Total Talent | Mobilising skills through in-demand talent

Chris Milligan

Skills mobilisation has come to the forefront in recent weeks as we’ve seen workers redeployed to aid in coronavirus efforts. You may not have known it at the time, but witnessing retirees return to the healthcare workforce, cabin crew switch to health assistant roles and scientists assemble en masse to research treatment and a vaccine, are prime examples of skills mobilisation in action. Yet, more still can be done. Especially when entire sectors, such as travel, hospitality and entertainment, are forced to mass-furlough staff to survive.

How skills mobility works

At its core, skills mobilisation works to direct talent to high-demand projects and roles when demand falls in their current business area. It has benefits that extend far beyond the current-day pandemic. The tactic hinges on skills and therefore requires complete visibility over a worker’s current skills, their career goals and interests. Conversely, the current examples show only a snippet of what can be achieved as it centres on a person’s current skills.

Skills mobility in action

Virgin Atlantic, for instance, is asking its cabin crew to volunteer at the UK’s NHS Nightingale field hospital in East London. Cabin crew are seen as ideal candidates as they already have first-aid skills, security clearance and are used to working long and unsociable hours on their feet. Crew will also be redeployed as part of the London Ambulance service, while Virgin’s engineering team will help with maintenance.

Meanwhile, scientists have found many of their labs shuttered and day-to-day work disrupted. Instead, they are focussing their efforts on research and testing with scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts running 2,000 COVID-19 tests every day. There are now global calls for researchers to join the effort, to help the relief in any way they can. The Association of American Universities, a consortium of 65 leading U.S. research universities, has urged its members to donate lab and medical facilities and spare personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Retail workers have also found their sewing skills put to use, making PPE and face masks. Burberry is currently fast-tracking 100,000 face masks for the NHS, with more being produced in its Yorkshire factory. Manufacturers including General Motors and Ford, are racing to produce ventilators instead of vehicle parts.

Existing skills in new contexts

Each example highlights how certain skills can be transferred into new contexts and this can happen inside a business as well as cross-industry. Hospitality workers have a headstart on bedside manner, manufacturing plant workers are used to complex and detailed assembly. By breaking down the skills that an individual has amassed over their career, you can redeploy them into new roles when needed. 

The benefits of skills mobilisation

This approach will pay dividends over the long-run because it ties closely with internal mobility and retention. Where demand falls in one area, if a worker shifts into a new role, they don’t have to be let go. Better still, when you can predict that one area will need more workers than another, you can empower people to upskill and step into these roles in the near future. Amazon, for example, is working to upskill 100,000 of its U.S. employees to meet rising demands for digital, cybersecurity and data skills.

What to aim for

The ideal scenario would see workers’ current skills mapped and recorded, then matched to current and future business needs, and then relevant opportunities offered to each worker based on their skills and aspirations. Make no mistake, however, this is an intense strategy to implement. It requires a company-wide consensus on naming and recording skills (a skills framework, in other words), plus widespread cultural change amongst workers and hiring managers – and, of course, buy-in at all levels. It also requires the right infrastructure to enable a person’s skills to be matched to work and learning (more on this later).

Career goals play a significant role in this as the choice of mobilisation has to be individual-centred. Each worker must decide when they move onto a new task, project or stretch assignment. That way, they can be continuously engaged in work that interests them and helps them build their careers. If someone lacks the skills for a certain role, they can be offered learning opportunities to help them reach the next stage in their career.

How technology can help

Technology plays a major role in facilitating this, by empowering each worker with a skills profile that can match them to learning and work. It enables skills mobilisation, because hiring managers can easily see what skills are available within a talent pool and can select the right workers for a task. Workers, meanwhile, can search for open opportunities like jobs, tasks, on-the-job learning and formal learning pathways, that further build their skills profile for future roles. It becomes a virtuous cycle where a worker moves into a role that needs their current skills, they upskill and learn for future ones, then, when ready and when the business needs it, they mobilise into a new position. 

Expanding to all forms of talent

A step further considers everyone within your talent pool – those in your recruitment chain, your alumni, contractors and freelancers. These individuals also have skills that can add value to your organisation, build agility into your workforce and respond quickly to demand. So far, 20,000 retired NHS workers have returned as temporary doctors and nurses – proving the value of an alumni workforce. Again, effective sourcing of this talent relies on keeping in touch with them, knowing their skills and understanding their ambitions and availability.

Just the start

What you’re experiencing in the workplace now, is just the start of a wider skills revolution. We are becoming more agile, more responsive and better able to mobilise talent to where they are needed most. Creating more fulfilling careers that align with an individual’s skills, interests and aspirations and an organisation’s current and future needs.

To learn more about Internal Mobility, plus how to practically achieve this, download our whitepaper now.


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