Many leaders can now make a strong case for establishing an internal talent marketplace, but getting one off the ground remains difficult. At Booz Allen, we experienced that truth during the first year after launching our pilot project. Here, we’ll examine some of the challenges we faced, how we overcame them, and what we learned about change management and talent marketplaces.
Having a talent marketplace represented an important change for Booz Allen. For years, we’d been deploying professional staff members through informal, internal networks that operated based on who you knew and who you trusted. But this path limited our flexibility to make use of available resources and match the right talent to the right work. More importantly, it limited our people’s control over their own career paths, and that hurt engagement and retention.
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To test a better approach, Booz Allen launched a talent marketplace pilot project in partnership with Lotis Blue Consulting in January 2022. With the pilot, we sought to address talent management challenges that constrained growth and hurt our ability to deliver a compelling value proposition to employees — namely, issues in hiring, deployment, talent development, technology and its adoption, and culture change. We wanted to solve these problems systematically and holistically rather than introduce point solutions, which often fail to compound value.
But the level of cultural transformation required to activate and operate a talent marketplace is significant. It takes a sustained effort to work through several human behavioral- and perception-driven issues — and overcoming these issues is key to success.
The Road to a Talent Marketplace
Booz Allen wanted to end its reliance on traditional hiring networks centered around clients or teams. These highly localized networks made it tough to find resources in other parts of the organization that would meet enterprise, regional, or local needs. In contrast, the marketplace established a centralized approach to assess demand and source talent enterprisewide (via external hiring, internal deployment, or upskilling) and created the capability to deploy people across the entire organization.
We needed to seed the marketplace with a sufficient number of high-quality opportunities and available talent to engage both employees and managers.
The marketplace pilot focused on skills rather than networks. This gave employees new visibility to open opportunities across the enterprise and managers new insights into talent who could do the work.