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As an HR Leader, I regularly have coaching conversations with colleagues about their development and their desire to be promoted.

Historically these conversations usually run along the same vein: “I’ve been in my role for years and haven’t been promoted”, “I put in 50 hours a week, I deserve a promotion”, “Vijay on Bill’s team was just promoted - I don’t understand why I haven’t been promoted yet.”  

Every one of these conversations highlights a common challenge: none of these individuals understand what was needed to move into a role that they desired.

They lacked both an understanding of what career opportunities existed for them to pursue and how they needed to grow to be ready for that next growth opportunity.   

Despite how critical this information is for employees, most companies lack the tools, resources, and/or knowledge to build these connections for their colleagues.  

This is the magic of an internal talent marketplace. By giving transparency into what it takes for employees to advance their careers, it helps them reshape the focus of their developmental conversations away from “How come I’m not getting promoted?” to “Here’s what I need to do to grow into my next opportunity.” 

In this article I’ll take you through:

Why now?  

According to LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends report, professionals are stating that professional development is the single most important area for companies to invest to improve company culture.

linkedIns 2022 global talent trends report screenshot

Business and HR leaders agree—we’ve long known that meeting employee’s expectations associated with career development remains one of the primary drivers of engagement. 

Yet, despite major investments to develop talent, a staggering 50% of workers said it’s easier to find a new job outside of their organization than within

Employees are seeking new opportunities at dizzying rates, unemployment remains at historic lows, and professionals are demanding more support for their well-being and the overall employee experience.

Reskilling, upskilling, and cross-training employees must be a continued focal point as organizations modernize their talent capabilities, create more agile and resilient workforces, and drive business value.  

So how do organizations create viable career development and talent mobility strategies?  The answer is simple: talent marketplaces.

So what is an Internal talent marketplace?

Simply put, an internal talent marketplace is a highly connected, intelligent, and transparent talent management system within an organization.  

These HR tech solutions are designed to empower employees to pursue their career aspirations by connecting them to new growth opportunities based on their skill sets, interests, and the needs of the business. These new opportunities could be their next role, gig, stretch assignments, mentoring, etc.

With a talent marketplace, colleagues are empowered to own their development, while employers unleash an agile pipeline of ready-now talent with the right competencies and skills to deliver on business priorities and challenges. 

Let’s take a look at a hypothetical employee growth experience following Sally Employee as she uses her company’s talent marketplace to develop for her next growth opportunity.  

example of employee growth experience leverage screenshot

How Can A Talent Marketplace benefit your organization?

A talent marketplace puts your people back in the driver’s seat of their own development. It does this by providing significant transparency into:

✅ Career pathways and the roles that exist within your organization’s career lattice 

✅ Employees’ personal strengths and skill gaps/development areas 

✅ How employees’ strengths and development areas match to growth opportunities around their organization (where they need to focus their development to be ready for a role they aspire to) 

✅ What resources and opportunities currently exist to help support their development as they prepare for their next role  

✅ What positions are open for them to apply into if they are ready now.

Beyond the employee engagement and retention wins that come from investing in employee development, this can provide significant other benefits. 

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Creates a culture of talent mobility 

Internal talent mobility helps employees accelerate their career growth while building new, valuable capabilities that ultimately drive value to the organization.

Additionally, talent marketplaces can provide keen visibility into which roles will help them build the competencies and skills they need to be successful.

Builds a more agile (and resilient) workforce through a gig economy 

Gigs (short-term work assignments) not only provide meaningful short-term stretch opportunities to help your employees develop new emerging skills but also give you a much more agile and resilient workforce by breaking down silos across your organization.  

Stretch opportunities cross-skill your workforce, allowing you to in-source for talent and rapidly deploy your employees based on project needs. This can help you harness the fullest potential out of your workforce and dramatically reduce your need to rely on contract labor, all while developing your people. 

Furthers Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Efforts 

A talent marketplace can play a huge role in advancing your DE&I efforts.  Enhanced transparency and universal access to development opportunities can level the playing field to allow all of your people to realize success. 

How to build an internal talent marketplace in your organization?

Step 1 - Define Your Talent Northstar 

Building a talent marketplace starts with your organizational needs. Ask yourself:

  • What is our talent marketplace trying to accomplish? 
  • What is the future of work at our organization?  
  • What skills do we have today? What skills do we need tomorrow?  
  • Do we have the jobs of tomorrow defined?  
  • What do we want our employee experience to be like? 

Having a baseline of why you are trying to implement a talent marketplace, and what you hope to get out of it, helps build your organization’s talent Northstar. As you work through this process, all of your decisions should be answering at least one of these questions.

Step 2 - Invite Your Colleagues On The Journey With You 

Remember that, per LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends report, employees are stating that professional development is the single most important area for companies to invest in to improve company culture.  

So it makes sense that involving them in the design process will not only ensure your solution meets their needs but also ensure they are equally invested in the success of the solution.  

Regardless of whether you leverage listening sessions, focus groups, or take a co-design approach with your employees to design and deliver your talent marketplace, do not sleep on involving your employees.  

Step 3 - Source For A Technology Solution 

If you have sufficient bandwidth and expertise you can create a homegrown talent marketplace solution. However, the vast majority of organizations would benefit significantly from partnering with a vendor to help support them on their internal talent marketplace journey.  

