respond quickly to the obstacles standing in the way of current profits and future growth.

Talent agility gives your employees the ability to anticipate changes, then respond to them through innovation when reacting to unfolding, unforeseen circumstances.

Implementing Talent Agility

Ok, so you know that you need to implement your company's talent agility and increase it to thrive in this constantly changing global business climate. How do you do it?

Like many enterprise-level changes, implementing talent agility takes strategic planning and time. However, it's important to stick to your strategy moving the implementation forward, with your attention on how each change affects your employees.

1. Future-Proofing Your Workforce

Future-proofing sounds like something from a science-fiction movie, but it's really not that different than other types of strategic planning. Instead of planning the future goals for marketing or sales, you are strategically planning goals for your workforce.

If you think about it, your company works very hard to hire the right people for jobs and spends a lot of money training them. But, what if you hired the best people for future jobs, or people that could gain training and then move on to future jobs within your enterprise?

If you could retain workers who are knowledgeable about the enterprise and can understand how changes would affect the company, wouldn't they be better workers to place in future job openings?

The key is that your workforce needs regular maintenance and repair, just like other systems such as infrastructure and software.

Traditional methods of upskilling, corporate mentoring, career pathing while worthwhile keep people in silos and corporate pre-determined hierarchies. These methods are helpful as long as your enterprise continues running as it has historically. But when a quick pivot is required to react to changing circumstances, you need an agile workforce.

2. Improving Employee Connectedness

Building and improving employee connectedness through work experiences like cross-departmental assignments, or company-sponsored social events, or working together on charitable pursuits, gives employees channels to learn more about each other. These relationships improve at all levels, between workers on the same team, in different departments, in disparate enterprise sectors, and sometimes even globally.

Being connected to other employees through work and outside of work, reduces the coldness of working for a corporation. Instead, it makes the corporation friendlier which in turn makes employees happier. As the network of relationships grows, it encourages workers to pass news on from their own department that may affect other departments such as team or employee opportunities.

Offering opportunities to employees that result in more connectedness throughout the enterprise pays off in both intangible (happier workers) and tangible benefits (higher profits).

3. Talent Marketplace Platform

What is a talent marketplace platform?

A talent marketplace platform is in broad terms "an internal network of jobs and opportunities for employees. The primary goal of a talent marketplace is to help develop employees' skills and talents, so they're more valuable to the company," according to Structural, a company working with enterprises to implement and strengthen talent agility.

In fact, Structural is working with Microsoft through their Teams software. In the words of Scott Burns, CEO, and cofounder, "Enterprises use Structural to empower employees to discover the opportunities, experts, and collaborators they need to thrive in this dynamic work environment."

Implementing a talent marketplace platform gives employees the ability to see opportunities throughout the enterprise, not just in their own department. It is discovery software for the workplace.

What the talent marketplace does is eliminate workers learning about a job opportunity within an organization by chance and replacing it with leading-edge technology. This technology revolutionizes the way workers connect and find opportunities that lead to cross-functional innovation and rewarding career growth.

Adding a talent marketplace platform to your enterprise will help employees be more productive, effective, and satisfied in their current roles. It will help them move to new roles both laterally and upwards in your hierarchy through the initiation of projects and learning opportunities to train and prepare them for new roles.

Katie Leifeld, Senior Talent and Organizational Development Manager at Andersen Corporation, notes that when connection and opportunity are embedded in work, employees seek to thrive where they are instead of seeking outside opportunities. She says, "We commit to being a special place to work here at Andersen, helping employees get to where they want to be in their career with us. Structural provides the technology to do that."

How does a Talent Marketplace work?

A talent marketplace is like a job board. "It works very similarly, but instead of jobs from different companies, they're all from the same enterprise. Workers can log onto a marketplace platform and browse and apply to openings much like they would on a site like Monster or Indeed. The company creates these listings and opens them to qualified candidates. For example, perhaps the marketplace is only available for employees who have worked at least a year in their current position, " according to Structural.

The talent marketplace software integrates with an enterprise's existing software and then aggregates up-to-date data on people. The data includes employees' roles, projects, and skills within the company.

Then the software creates detailed profiles for each person. This solves a major challenge in large corporations, the difficulty to get employees to update their profiles in company directories.

Employees are encouraged to add additional details including interests, goals, expertise, experiences, and personal information. This results in direct access for employees to see the company culture and people. For HR and department managers, it's a way to better understand and know their workers and can bring to light hidden talents.

Structural also offers another advantage. It helps employees build a network of connectedness and inclusion, which are both hugely critical as more companies move to remote work. Scott Burns says, "Structural expands the network of peripheral connections that you can make where you work, helping support the more connected and inclusive workplace that all enterprises want."

What makes all of this work?

Helping enterprises build a stronger internal network that raises employee retention and engagement immensely.

What are the Benefits of Internal Recruitment?

There are numerous benefits to adopting a Talent Marketplace within your enterprise.

1. Save Money and Time

It costs 1.7 times more to recruit externally than internally. Some of the areas where money is saved are:

  • Job listings on websites like LinkedIn, Indeed, etc.
  • Travel expenses when recruiting and interviewing talent
  • Reduced waste of time from poorly qualified and too few applicants

Additionally, once new employees are hired, you need to onboard them.

2. Turnover Reduced

While we've talked about employee retention as a goal, we haven't discussed the cost. Up to 60 percent of external hires don't work out and leave through firing, quitting, or because they don't provide the expected value derived from their recruitment. Even with thorough hiring and vetting, 40 percent of new hires only work for a short amount of time.

When you recruit internally, that drops to 25 percent.

Since internal hires are already familiar with company culture, workflow, benefits, etc. there are fewer surprises. But, not everyone can perform as well in a different role, which means you still need to go through a hiring process when you recruit internally.

3. Better Morale

Internal morale is acutely impactful on employee productiveness. Internal recruitment improves workplace morale because it shows employees that their skills and development have a high value within the enterprise.

This encourages employees to learn new skills within your organization, giving them another motive to stay. Employees may not be ready to move into a new role right now, but are encouraged to learn new skills and gain experience because they will be recruited internally in the future with the chance for a new role, promotion, and pay raise.

4. Strengthened Company Culture

Better morale and opportunities result in happier employees. Happier employees are willing to put in more effort to please their customers, external or internal, because they know their value is seen and appreciated.

Promotions from within make the company culture stronger because as your employee retention increases, you have an increased number of workers who are immersed in your culture for longer periods of time making them more knowledgeable, and supportive of their teams.

Improving employee retention results in your top talent moving upward in your enterprise, leaving low-level positions open for external recruitment. These positions require fewer skills making it easier to fill them from external applicants. And your top-level workers become the stable foundation for each department they oversee.

5. Attracting External Talent

The knowledge that you recruit internally for new roles and promotions will also help you recruit and hire external talent. Job hunters often consider a job as a platform to learn skills that will help them move up the ladder to more responsible positions and higher pay.

Managing Teams in a Post-Pandemic World

The pandemic created an opportunity for enterprises to learn how to work with hybrid teams - remote and in-person. However, hybrid teams won't go away once the pandemic is over. Instead, enterprises and their employees are embracing hybrid teams. Remote workers have learned that they can literally work anywhere and still be a valued member of their team and enterprise. In fact, some remote workers have moved to a preferred location for their families, while continuing to work for the same company in the same role.

Going forward the ability to recruit and employ remote workers who want a better work-life balance will be crucial to enterprises. But it also opens up global opportunities within the enterprise to recruit talent.

Structural can make these processes so much easier, and can even integrate with your company's Workday or Microsoft Teams software.

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