The Democratization of Talent Mapping

A strong internal mobility strategy encourages employees to pursue not only new roles but special projects, volunteer work, educational advancement, professional development and more. To make that happen, however, it’s essential to have an effective talent mapping initiative that opens up a wide range of internal and external programs for career development. 

Too often, though, talent mapping initiatives only target employees who are already highly self-motivated, leaving out those who may be interested in upward mobility but unsure of how to approach it. The problem is that by not leveraging this a talent mapping strategy for all employees, companies run the risk that a significant percentage of their workforce will underperform in their current roles or leave for other jobs because they feel stuck. 

Furthermore, while career development should be available to all, it’s especially important to reach out to employee groups that have historically been left out of these conversations to create more inclusive career pathways for all. 

The struggle, however, is figuring out how to get it right so that a program reaches all your people yet remains substantive and provides each employee with appropriate growth opportunities.  Here are five considerations for creating a successful talent mapping program. 

1. Create Inclusive Policies and Processes 

The glass ceiling is a real and persistent problem in corporate America. While women outpace men in graduating from college and have over a 56% labor participation rate, they still hold less leadership positions than men. And this is even more pronounced among women of color. 

Many women are also less likely to feel that they qualify for a job they haven’t done before. On top of that, while remote work has many benefits for women and more are opting into it, “out of sight, out of mind” may hurt their career progression. 

Black Americans, too, face profound inequities at work. These include a lack of representation at executive levels, lower odds of advancement, and an absence of managerial sponsorship and allyship. Additionally, Black employees see less fairness and fewer chances to succeed, creating a trust deficit. 

There are a number of steps that can help overcome these challenges, starting with awareness and acknowledgement. An internal assessment of where women and underrepresented communities stand in terms of leadership roles, promotions, pay, benefits and recognition will help identify gaps. Once the landscape is clear, it’s important to develop policies that directly address how to make the talent mapping process fair across different employee groups, including setting realistic goals and tracking progress. Creating networking and visibility opportunities, especially for those who work remotely, will also help level the field.

2. Use Technology to Actively Recruit Internal Talent

It’s not unusual to hear employees lament that it’s easier to look for (and apply to) external job opportunities than find anything useful on internal job boards. This is typically the result of fears about “poaching” between departments. But withholding these jobs from talent can mean losing them to other organizations that are actively pursuing them. 

Consequently, companies should take advantage of the wide range of technology platforms that have internal talent marketplace and mobility solutions. A greater number of employees will browse different roles on their own time, at their own pace, and in private. These tools also enable people to self-explore without having to formally go to a manager or HR. 

When people are ready for a discussion about a new role, they can be better prepared with questions around how to acquire the necessary skills — through training, external education, special projects, volunteer work, etc. — that would prepare them to be successful.

3. Give Employees Broad Experiences

Employers have historically placed workers in one of two groups — specialists and generalists. Increasingly, managers are interested in working with team members that fit both categories, possessing the broad experience of a generalist but also a specialized skill set that allows them to fulfill specific tasks. 

It’s not always easy to find employees with this combination of experience. One solution is to use talent mapping to identify specialist employees that could benefit from learning more about the big picture. Maybe they’re marketing whizzes or IT geniuses who have management potential. An internal program can rotate these individuals throughout the organization, providing them with purposeful experiences in other departments such as HR, finance, and purchasing. Such perspectives from different departments and colleagues can help advance their careers in new directions.

4. Shift the Management Mindset 

Often employees say it’s easier to quit a job than ask their manager for another role within the same organization because of fear that their boss will question their loyalty. And sure enough, Gartner research found that only 17% of candidates say their manager facilitates the process of applying for internal jobs. 

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It’s understandable that managers may balk at letting go of their best performers, let alone actively help in the process. Losing employees can have a negative impact on team morale, productivity, and financial performance.

Manager training is one way to help. It’s important that managers understand why talent mapping ultimately pays off and how to support their team members. The idea that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole can include prioritizing an employee’s career potential over the job they’re currently performing, helping them develop the necessary skills for new opportunities, and promoting career advancement throughout the employee’s engagement. 

Of course, manager training is not going to help if the corporate culture doesn’t authentically support internal mobility. The importance of talent mapping needs to be emphasized and communicated by executive leadership. They need to walk the walk and commit to internal mobility as a cultural priority and showcase its success. They also need to develop the right policies and procedures, while making an investment in the necessary resources to deliver outcomes. 

5. Create a Clear Process

One of the biggest challenges facing managers is dealing with employees who may resent a co-worker getting an opportunity over them. It’s often an unavoidable and difficult situation, but there are ways to minimize hard feelings and encourage camaraderie. 

One of the best places to start is creating standard policies that clearly lay out the talent mapping process. Managers can work with HR to help employees understand that not every opportunity is for everyone, and that sometimes it comes down to timing. 

They can also review the employee’s specific development goals — where they are currently, what training they need to move ahead, what roles interest them, mentors they can access, etc. Within a safe, inclusive, and transparent process, most employees can realize that there will be future opportunities that are right for them. Consequently, they’ll be willing to stay while the next opportunity matures.

Talent Mapping Helps Employees and Companies Thrive

Talent mapping is an integral part of an internal “grow your own” strategy that can be very effective for retention, which not only has financial benefits but is important for elevating the employer brand. Growing talent and the careers of your employees continues to be one of the strongest elements of the employee and candidate value proposition. Current and prospective employees want to know that a company believes in them, will invest in them, and wants them to succeed. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that we live in a fluid ecosystem. That can sometimes make people feel uncomfortable and insecure, especially when the world of work is constantly changing, business problems are continuously evolving, and new skills are always on the horizon. In this atmosphere, adaptability is an important trait, and employers can support their employees by actively helping them gain new experiences and skills so they can thrive now and in the future. 

Bill Cleary is a managing director at AMS and brings over 20 years of experience in leading talent acquisition transformation projects from every side of the table. He has worked in industry, for technology providers, and as a management consultant. Bill has helped organizations plan and execute the largest TA transformation projects in the market. He's advised CHROs and their talent leaders on all pillars of talent acquisition to include strategy, tech, process, and structure. Bill has helped leaders solve the most complex business issues by advising his clients on the solutions needed to develop the future for their workforce. He is also a senior faculty advisor/member of the Josh Bersin Academy.

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