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Hristina Nikolaeva

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How talent mobility drives employee engagement

In part three of this series on SMB talent management transformation, we explore the role of talent mobility in boosting employee engagement.
Talent mobility ladder

In the previous article in this series, we explored how to get a seat for talent transformation at the (boardroom) table. Next up, we’re examining talent mobility’s role in employee engagement.

Employer brand is everything in today’s wide-open world. From websites where employees can rate you, to the influence of social media, your people can easily reach a wide audience with their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their employer.

Study after study shows, the better your employee experience offering – including career progression, L&D opportunities, team building and line manager effectiveness – the more engaged, and higher performing your employees become.

So how can you get, and then retain, the best talent to drive your organisation forward? 

Talent acquisition and retention

High staff turnover costs organisations tens of thousands of pounds every year. The cost of lost knowledge, recruiting and upskilling new team members as well as the sheer amount of time spent on the whole process is eye watering.

This is why staff retention is such a critical part of any HR bucket. Engagement and retention should be owned by all functions in HR, from recruitment to benefits to L&D. Each area has something to offer your people and when combined, that is your full employee value proposition. 

Connecting learning to career growth enables you to show employees what’s in it for them.

In SMBs it can often be challenging to recruit external candidates in the absence of a big household brand name or modern-day employee value adds, such as large campuses with pool tables, sleep pods and Taco Tuesdays. However, small to medium businesses can leverage the dual power of promised development and career mobility to fuel their employee brand and bring talent to their organisations.

With stretch projects and gigs another big draw for people, keeping employees engaged at SMBs can become easier with the right technology and mindset. If you know what your employees want in terms of their career and personal development, you can design an employee programme that works for everyone. Enter skill development. 

Skill development and the evolving performance review

In our 2024 HR Predictions eBook we discuss the move away from annual, manager-driven performance reviews towards ongoing performance conversations that take place in a more agile way, for example on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Over the coming years, employees will increasingly drive these conversations and, as a result, feel more empowered to drive their own development.

Believe it or not, this is easier to do in smaller organisations. For example, employees may ask:

  • If you think I am underperforming, what can you offer me to upskill and improve my performance?
  • I am underperforming because I am not happy with my current role – how can you support me to move into something that will make me more fulfilled?
  • Can I do a gig that will sharpen my skills in the areas in which I want to work, so I can build my skills there?

In a smaller organisation these actions can be easier to arrange. Simple empowerment of your people through skill development, a reframing of reviews to conversations and a real look at what will fulfil your employees can increase retention and engagement rates significantly.

Connecting learning to career growth enables you to show employees what’s in it for them by linking their performance, career objectives and personal goals.

High-performing organisations get it right

Whether you are an SMB or a larger organisation, there are learnings to be found from high-performing organisations (HPOs). HPOs consistently ranked higher in our recent talent health maturity survey, particularly in areas such as content strategy, skills strategy, and performance management.

Organisations that commit to building their employees’ skills are better equipped to overcome future business challenges and keep their talent engaged.

When it comes to fostering a real culture of learning and progression, the area often missed is line manager training.

Despite a continued worldwide focus on upskilling and reskilling, our Talent Health Index revealed there’s still misalignment between employers and employees around skills-building confidence. Only 33% of employees in the UK say their organisation leverages learner-centric tools and technologies to streamline the flow of talent processes and information.

By tapping into the areas we have discussed in this article – performance management, career aspirations and mobility as well as skill development opportunities  –  your organisation can build employee confidence. In addition, you can drive your business forward and create highly engaged teams of people who are happy to be working in your organisation and understand their career progression opportunities. 

The role of the line manager and line manager development       

When it comes to fostering a real culture of learning and progression, the area often missed is line manager training. In 2023 Cornerstone undertook a global survey on talent mobility, one of the key results from this survey was that many line managers are ‘talent hoarders’. They avoid opportunities to develop their teams to avoid upheaval. This is problematic on multiple fronts. 

More agile work environments can leverage an organisation’s full capabilities and talents, helping employees tap into their passions and contribute to the business’s overall success. Managers can best support their team’s skill development and power their internal mobility by giving employees hands-on opportunities to stretch and grow.

Companies must adopt a growth mentality by encouraging employees to embrace curiosity, learn new skills, and grow professionally.

In today’s ultra-competitive talent market, managers must prioritise opportunities for employees to spread their wings and fly. This is important because the number one reason cited for employee turnover is the lack of career opportunities within the company. If line managers are not trained to think in this way, the organisation will stagnate, and employees will become disengaged. 

Organisations must build and refine processes so leaders can champion employee growth. Implementing this innovation requires leaders to reframe their mindsets and rethink old ways of working.

Companies must adopt a growth mentality by encouraging employees to embrace curiosity, learn new skills, and grow professionally, regardless of their current positions and this starts with the line manager. Managers must think beyond the boundaries of their teams and approach talent from a perspective of abundance, not scarcity. 

Building a culture of recognising and rewarding managers for developing their employees and sharing talent across internal boundaries is a great place to start on your organisation’s journey to embracing career mobility and development. 

About the Cornerstone SMB employee team

At Cornerstone UK and Ireland, we speak with and advise hundreds of businesses with less than 1,000 employees every year, helping them to transform their HR and L&D management programmes. Our team comprises four dedicated SMB Consultants who understand the challenges of this market space – why not reach out to kick-start your talent transformation with the SMB Talent Experts?

View the full content series on talent management transformation here.

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