talent mobility

I work with some of the most talented people I’ve ever met. Every day, I am inspired by their passion, amazed at their hard work and impressed by the intelligence and creativity they apply to solving problems. They are the heart and soul of this company. You probably feel the same way about your employees – or at least I hope you do.

In the current economy, our employees’ knowledge of our business, their skills and their innovative  spirit are critical to our continued success. I want them to stay, to expand their capabilities, to feel that they can meaningfully contribute to the growth of this business. We have people who change roles and take on new responsibilities outside of their ‘day jobs’ all the time. It can be challenging when employees leave one part of the organisation for another. However, we know the research suggests that mobility drives positive business outcomes. Data from the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute found that 80% of HR leaders believe increased talent mobility leads to significant benefits including lower recruitment costs, faster times to fill open positions, faster time to productivity for new hires, higher retention, improved career satisfaction and better culture fit.

Beyond supporting internal career moves, a strong talent mobility strategy also includes solutions to help employees successfully transition to new job opportunities outside the company. If I had to let any of our employees go, due to no fault of their own, I would want to help them succeed in their next endeavour in much the same way they have contributed to this company’s success. That’s the moral imperative for me. But it doesn’t stop there. Not only is it the right thing to do for my employees, it’s the right thing to do for my business.

The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to organisations and individuals around the world, causing many business and HR leaders to rethink how their organisations are structured. Stay-at-home orders, shutdowns of nonessential businesses and travel restrictions have significantly impacted the global economy, leading to a spike in unemployment and organisational restructuring across industries. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), full or partial lockdown measures have affected 2.7 billion workers, representing 81% of the global workforce.

While many business and HR leaders are doing everything in their control to keep their organisations afloat and their people working, it’s also important to empathise with employees and acknowledge the various stressors they’re facing during this time of crisis. Now more than ever, employers must embrace their corporate values, communicate transparently and commit to helping their workforce, including employees who are being laid off. When employers do right by their employees, especially during difficult times, this helps employees thrive in their careers and has a long-lasting, positive effect on an organisation’s brand and bottom line. And, it speaks volumes about your values and culture.

You might be wondering how to best support your employees while simultaneously focusing on your larger business goals. Organisations that take a strategic approach to talent mobility will be better positioned to survive and thrive through these uncertain times by promoting employee agility at every career stage – whether individuals are looking for a new opportunity internally or transitioning to another role outside the company.

With an impactful talent mobility strategy, your organisation can help employees grow in their careers, improve your overall brand perception – driving new business as a result – and reduce recruitment, onboarding and other related costs. Here are a few key elements of a talent mobility strategy for your team to consider.


We recently surveyed several hundred employers to understand how they are reacting to and addressing workforce changes as a result of the pandemic. The survey revealed that more than half of employers (54%) have not taken any action to avoid conducting layoffs or furloughs. While reducing the size of your workforce is sometimes unavoidable, other options are available. Redeployment is one of them. Of the companies we surveyed, only 4% in the United States and 5% in Canada have internally redeployed or reassigned employees, although among companies that did act to avoid furloughs or layoffs, 38% of companies redeployed internally and 8% placed employees in partner organisations. 

Redeployment enables companies to move current employees to other internal roles or assignments, either on a temporary or permanent basis, based on business need. By tapping into redeployment, in the short term, you can benefit from moving employees from low-demand work to busier, high-demand areas of the business, while also broadening the skills of your workforce and promoting a growth mindset so critical to agility.

Long-term, redeploying employees to other areas of the business can help your organisation preserve jobs, maintain institutional knowledge and save time and cost that might otherwise be spent onboarding new employees and getting them up to speed as the economy recovers. Redeployment can also help your employees find new career paths within your organisation that might better align with their skills and passions, ultimately boosting engagement.

creative workforce restructuring

Beyond traditional redeployment, many organisations across industries are thinking outside the box for alternatives to redundancies. In speaking with our customers in HR and researching industry trends, we’ve learned of several creative approaches organisations are taking to avoid layoffs.

