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Why Collaboration is Critical for Effective Talent Mobilization

By Melissa J. Anderson

Last week, Mercer presented its findings [PDF] on its most recent global talent mobility study at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The report focused on the need for collaborating amongst various stakeholders to ensure that global talent is being developed and mobilized effectively.

According to Laszlo Andor, the EU’s Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, who wrote the forward to the report, the word will soon be facing a talent crisis – in some areas are suffering from high unemployment, while others face a shortage of skilled employees. He wrote:

“It is in this context that qualified people represent a strategic resource; one that needs to be paid far greater attention to than ever before. The ability to encourage development and attainment of new knowledge and skills while at the same time promoting innovation and geographical mobility will greatly influence the overall capacity of the European Union and its member states to sustain economic growth and social progress.”

The report, discussing global talent issues – not just those of the EU – goes on to suggest that broader collaborative partnerships between companies, non-profit organizations, and governments can address the challenges that exist when it comes to talent mobility.

The Need for Collaboration

The report, “Talent Mobility Good Practices: Collaboration at the Core of Driving Economic Growth,” contains case studies and advice on how companies can work with other stakeholders to meet goals of finding skilled talent in the years to come.

First of all, the report encourages companies to move individuals into new roles in new geographic locations than they have in the past. The ones that are doing it right, it explains, are benefiting from the experience that employees gain from working abroad. It explains:

“Not only are they physically moving talent internationally within their organizations – they are also moving people across business units and job families; across organizations; within specific industries and regions; and across occupations and skills sets. Some stakeholders are using talent mobility practices to move people from unemployment to employment or to move jobs to people.”

But, Mercer advises, the larger scale benefits of talent mobility come from partnering with other stakeholders. It explained, “Whether on the organizational level, within an industry or region, or across multiple stakeholders worldwide, collaboration enabled stakeholders to grapple effectively with talent market challenges to significantly enhance growth.

The report was created based on the answers and suggestions it received via a questionnaire sent to 4,000 global participants. According to the survey, over the past 20 years, worker mobiltiy has stagnated. Even though companies and markets have become significantly more global in the past 20 years, workforce mobility has not increased.

In fact, the report continued, companies haven’t been happy with the success of the mobility programs they have utilized – and most are taking advanatage of mobility as a means for professional development of those on the executive track. It says, “Fewer than half of companies surveyed said they selected international assignees well; 62% said poor candidate selection was the second most important cause of assignment failure.”

According to the study, companies can gain more rewards by working to broaden worker mobility programs. They should also consider the potential for collaboration as a means to draw workers to jobs or build their skill sets in areas where there are labor shortages.

Practical Advice

The report’s advice for companies, based on the good practices it collected, include employing a ‘business case’ approach to building potential collaboration proposals and utilizing modern measurement tools to assess their effectiveness. It also suggested working with governments on cross-boarder initiatives, and collaborating with potential competitors when it makes sense.

One successful initiative highlighted by the report is the Toronto Financial Services Alliance. While, as the report indicated, “All five of the major Canadian banks are based in Toronto, as are 80% of the foreign banks that operate in the country,” the industry faces a significant talent shortage in the region. By and large, highly educated individuals in the area haven’t been interested in a career in the field, and banks were struggling to fill open jobs – all drawing from the same small pool of talent.

As a result, the TFSA was formed as a “high profile public-private partnership” including “three levels of government, major financial services firms, and educational institutions, professional services associations and business services providers.

So far the group has been successful in educating local highly educated individuals about the benefits of a career in the financial services industry, and in marketing Toronto to potential employees outside the region. By collaborating with competitors, government, and other stakeholders, the pool of employees companies can draw from is growing and becoming more skilled.

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