An off-the-shelf HR tech solution will afford you the ability to provide a robust User Interface (UI) and, most importantly, it will give you access to your vendor’s significant consulting experience and expertise in implementing these types of solutions.

Many vendors are developing Artificial Intelligence based solutions that help build a highly personalized employee experience that transforms work for your colleagues and leaders alike.  See further below for some considerations when selecting a vendor for your solution (Talent Marketplace Platforms).  

Step 4 - Design Your Solution 

Designing a talent marketplace requires a cross-functional team of colleagues from across HR and the business: 

  • Business Leadership - Have ultimate ownership for the solution and drive the vision
  • Talent Management - Translate the leadership vision into reality by seamlessly integrating the talent marketplace into your organization's existing/future internal talent processes 
  • HR Technology Team - Accountable for the technological support of the platform and for driving the integration of your talent marketplace into your HR systems
  • HR Business Partners - Act as a strategic partners both within the project team and for the leaders/employees they support
  • Business SMEs – Provide key insights into roles, provide feedback and support throughout

This cross-functional team will need to be able to design and deliver all key components of the your internal talent marketplace: 

  • Access to career paths 
  • Role based competency assessments 
  • A gig or stretch opportunity portal 
  • Existing job openings 
  • Mentor/Mentee opportunities 
  • Other career development resources.

Step 5 - Deploy Your Solution 

There are some key decisions to make as you get ready to deploy your solution.  Will you deploy the entirety of the solution at once?  Roll out features slowly to gain steam over time?  Will you pilot with a certain group or go big with the entirety of your organization up front?  

Don’t forget that this is a major change management effort. Introducing an internal talent market requires a fundamental shift in how you as an organization think about your talent. Your employees likely haven’t experienced this level of support for their growth and they’ll need time to understand how best to interact with the talent marketplace.

My recommendation would be to release components iteratively over time versus introducing the entire talent marketplace platform at once. 

This affords you the ability to continually keep the launch of your platform fresh in the minds of your employees and gives them ample time to learn and leverage each component of the marketplace.   

A well-constructed adoption plan is essential to ensure that you drive the adoption of your new platform with your colleagues. If your Talent Management team has change management experts for you to lean on, I’d highly encourage you to leverage their expertise to help build out a substantial change management plan to drive your adoption.

Further, lean on your HR Business Partners and Business SMEs to better understand what challenges their teams are facing that might impact your deployment. This information is critical in building a plan that will meet all of your employees’ needs.   

Step 6 - Evaluate Your Success And Implement Sustainability Support 

Implementing a talent marketplace is no small feat and will be the culmination of a significant investment of work from your Talent Management team, HR Business Partners, and leaders across the organization.

It’s essential that you implement mechanisms through which you can ensure you are getting the most out of your marketplace and make iterative enhancements over time to ensure you maintain the efficacy of your talent marketplace.  

It’s also critical that you come up with a sustainability plan. This is not an ‘off the side of your desk’ effort—implementing your talent marketplace will be the culmination of a substantial amount of work. It’s critical that you have the manpower in place to make iterative enhancements over time to ensure you maintain the efficacy of your talent marketplace.  

It’s also essential that your sustainability efforts aren’t deployed solely to the Talent Management/HR organization to support. Continued business ownership is critical for sustaining adoption and realizing value over time.  

Talent Marketplace Platforms

Most talent marketplace platforms will offer similar functionalities: a slick UI, competency and skill mapping for your roles, a gig or stretch assignment portal, mentor opportunities, etc.

So how do you select a talent marketplace platform?  

This comes down to step 1 from above: Define your Northstar. Organizations are going to have wildly divergent needs based on their size, scope, and complexity.

The larger and more complex your organization is, the greater your need will be for a highly automated, artificial intelligence-based HR tech solution to simplify both the administration of the platform and ensure you can provide the best experience for your colleagues.  

Beyond the technical components, my best advice is to select a vendor who is co-invested in your solution. 

The best vendors will provide you with significant access to their time, tools, and resources to ensure that you have all the support needed to make the most out of their solution.

This includes access to their: 

  • Technology team who owns their UI and ensures it continues to meet your needs 
  • Industrial psychologists who specialize in mapping skills and competencies to your organization’s roles 
  • Change management professionals to help drive colleague adoption of the solution 
  • Client success partners who can coach you along the way and ensure you get all the support you need once you hit steady state

Where To Go From Here

There’s never a wrong time to invest in employee development but, in today’s chaotic labor market, the need has never been more urgent. Building your own talent marketplace can be the right solution to help engage and retain your workforce which, in turn, drives additional value to your organizational goals. 

If you are interested in learning more, I’d encourage you to check out these other articles:

By Alex Link

Alex is a HR Director for a Fortune 4 organization with a passion for developing the leaders of tomorrow. He has a Masters of Science in Human Resources and Labor Relations and has extensive experience in HR, Leadership Development, Talent Management, Learning and Development, and more. When not focused on helping people realize their career aspirations, he enjoys playing guitar, reading sci-fi fantasy novels, relaxing with his wife, and playing with their two young children.