Josh Bersin and Mastercard: How to develop workforce agility

How Josh Bersin, Senior VP of Research at The Josh Bersin Company Kathi Enderes, and Mastercard VP of Digital Talent Heather Yurko see companies creating agile workforces

Austen Gregerson

By Austen Gregerson, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

July 27, 2022

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The recent talk of economic headwinds and downturns have left companies wondering what the immediate path forward looks like. Uncertainty is nothing new; the challenges facing companies this time, however, are unlike those most business leaders have ever faced.  

Labor and talent shortages are still on the rise, a trend that is not normally associated with widespread recessions. The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic’s first year has not been quite shaken. With global inflation still on the rise, financial experts are bracing for a wide range of outcomes—how high inflation will rise, how long it will last, and what remedies will be put in place by governments to keep it in check.

But organizations don’t have time to sit back and react. Though the future remains uncertain, tools exist for companies who want to revolutionize their institutions and build agile, skills-based organizations. Josh Bersin, leading analyst and educator on the global talent market and workforce strategies, discussed how companies can meet the current market volatility with Mastercard VP of Digital Talent Heather Yurko and Senior VP of Research at The Josh Bersin Company Kathi Enderes.

Bersin’s advice: “Just start.”

How talent marketplaces and workforce intelligence make for agile organizations

As talent marketplaces become more known throughout HR and their impact grows in reputation, many HR leaders are left wondering not if their organization could benefit from one, but how to best implement them. Traditionally, work structures were instituted from the top-down: leaders identify the needs of an organization and build structures to funnel talent through them, setting up silos of people with single-pane windows of influence. Their job is clearly defined, their managers have set responsibilities, and any change to the structure requires a long lead time.

But as the world economy has shown, rapid changes are happening more frequently. It’s up to leaders to establish a work structure that matches today’s reality, and workforce agility platforms are combining the functionality of talent marketplaces with the insights of workforce intelligence. Talent marketplaces act as the venue of transformation; people are connected with projects, mentorships, training, opportunities for upskilling and cross-skilling, and internal roles based on their skills and interests. The intelligence powering the marketplace centralizes all information of the skills within the company, allowing for smarter talent strategies that reflect current business needs. 

Heather Yurko has seen companies implement talent marketplaces before. Though all accomplished their goals of breaking down silos and empowering people to drive their own career development, it soon became apparent that speed was the missing ingredient.

“What we found during that first wave, and this was 2020 to the beginning of 2021, was that (the talent marketplace) was amazing and wholly unscalable, because we were doing this manual matching on the back end,” Yurko said. “There is no way this is going to work (long-term). And so that was when we started to have conversations with Gloat and really understand what’s possible.”

HR leaders have the ability to create environments that support both the needs of their organizations and employee ambitions. Through a talent marketplace, employees can see how their skills align with the essential functions of their company and how they can develop through learnings, mentorships, projects, and opportunities otherwise not visible to them. 

With the recent workforce intelligence innovations, managers have more understanding of the skills at their fingertips. Economic downturns often bring tighter budgets, and traditional methods of outsourcing work might not be feasible—but work still needs to get done. By looking beyond their teams or department and tapping into the skills of their entire workforce, leaders can match projects with the people best-suited to take them on, and prioritize training for in-demand skills.

3 ways talent marketplaces keep employees committed

One of the unintended consequences of unsteady economic times is the impact they have on employee morale. Instability can lead to reduced productivity as employees feel increased stress, a growing issue in today’s landscape. But uncertainty isn’t, well, certain.

With a talent marketplace, leaders can help their people stay engaged by taking proactive steps. Kathi Enderes still anticipates employees being at the helm of their career for the foreseeable future, and it’s up to organizations to ensure that economic circumstance doesn’t become an excuse for leaders to de-emphasize the employee experience. 

“The workforce is still going to be very much in control, and you’re going to do all you can to design your organization to be irresistible for the employees and design them around the employees, not around your financial cost control,” Enderes said. “That’s a downward spiral. If you start cutting, then people have less support, your customers get less, and then you have to cut more and more and more.”

To keep workers engaged, here are three ways a talent marketplace can help:

#1. Empower employees to take control of their own careers

Since talent marketplaces can show an employee what skills they need to progress within their current career path—or the skills required to follow a new one—the uncertainty of ‘where to go’ can be replaced by actionable efforts. Economic uncertainty often makes people feel that they’re at the whims of forces out of their control. Though some factors might still be that way, providing the tools for employees to make themselves more confident in their own abilities can help change mindsets from resignation to optimism. 

#2. Open dialogue between coworkers

People rely on people—not structures— during times of uncertainty. While the pandemic has made in-person communication more difficult, talent marketplaces can easily connect coworkers to continue building professional relationships. No longer constrained by geographic proximity or departmental association, mentorship opportunities can be found quickly and effortlessly on workforce agility platforms.

#3. Provide clear career paths  

To be agile is not to be in disarray. Agile companies embrace the changing nature of the business landscape and the evolution of skills needed to compete, providing clear pathways for their people to meet new challenges. 

“I think it’s great to unleash or unlock this pent-up demand for mobility and creativity, but you have to manage it,” Bersin said. “You don’t want a company where everybody does whatever they want all day and these strategic things that nobody likes to do get ignored. So, underneath the talent marketplace is a lot of data about where the company really wants to go and where the people want to go and matching that stuff up.”

Create value in any economic environment with a workforce agility platform

As economic headwinds mount, it’s up to leaders to create a sense of direction and purpose throughout their workforce to keep positive momentum. With the structures in place to activate agility, companies can ready their organization for not just the headwinds, but to better activate their people when the wind is at their back. 

Uncertainty might be our reality in the near future, but workforce agility can help your company—and employees—be ready for whatever that future holds. To get more insights from Josh Bersin, Kathi Enderes, and Heather Yurko, watch the full conversation

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