Hidden in Plain Sight: Revealing Career Development Opportunities with AI

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In today’s competitive market, employee demand for growth and development is increasing. Simultaneously, we are facing growing organizational demand for talent. To retain top talent and ensure fulfillment of jobs and skills, it’s time to put more emphasis on what we call internal talent mobility. Building a talent mobility strategy can drive improvements across both employee engagement and business outcomes.

The importance of a talent mobility strategy

Career development is typically a top driver of employee engagement and employee experience and is one of the main reasons high-potential employee consider leaving. In fact, three out of four high-potential workers say they would be attracted to a new job in a different organization if it offered better career development opportunities. And 70 percent of millennials (62 percent across all generations) are planning or thinking about making a move. Opportunities for growth and development can be the deciding factor.

We also see talent challenges on the organizational side with 60 percent of executives struggling to keep workforce skills current and relevant in the face of rapid technological advancement. A new IBM Smarter Workforce Institute study finds that more than one-third of organizations have difficultly filling open positions and only 30 percent of HR professionals are satisfied with their organization’s ability to meet its internal talent mobility goals. Managers may hoard talent or believe that external hires are better, and employees are not always informed about – or are not encouraged to look for – internal career opportunities. Yet there is a clear pay-off for employers: 80 percent of HR professionals believe that a better talent mobility strategy would reduce recruitment costs and help them find candidates (and make those candidates productive) faster.

Solving talent struggles with internal mobility

Internal talent mobility benefits employees by providing them with new experiences and career progression. It may also freshen up working lives for people who feel like they’ve “been there, done that.” A strong internal mobility strategy meets skill needs by moving employees up through promotion, or laterally through new jobs at a similar level. The lateral moves can be very important: 9 out of 10 employees say they would make a lateral career move with no financial incentive.

Talent mobility should be front and center throughout the employee lifecycle and across all talent management activities. While talent management is usually organized by functional silos and technological modules (recruitment, onboarding, learning, succession, performance, and recognition), talent mobility cuts through all functions. It starts with employer branding and showing the potential for growth. Onboarding should include orienting new hires on career management programs. And all other talent programs and activities should reinforce the availability of internal career paths.

To help build a culture of talent mobility, consider the following steps:

  • Define competencies, jobs, and career paths. An established foundation will go a long way in providing direction to your employees.
  • Leverage branding, social media, talent communities, and chatbots to excite potential employees about mobility within your organization.
  • Establish career programs. A career center or internal job site can help inform employees.
  • Promote and model a culture of mobility. Managers should coach and mentor employees to stimulate their growth.

Career mobility is also a critical part of employee experience. A positive employee experience should be personalized, authentic, responsive, transparent, and simple. Ask yourself: are we providing the right experience to candidates and employees? Do they have easy access to career development information? Are they comfortable thinking, talking about, and exploring new career opportunities within the organization?

Using AI for increased internal talent mobility

The latest Smarter Workforce Institute research shows that HR professionals see immense potential to use AI to drive increased internal mobility. Ninety-two percent expect AI solutions to deliver a better match between people skills and the right job, and 89 percent say it will provide a better experience for employees looking for new internal opportunities.

An AI solution can deliver a direct channel for employees who want growth or change. All it needs is access to data about skills, jobs, competencies, and career paths. A digital assistant could be a better interface for employees who want to evaluate their options before officially speaking with their manager. AI solutions can also highlight opportunities that employees may not have considered: what if your skills make you a great fit for a career in sales, but you always thought of yourself as a marketing person?

When planning to deploy a digital career coach, you should also think about the change management aspect – who will be impacted and how? What will the experience be for managers, employees, and new hires? Consider methodologies to help plan your new strategy using an employee-centric perspective and re-think the HR service delivery model that supports the mobility experience.

While increased internal mobility is not the solution to all talent gaps – there is a strong business case for balance and bringing people in from the outside to enhance innovation and diversity – it can go a long way in driving talent retention, engaged employees, and successful business outcomes. And an intelligent matchmaking service, infused with an understanding of human behavior, can help employees and employers get the most out of their talent.

Learn more about internal career mobility and the role of AI and how IBM Watson Talent Frameworks and IBM Watson Career Coach can help facilitate your talent mobility strategy.


Associate Partner, Talent & Engagement, IBM Services

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