Collaboration key to successful talent mobility

All stakeholders should have common understanding, align incentives: Report
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/13/2012

About three years ago, COM DEV sent several Canadian employees to India to work on a project. Upon arrival, the employees were all treated differently — from accommodations and support to mobility premiums and recognition — although they were in the same location doing the same work, said Paul Dyck, vice-president of HR at the 1,300-employee space equipment manufacturer based in Cambridge, Ont.

“We were sending mixed messages to people across the company,” he said. “We needed to recognize it’s an inconvenience for employees and send a clear message: ‘We will take care of you when you are on those assignments, it will be a consistent approach and, when appropriate, the company will recognize there is compensatory recognition that needs to go with that.’”

To achieve this, HR, leadership and various employees collaborated to come up with a global mobility policy for the entire organization that outlined the corporate expectation around everything that needs to be taken into account for international assignments.

“When you have a global mobility policy, everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet,” said Dyck. “It establishes a common understanding and there’s no longer a debate… it’s all been predetermined, so by removing that conflict that could otherwise occur between operating divisions, you can get on to solving the problem.”

Collaboration among multiple stakeholders is at the core of successful talent mobility practices, according to a recent report by the World Economic Forum and Mercer. Collaboration may be the only way to significantly change labour market outcomes, whether at the organizational level, within an industry or region, or across stakeholders worldwide, found Talent Mobility Good Practices: Collaboration at the Core of Driving Economic Growth.

“That was something that really jumped out at us when we looked at some of the bigger talent gaps,” said Haig Nalbantian, a senior partner at Mercer in New York. “It’s not that surprising that you would see the more successful efforts being those where stakeholders who are all affected by these outcomes come together, recognizing their mutual interdependence here and play their part in closing the gaps.”

The relative strength and stability of Canada’s banks during the economic meltdown put the country’s financial sector — largely based in Toronto — in a unique position for growth. But there is one significant impediment preventing the industry from seizing this opportunity — securing the talent needed, found the report.

To help employers in the industry find the talent they need, the Toronto Financial Services Alliance (TFSA) — a public-private partnership devoted to strengthening the Toronto financial services sector — is looking to talent mobility.

“It’s one of our foundations in terms of strategies because one of the things that drives the success of the sector and job growth is the quality of talent,” said Janet Ecker, TFSA president. “One of the fundamental ways we do that is through working collaboratively to increase both the quality and supply of talent to the sector.”

Collaboration is an important mechanism to identify opportunities to work together and identify mutual needs amongst employers, she said.

“Sharing practices, sharing knowledge, sharing upcoming needs; there’s a lot of collaborative work everyone can benefit from.”

And there is much more to talent mobility than international assignments. Organizations with good talent mobility practices are moving people across business units, organizations and occupations, and within specific industries and regions, found the report.

“It’s about broadening skills and capabilities, deepening technical knowledge, so (employees) can grow with the business,” said Nalbantian. “It goes beyond the traditional movements within companies; it’s about upskilling and upgrading the workforce.”

For collaboration around talent mobility to be successful at any level, all stakeholders must have a clear, common
understanding of the problem, found the report. It’s almost like a charter outlining what needs to be accomplished and there should be nothing vague about it, said Nalbantian.

Aligned incentives should also be established for participation and action.

“If people co-operate, you can get better outcomes for the participants but if any individual player thinks, ‘Everyone else will co-operate and I can shortchange it,’ you can’t solve the problem,” he said. “In successful collaborations, (corporations) directly address that issue and the process by which people commit to their participation and the governance around it.”

Instituting strong governance that spells out who is doing what and what information is to be shared among participants is important for successful collaboration, found the report.

Obtaining the right data on which to base the practice and assessing progress and results are also important.

“In the world of people management, evidence-based decision-making is key,” said Nalbantian. “So understanding why you’re being asked to do what you’re doing and what the expected outcome is, based on hard empirical evidence, makes the players more committed to the action.”

The new collaborative process around talent mobility at COM DEV has helped the organization achieve one of its main goals around talent mobility — speed, said Dyck.

“Talent mobility is extraordinarily complicated, there’s things like immigration, whether or not work permits are required... but you don’t need to make it even more complicated by reinventing the wheel and asking yourself questions repeatedly like ‘Will we offer a premium?’ or ‘How long does someone need to be away?’ All those questions are answered in that policy.”

Effective talent mobility practices can help organizations make sure they are not caught with a talent shortage or without enough people in the pipeline as demand starts to grow, said Nalbantian.

It can also make employers more attractive to prime talent if they manage talent mobility effectively, particularly with younger employees, he said.

“If you get the right people in the right spot at the right time, that improves your competitive advantage,” said Ecker. “And it makes it more likely that high-performing talent will stay with you and contribute more value to you.”

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