Targeted pathways, talent pipelines, or both?

A pathway alone won’t create career mobility.

When speaking to employers, I’ve often found that their idea of creating internal mobility primarily centers on a direct pathway from one job to another. 

While that might create mobility for a specific team or audience, it doesn’t create a holistic infrastructure for internal mobility at a company. Even if you can replicate that kind of direct pathway in your organization multiple times, you haven’t created internal mobility at scale. You’ve just recreated a programmatic solution to address specific needs your company may have. 

This approach isn’t bad, it’s just reactive. And it doesn’t help to address broad workforce challenges like talent attraction, retention, and engagement. 

A more proactive approach is when talent development teams implement a number of learning curricula, educational offerings, and bootcamps that help employees develop across numerous skill sets that an organization might require — data analysis, digital fluency, leadership skills, Agile, to name a few. This still doesn’t help re-skilled workers land new roles in new business units, though, and it can leave the issue of business-critical talent shortages unsolved. 

Such programs aren’t creating mobility through design, they’re just introducing new skills into the organization. At their worst, they’re also creating frustrated employees who learn new skills but feel like their opportunities are severely limited. Unfortunately, they’re also unlikely to solve specific talent pipeline shortages in the future that are likely to win new business executives and sustain them as long-term sponsors.

Whether it’s because of an unprecedented and unforeseen labor shortage (like the one this country is currently experiencing), or an industry going through a sea change that has forced employers to develop a specific set of skills internally, mobility is critical for the success of any company. And if companies want the kind of mobility that drives up talent attraction, engagement, and retention, it must be truly operationalized. 

As a result, organizations must approach internal mobility in a way that combines targeted reskilling pathways to meet near-term needs and broad talent pipelines that address evolving long-term skills needs to prepare that talent for the future of work (ie: for the next 3-5 years). 

Here are few additional reasons to consider a “both, and” approach:

  • Because targeted reskilling pathways usually budget for and target a specific quantity of roles needed, you have fewer “shots on goal.” This is a risky approach to mobility. Instead, creating broad pipelines of “qualified talent” means that whenever a need becomes apparent, an organization can quickly move to address that need with the available talent.
  • Targeted reskilling pathways for mobility are commonly administratively laborious. These programs usually employ coordinators who work with people managers on both sides of the equation (existing roles and target roles) to keep stakeholders happy and informed. They also monitor learning progress, address barriers, and report the risks to leaders. This means more budget is spent on administration than on the actual reskilling of talent. 
  • A focus on targeted pathways often means that the kinds of policies, platforms, and processes needed to create mobility are only addressed at a role level rather than systemically. This results in a “tiering” of employee experiences where some folks have access to better support than others or different rules apply to them, otherwise known as inequities. Instead, working at an organizational level to address these barriers and turn them into accelerators creates a fairer workplace and a more engaged workforce overall. 

Through the proactive use of education benefits that incentivize learners towards reskilling, employers can create continuous mobility at scale while still serving the needs of the company. 

By having such a structure in place that accommodates large numbers of additional talent and prepares them with the skills they need for upcoming demands, companies can create a reskilling effort that requires less reactive program building and with less administrative burden — all while nurturing a better employee experience simultaneously.

Written by Matthew Daniel

Principal, Employer Solutions