new take on talent mobility

Why HR Desperately Needs a New Take on Talent Mobility

Let’s get right to it: COVID-19 sucks. Professionally speaking, it sucks big time. Here we are, eight-plus months into this calamity, and companies are still struggling to stay in the fight and successfully counter a stinging one-two punch of budget cuts and hiring freezes.

And although it would appear that we are a ways away from producing an actual cure for 2020’s biggest buzzkill when it comes to Human Capital Management, I have some good news…talent mobility is the antidote that we have all been waiting for.

Given the enduring uncertainty of our new normal, it has never been more crucial for HR departments to develop in-house talent. And while “mobility” as a strategic pillar of HCM has seen its fair share of innovative iterations in the digital age, survival in the current environment demands that HR departments venture into the uncharted waters of project-based sourcing.

In shifting from siloed and rigid mobility programs to a focus on talent marketplaces and short-term, “gig” assignments, organizations will not only succeed in more effectively upskilling a motivated workforce, but will achieve significant savings on sourcing activities.

Armed with a tech-infused, multi-tiered, and employee-driven approach to talent mobility, organizations will have a fighting chance to develop the agility needed for economically viable sourcing in these crazy and trying times.

It may be unorthodox. It may sound strange. But it’s time for HR to move the gig economy in-house.

First, Establish a Talent Marketplace to Better Develop Internal Talent

The construction of an internal talent marketplace is the first step an organization should take when looking to bolster talent mobility activities. As an internal digital platform that identifies motivated employees and provides them with the growth opportunities most relevant to their position, skill-set, and goals. The talent marketplace represents an important philosophical evolution with respect to HR and our understanding of mobility.

While employee mobility has traditionally (and some would say dogmatically) focused on predetermined, vertical career paths, talent marketplaces empower organizations to provide employees with more control over their career development and professional pathways.

Beyond merely promoting employees or shifting them from one geographic territory to another, talent marketplaces position organizations to better prepare employees for vertical, horizontal, and, eventually, project-based development opportunities.


Second, Look to Upskill Employees With Project-Based Assignments

Once an organization has successfully constructed an internal talent marketplace from which to provide employees with a targeted mobility experience, HR should shift its focus to filling project-based roles with permanent employees.

While we typically associate project-based employment with the procurement department and their never-ending quest to cost-effectively source contingent, temporary, and “here-today-gone-tomorrow” talent, this perspective tends to be to the detriment of HR. As we continue to move further and further away from the idea that professional growth is a linear (i.e., non-agile) experience, internal “side gigs” provide organizations with the unique chance to up-skill and develop agility in large segments of the workforce while simultaneously encouraging employees to take the career road less traveled.

Not only does internal side gig sourcing make business sense (as it will drastically reduce acquisition costs), but project-based assignments clearly align the interests of both employer and employee in a time when organizational needs are guaranteed to evolve.

Perhaps your organization has a technical writer interested in UX, or an implementation specialist looking to try their hand at client training. Even better, imagine your organization has both interested employees and a business need.

A gig approach to mobility will empower organizations with the agility needed to meet changing needs while encouraging employees to pursue the project-based work that both inspires them and assists them in developing the core competencies associated with their role.

It is only once acquisition stakeholders (i.e., both procurement and HR) have determined that highly specialized knowledge is immediately required and not internally available that an organization should look to source contingent talent.


Third, Directly Source With a Contingent Talent Network

If it is determined that the only way forward in regards to sourcing for a project-based role is with temporary external talent, the best way to do so is by implementing a direct sourcing strategy.

As traditional contingent sourcing activities are simply too costly to be sustainable for many companies given the economic realities of the ongoing pandemic, organizations must look to cut out the middleman and directly source contingent workers through a contingent talent network. Just as opportunity marketplaces position internal candidates to have greater control over their professional development, contingent talent networks aim to provide contingent workers with an engaging “candidate” experience that encourages top-tier, expert talent to come back and apply again in the future.

Once effectively implemented, organizations will marvel at their ability to cut costs, improve time to fill and streamline the administrative tasks associated with contingent sourcing.


Connecting the Talent Mobility Dots

Times of great uncertainty demand innovative thinking. As we inch closer to 2021, those organizations struggling to address and overcome today’s pandemic-driven mobility challenges must aim to develop greater harmony between internal and external talent pools.

The most effective way to do so is by taking a multi-faceted approach to talent mobility and sourcing activities, an approach driven by a focus on non-linear development, project-based assignments, and both internal and external marketplaces.

Ernest Kueffner

Ernest Kueffner, SVP Americas, has 20 years of HCM technology management experience. Ernest joined Avature shortly after it was founded and currently manages Avature’s North American operations. Before joining Avature, Ernest served as a Product Marketing analyst for Yahoo, where he was responsible for vertical growth strategy and software business planning. Prior to Yahoo, Ernest had multiple roles during his five-year tenure with His responsibilities included software product marketing and product management, as well as enterprise client services management for’s ASP Applicant Tracking System released in 1997 and built using the Netscape browser. Ernest started his career with ING Barings Investment Bank. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Policy Analysis from Cornell University.