A few years ago, McKinsey observed that the agile organization was becoming the new organizational paradigm.
Fast forward to today and we now know that not only was that prediction spot-on but that building an agile workforce has become critically important for any organization looking to grow and be highly successful for today AND tomorrow.
The Management Study Guide (MSG) described it best:
“An organization is agile only when its workforce is agile. Not only leaders and top managers need to exhibit agility but also the employees at all levels of hierarchy. And this is possible only when people feel empowered; develop multiple skill sets; show willingness to take challenges; and experiment and innovate. In short, they need to be agile …”
Agile organizations are all about having an agile workforce… and workforce agility is built by having people who can move into new positions as the situation demands. This takes smart workforce planning — you must prepare for what you’ll need tomorrow — as well as continuous workforce reskilling that flows out of your planning to ensure that workers are continuously developing the skills your organization will need for the future.
In other words, you need to focus on enabling internal talent mobility.
3 steps for building an agile workforce
Fuel50 defines internal talent mobility as “the process of moving people within your workforce to fill open opportunities. This can include promotions to new roles, short-term redeployment, gig opportunities, or moves to different departments.”
Internal talent mobility is at the root of organizational and personal resilience. It engages staff, retains top talent, and gets the best from an organization’s workforce without costly and time-consuming external recruitment. In fact, a study by Deloitte found that 87% of employers agreed that an internal mobility program would help their overall retention goals.
Not only is internal talent mobility a major source of critical talent, competitive advantage, and a driver of growth, but it is also a source of employee engagement. Furthermore, if you are continually growing your existing talent and giving them opportunities to develop, then you are going to attract other people to your team in the future.
Leveraging your existing talent can be a great way to build organizational and personal resilience while maintaining productivity and saving money, time, and resources. Fuel50 has identified three critical steps to make this happen:
- Step 1: Get managers on board — To get managers and other key stakeholders to commit to harnessing internal talent mobility as a lever for building skills and growing talent, you need to provide clear goals based on measurable benefits and bottom-line performance.
- Step 2: Create a culture of talent sharing — Sourcing talent internally may require a cultural shift within your organization, especially if you’ve been concentrating on external recruitment. Long-term investments in an overall culture of talent development are key to building a culture of cross-team talent sharing and internal mobility.
- Step 3: Provide visibility to internal talent — Unlocking the hidden talent in your organization requires transparency to the skills and capabilities that your people currently possess, as well as those that they are willing to grow and develop. But you also need to equip your leaders to drive this transformation and manage talent in a whole new way.
Developing an agile workforce for the 21st Century
Here’s what is important to remember: People are our most precious commodity as we look at how to keep our organizations competitive, agile, and responsive through this new era of work — and internal talent mobility is the key to an agile and successful talent strategy.
But to truly prosper, you need a purpose-built program that will allow your organization to develop the agility and flexibility you need to react quickly to market changes that impact your organization.
Expending meaningful effort and energy creating experiences and expectations for talent that encourage growth, learning, engagement, and communication demonstrates to employees that you’re committed to investing in their future with you. As a result, time to hire and costs decrease, while employee engagement and retention will increase.
“Agile methods can accelerate product development and process improvements.,” the Harvard Business Review noted. “They can also help engage an organization’s most valuable employees, deepening their connections and experiences in ways that pay off for the company in the long run.”
And HBR added this cautionary note: “But agile teams are not stand-alone entities; they’re embedded in broader collaborative networks. By taking that reality into account, leaders can design them so that they make the most of talent inside and outside teams, avoid overload and burnout, avert potential disruptions, and achieve their objectives better and faster.”
Promoting internal talent mobility encourages talent sharing across teams as it cultivates a culture of learning and development. People who have a growth mindset — a passion for continuous learning and expanding their skill set — are better able to embrace change with greater confidence.
And THAT is the key to an agile workforce for the 21st Century.