  • Rotating furloughs: One small business initially furloughed most of its employees while keeping its managers at work. Now, many employees have returned while most managers are temporarily furloughed, which enables the organisation to reduce payroll and push out any potential redundancies.
  • Salary and hour reductions: To keep all employees on payroll and preserve jobs, some organisations have either decreased salary for select (or all) roles or reduced employee hours. While this may make it challenging for some employees to make ends meet financially, it can be a better alternative than losing a job completely in a high-unemployment economy.
  • Early voluntary retirement: Some companies are offering older workers early retirement packages to reduce payroll and headcount. For example, Delta Air Lines recently announced a plan to invest more than $3 billion to cover the costs of early retirement among employees. 
  • Unpaid leave: While some employers have offered sabbaticals in the past, given the current economic climate, more are offering employees unpaid time away from the company. Positioning this time off as a sabbatical reduces some of the stigma associated with time away from work, helps employers reduce immediate costs and gives employees the opportunity to return once business picks up.

reskilling and upskilling

According to the World Economic Forum, one billion jobs are expected to be transformed due to technology. That’s about one-third of all jobs worldwide. By 2022, approximately 133 million new jobs will be created to meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and 42% of core skills needed to perform existing jobs will change. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the need for employees to learn new skills to adapt to evolving business needs in the socially distanced economy. The suddenness of change has left many human capital leaders struggling to implement an impactful skilling strategy.

To successfully upskill and reskill employees, it isn’t enough to simply provide a long list of online courses and other resources for them to pick and choose from. Rather, employees need guidance and a learning plan – what we call a strategic skilling roadmap – to gain the skills they need to align their interests and capabilities with your business needs.

An effective strategy takes what we call a ‘Tech and Touch’ approach, which combines access to online courses and job market data – such as projected job growth, salary and required skills – with personal guidance from a career coach, a career concierge and a certified learning advisor. Working with a career concierge and learning advisor enables employees to develop and follow a tailored learning plan that will help them meet their goals and close skills gaps – whether employees are staying with your organisation or participating in an outplacement programme.

A recent Randstad RiseSmart study found that since the onset of COVID-19, only 4.5% of employers said current outplacement programmes include reskilling courses. By offering reskilling to not only current team members but also to departing employees, you can help set up these individuals for career growth as they find new roles outside your organisation. And, you may enable them to find their next job even faster.


Given the current economic climate, many employers, especially those in hard-hit industries such as retail, hospitality and travel, have had no other choice but to reduce their workforce. Among those making the difficult decision to let go of employees is Airbnb. In an open letter to employees released in May, Airbnb Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky announced that the company was reducing its workforce by 25 percent. His letter is a perfect example of transparency and compassion that reflects brand values. In addition to offering employees severance and healthcare benefits, the letter highlighted several ways that Airbnb is offering departing employees job support, including four months of outplacement services through RiseSmart.

If your organisation must let go of staff, you can still do the right thing to help employees make a successful career transition outside your organisation by offering outplacement services. These services give exiting employees a major leg up in finding new roles. In the current pandemic with so many people unemployed and many having to transition to other industries, this advantage is critically important.

Through outplacement services, an individual can receive a freshly written, targeted and optimised CV and social profile, personalised career coaching and access to highly targeted job leads. Supporting your departing employees with outplacement enables them to find their next opportunity sooner and enable you to contribute to the broader economic recovery. It also helps you maintain a positive relationship with exiting employees, which is not only critical for your brand reputation, but can pay off if they one day come back to work for you either as employees or contractors.

communicate with transparency and build trust

No matter the workforce changes your organisation might face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most important things you can do is communicate these changes early and often with employees. Transparent communications can help you build loyalty and trust with employees each step of the way and there needs to be trust on both sides of the employer-employee relationship to drive productivity.

Implementing an effective talent mobility strategy will not only help you do right by your employees during this challenging time but can also set you up for long-term success by developing a more agile workforce.

Randstad RiseSmart

talent mobility solutions.

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dan davenport.

chief executive officer

20 August 2020

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