How do employees find out about opportunities in your company? Not just full-time jobs, but also opportunities to participate in projects, find a mentor, engage in networking, or learn something new?  How do leaders learn about employees’ skills, aspirations, and passions?

In most companies, the answer is – it’s difficult. Often, employees have access only to the opportunities their managers know about and are willing to share with them. And equally often, leaders have many demands on their time with few opportunities to really get to know their people.

Why does internal talent management matter?

There are two really important reasons. First, the productivity and success of the company depends on the optimal deployment of talent – putting the right people into the right jobs and then setting them up to succeed.  Second, employee engagement and retention depend on employees utilizing their talents in ways that are meaningful to them. 

At a recent panel of the Executives’ Club of Chicago, I was fascinated to learn about a new solution to this complex problem – the internal talent marketplace. The idea is to create a digital market where people can “buy” and “sell” opportunities inside the company – kind of like an internal LinkedIn. 

Building a talent management internal network

Here’s how it works. All employees in the company can choose to participate – it’s voluntary. They provide information about their education, experience, areas of competence, interests, and workplace goals. Meanwhile, anyone who has a need for a person with a specific talent or interest can post an opportunity. There’s an opening for a graphic artist on the creative team? A first-time manager is looking for a mentor? Someone from finance wants to connect with someone from supply chain?  There’s a new course on AI available to those who are interested?  Post it on the marketplace.

Then, of course, the digital magic happens. The marketplace matches up the employee profiles with the opportunities so a match can be explored.

There are many benefits to this approach. It’s very of-the-moment –  it fits in with the cultural trend to “own your career.” It reduces attrition, because these days one of the most common reasons people leave their jobs is they can’t see opportunities for themselves within the company. It increases employee engagement. It is flexible and agile, compared to the rigidity of traditional “job architecture.” Managers don’t “own” their people. And it is based on a culture that sees people as sources of value to cultivate, not just costs to manage. 

Of course, there are many complexities to setting up an internal talent marketplace. There are the basic technological challenges. There is the need to convince people to participate and post information on a regular basis. And there are cultural challenges as managers no longer control which opportunities their people can access.  

What you don’t want is a situation where it is easier for your employees to find opportunities outside your company than inside, especially if they are your most energetic, innovative employees. The internal talent marketplace looks like a very good solution. When properly designed and executed, it will be both efficient and liberating.

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