From experiment to necessity: The evolution of the talent marketplace

Analyzing the platform’s rapid rise, and uncovering what’s next for workforce agility

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

The talent marketplace has come a long way in a short time. Back in 2019, Gartner gave the technology some early recognition, noting that then-current platforms were “embryonic” but that “the benefit is potentially transformational, enabling tomorrow’s more lean, agile, and adaptive organizations.”

Fast forward a few years, and it’s clear that talent marketplaces are no longer fledgling technology. In fact, Gartner named building an internal talent marketplace as one of three key areas of focus for CIOs to drive value.

As the talent marketplace rises on leaders’ radars, some might wonder why so many organizations are scrambling to implement a technology that was considered experimental just a few years ago. Josh Bersin—one of the earliest talent marketplace advocates—answered this exact question when he joined us at Gloat Live last November. He also foreshadowed the role he believes talent marketplaces and workforce intelligence will play in the future. In this piece, we’re sharing his insights to ensure every organization is prepared for 2023 and beyond.

Agility as an experiment: Looking back at the early days of the talent marketplace

Shortly after Gartner’s early talent marketplace mention, the onset of COVID-19 turned agility into a do-or-die factor. Suddenly, every organization needed to shift gears and pivot to respond to pandemic-induced disruptions. And it was the businesses that could rapidly reallocate talent and efficiently align people to opportunities that came out on top.

As one of the earliest talent marketplace adopters, Unilever credits its platform, FLEX Experiences, with helping the organization swiftly adapt to the changes that COVID-19 set into motion. According to Global HR Business Partner Yanpi Oliveros Pascual, “When COVID hit, we saw FLEX become even more relevant. We saw part of our business become overstretched, while, on the other hand, there were employees who suddenly had more capacity because projects were reprioritized. To ensure business continuity, we all had to work as one Unilever and FLEX Experiences made that possible.”

Within the first two months of the pandemic’s onset, Unilever leveraged its talent marketplace to staff more than 700 business-critical projects and unlock more than 26,000 hours. To date, the leading consumer goods enterprise has unlocked over 700,000 hours of capacity and improved overall productivity by 41%.

The 4 drivers that fueled the talent marketplace’s rise to business essential

The rise of the talent marketplace isn’t an overnight success story. Instead, there are a handful of factors that are contributing to the platform’s growing visibility.

#1. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic
The pandemic caused unprecedented levels of disruption, which underscored the importance of agility. Rather than struggling to reallocate employees and tap into previously under-utilized skills, pioneering organizations that had already implemented a talent marketplace had these abilities at their fingertips.

In fact, some businesses chose to accelerate their talent marketplace’s launch in response to the pandemic, as Jean Pelletier, Vice President of Digital Talent Transformation at Schneider Electric explains. “We went with the fast rollout at this time because we wanted to send the message that development and growth were alive and well at Schneider during COVID-19.”

#2. The Great Resignation
On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, a mass employee exodus—later nicknamed The Great Resignation—opened leaders’ eyes to the importance of career development opportunities. Since two out of three employees said they would leave their jobs if internal mobility wasn’t offered, companies sought to give people the growth opportunities they were looking for.

The talent marketplace emerged as a pivotal platform, given its ability to match people to open projects, gigs, and full-time roles based on their skills and aspirations. As a result, many organizations that harnessed a talent marketplace didn’t have to deal with the devastating impact of a turnover tsunami. As Seagate’s Chief Human Resources Officer Patricia Frost explains, “We haven’t seen the Great Resignation at Seagate. The game-changer for us is this journey we’ve been on with Gloat. Employees have their careers in their hands and they can see vertical and lateral movement possibilities.

#3. The skills revolution
Today, business leaders recognize that embracing a skills-based strategy is essential for thriving in the new world of work. 98% of organizations indicate they want to shift towards skills-based work and 90% are actively experimenting with it.

However, only one in five enterprises have skills-based practices that extend throughout the organization. While most leaders want to make the shift, many companies lack a comprehensive understanding of workforce capabilities, which is integral to the success of these strategies.

Fortunately, that’s not the case for businesses that are harnessing a talent marketplace. “The talent marketplace helps us build a skills-based organization,” Hamish Nesbit, HSBC’s Group Head of Resourcing explains. “It captures what skills employees have and what they want to learn.”

#4. Equity and inclusivity as enterprise-wide priorities
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) is no longer just an HR issue; it’s a business-wide priority that tops all executives’ agendas. In fact, nearly 50% of CEOs count building an inclusive workforce as high on the list of their challenges.

While many leaders struggle to identify tools and frameworks to level the playing field, organizations that are harnessing a talent marketplace note that the platform has helped them drive change. “The talent marketplace is an enormous opportunity for D&I,” notes Watson Stewart, Head of Talent Solutions at Standard Chartered Bank. “We’re creating an inclusive environment where we can get a diversity of thoughts from a variety of different people, and introduce them into the projects we run.”

3 insights from Josh Bersin about where the talent marketplace is and where it’s heading next

Now that talent marketplaces are a business essential, many leaders might be wondering what’s next for the platform. Josh Bersin has a few predictions about what the future will look like, both for talent marketplaces and the companies that harness them.

#1. The talent marketplace isn’t an add-on—it’s a foundational system
As some leaders begin getting familiar with talent marketplaces, they might make the mistake of thinking of the platforms as a set of features or something to add to existing HR technology. Yet, Bersin is quick to caution that that’s not the case.

“It’s not a set of features on your ERP,” he says, “This is an application that operates differently, with different data sources and different kinds of functionality. It has to have a particularly unique user experience and it has to be very user-centric,” Bersin concludes, outlining the frame of mind leaders must embrace to maximize the success of their platform.

#2. The talent marketplace will become central to every HR tech stack
“A lot of leaders who brought these talent marketplace systems into their companies, they were pioneers. They were noise-makers, squeaky wheels who were probably saying to their CHROS, ‘we need one of these’. And their CHROs were saying ‘pilot it, see if it works,’” says Bersin, describing the talent marketplace’s experimental stage.

“And sure enough, it started to work. And it started to grow. Now it’s becoming a category. Some of the most conservative companies in the world are now saying ‘we need a talent marketplace. We need it because everyone else has one.’”

What’s clear is that the talent marketplace has evolved from being an experiment to a central element of every HR stack. The interactions and inputs captured via user engagement also serve as a powerful data generator, providing organizations with a real-time visualization of their people’s skills, interests, and aspirations. This data can be further amplified with the addition of Workforce Intelligence, which creates a centralized source for HR data truth that enables businesses to reap the benefits of skills-based strategies.

#3. The talent marketplace will only continue to become more crucial
If you think that the talent marketplace’s popularity has peaked, it’s time to think again. As talent shortages continue and global fertility rates decline, the ability to develop employees internally and reallocate them to meet emerging needs will only become more important.

As Bersin explains, “If you look at the data from the World Bank, they have curves for when the population is going to peak. And in most developed economies, it has already peaked. So this issue of hiring, developing, and locating the right people is going to continue, and even get worse.”

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