4 strategies to stop talent hoarding from sabotaging internal mobility

Supporting managers to shift their mindset and maximize agility

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

For a long time, internal mobility was hindered by external recruitment. Most skill and capability needs were grouped into open roles, which would, in turn, be filled by new candidates. In addition, when opportunities for employees to take on cross-functional projects would arise, managers were often hesitant to lend their reports out to other teams.

But as the new war for talent intensifies, leaders are turning their attention toward skills visibility and talent agility. Internal mobility isn’t just a powerful hiring tool; it’s also a sure-fire way to improve engagement and retention. Our research reveals that more than two-thirds of employees would like the chance to pursue new opportunities within their organizations.

However, one threat that can sabotage even the best internal mobility strategies: talent hoarding. It’s currently a widespread phenomenon, with 50% of employers reporting that at least one of their managers is guilty of holding onto talent too tightly.

What is talent hoarding?

Although you might associate hoarding with clutter and messy apartments, it doesn’t just apply to household objects. Hoarding is a reality in workplaces where managers have a hard time sharing their team’s skills and time.

While talent hoarding most often comes out of an illusionary fear of dipping team productivity, it has real-life consequences on team morale, engagement, and retention. The “hoarded talent” feels stagnant or trapped in their current role when their ambitions lie elsewhere within your business. Over time, these employees start to believe that their best chance of pivoting their careers or growing different skills lies outside of your organization.

But pinning all of the blame on managers won’t solve the issue. HR leaders, as shepherds of organizational culture, can play an active role in supporting managers in adopting the mindset shift from talent hoarding to talent sharing, from scarcity to abundance. In this article, we’ll dive a little deeper into the four most common pitfalls of talent hoarding, and then lay out four strategies people leaders can spearhead to support talent sharing within their organizations.

The dangers of talent hoarding

A damper on internal mobility, talent hoarding creates a dangerous domino effect that negatively impacts every aspect of how your business functions. Some of the top risks associated with this mentality snowball into:

Turnover surges
Access to opportunities sits at the heart of the Great Resignation. Our research finds that a lack of internal mobility is the second most common reason employees decide to look for jobs elsewhere. Consequently, when your employees feel like talent-hoarding managers are holding them back, they’re much more likely to look for new opportunities elsewhere.

Productivity and capacity nosedive
COVID-19 let us witness employees stepping in to cover for colleagues and pivoting into new roles. This revealed something crucial about our workforces: they are capable of much more than what we hired them to do. And now that we’ve seen that, there’s no going back.

Talent sharing is the only way to leverage all of the skills and capabilities within your workforce. In contrast, when talent hoarding is prevalent in your organization, your people can’t ever be used to their full potential, which means your business won’t achieve its full potential—and possibly won’t be able to stand the competition.

Silos set in
Most leaders are well aware of the dangers of organizational silos. They hinder innovation, slow productivity to a halt, and leave managers spinning their wheels instead of executing strategic priorities. All too often, talent hoarding is at the root of this problem. When employees can’t see beyond the projects, opportunities, and skill needs within their direct teams, silos and miscommunications are inevitable.

Career development reaches a stand-still
The race to build skills is on. Leaders identified developing new competencies as their top priority for 2022 and 40% said they can’t create skill solutions fast enough to meet evolving needs. Talent hoarding presents one of the most significant skill-building roadblocks because it makes it difficult for employees to participate in projects, gigs, and other hands-on experiences. And since these opportunities are a crucial part of the learning curve, without them employees aren’t able to develop new expertise at a competitive speed.

Replacing talent hoarding with talent sharing

It’s impossible to promote internal mobility when talent hoarding is part of your organizations’ culture. Putting a stop to it requires HR leaders to support managers in adopting a talent-sharing mindset. When done successfully, managers feel empowered to tap (and share) employees throughout the organization when carrying out projects and deliverables.

So what does it take to get started? Here are four tactics people leaders can use to promote talent sharing:

#1. Launch company-wide cross-functional collaboration opportunities
Most organizations value collaboration, but just how far do your group-working practices go? Employees should be empowered to contribute to projects, not only with their direct teams but throughout your organization. For that to happen, HR leaders need to devise initiatives that will inspire people to work together in new and dynamic ways.

Whether you start by designating a few projects as company-wide collaborations or hosting offsites that shuffle employees into different teams, executives should get creative when developing cross-functional opportunities. Once managers see that talent sharing is an important part of your culture, they will be inspired to support it by following suit.

#2. Empower managers to look beyond immediate teams
Most managers have a few high performers they trust to execute high-priority tasks. While tapping the same handful of people might feel like the most efficient way to meet deadlines, it’s not doing your workforce or company innovation any favors. When managers fail to look outside of their immediate teams, they overlook talented employees with the skills and capacity needed to carry out key tasks.

To get there, managers must have a full picture of the skills and competencies within their workforce—which talent marketplaces readily enable. Once they’re able to visualize broader talent pools, managers feel confident that they have the needed resources to get key projects across the finish line.

#3. Let your people take the lead
Do your managers tell their reports what their next steps should be? Or do they ask them about their ambitions and help them develop a path to achieve them? Talent-hoarding supervisors are likely to spell out what employees should do next to ensure they keep these workers on their teams—or at the very least in the organization.

Employees are the ones who should sit in the driver’s seat of their career progression—not their managers. When workers are empowered to make their own career decisions, they’re more likely to be engaged in the work they’re doing, and inspired to push their performance to the next level.

#4. Take advantage of talent marketplaces
Going from talent hoarding to talent sharing isn’t an easy transition. It can be especially daunting for managers who fear that they’re losing access to the talent they need to accomplish their key deliverables.

Fortunately, the rise of talent marketplaces means talent sharing no longer needs to be a leap of faith. The two-sided platforms match employees to projects, gigs, and full-time roles based on their interests, skills, capacity, and ambitions. As a result, managers feel confident they can access the talent they need across the organization, while employees are empowered to expand their horizons by getting involved in cross-functional projects and experiential learning opportunities.

To unlock organizational agility and outpace the competition, hoarding top talent must become a thing of the past. And HR leaders are primely positioned to help managers move from a talent scarcity mindset to a culture of talent-sharing. To learn more about the game-changing results that can get achieved with talent sharing, check out Unilever’s case study.