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    Expert panel discussion summary: the labour market & internal mobility

    Optamor Blog

    We held a lunchtime panel discussion with Will Crandle, CEO at Horsefly Analytics , John Frith, Chief People Officer at Checkatrade and Elizabeth Lembke, Chief Talent Navigator at Transforming Talent . The event was moderated by Felix Wetzel from Pocket Recruiter.

    Here are the key points from a lively and disruptive debate:


    The pandemic has forced us all to make changes in the way in which we work. As a result, Horsefly Analytics reports that 92% of businesses expect working from home to be a part of their longer-term strategies. Employees are no longer confined to centralised offices, with smaller talent hubs across different locations becoming the norm.

    This sea change started off reactionary, yet has become embedded in companies both large and small. According to Horsefly CEO, Will Crandle’s data, 45% of companies are now completely removing locations and country restraints when hiring - breaking down previous barriers such as commuting distance to HQ.

    Checkatrade has already accessed this global talent pool first-hand, hiring entirely remote workers in a variety of locations - sparked by the labour market changes. “We’ve hired people we wouldn’t have done before,” says John, Chief People Officer at Checkatrade. In particular, he sees more opportunities for global candidates within the tech space.

    Whilst remote workers present some challenges in terms of training and induction, John recognises the importance of bringing a more diverse pool of talent into the organisation, adding that this approach motivates companies into stepping up their employer brands to attract and retain global talent.


    John’s vision is to give people the ability to work when and where they want to. Rather than encouraging his employees to come back into the office and mandating when they need to be there, his approach is based around freedom. “People want a hybrid role with one or two days a week in the office. The best of both worlds is the way forwards.” As a result, Checkatrade is truly flexible, putting the choice into the employees’ hands.

    Talk of completely flexible working - not shift patterns - is bound to raise productivity questions. Chief Talent Navigator, Liz Lembke is keen to quash these thoughts. “Productivity is measured on outputs, not the time or individual activities,” she says, adding that the new way of working is about “giving the control back to the person,” rather than enabling micromanaging leaders.

    Naturally Will - our data legend - has the stats to back everyone up. Horsefly found that 70% of leaders think employees are more productive working from home. Interestingly, this has reduced 10% in recent weeks, with Boris Johnson’s cry to the offices. This backs up John’s reports that now staff have enjoyed some social interaction, they would like the option to attend the office for important meetings or ideas generation.


    The pandemic has sped up the impact of the fourth industrial revolution, increasing our need for efficiency and communication-boosting technology. Once, naysayers dispelled so-called futurists, describing universal basic income (UBI) as poppycock and desperately fought against automation taking the repetitive tasks out of jobs. Now we’ve had furlough (UBI) and relied on technology to increase remote efficiency, the transformation cannot be denied.

    In tandem, Will sees that the whole landscape of work has altered, with project-based, contract roles more in-demand than ever before. Sector trends have changed too, with most searched-for HR keywords including phrases such as ‘talent acquisition’ being replaced with ‘workforce planning’ and ‘workforce analytics’.

    Liz can see the revolution in the companies she partners with. “The comfortable security blanket of corporate jobs is falling away,” she comments. Instead, it’s more important for businesses to hire or promote talent that can enable business agility in changing markets. Traditional corporate roles where the highest paid person’s opinion is heard most are over. “Instead, they’ll be a balance of internal and external flexible talent,” Liz adds.

    It can’t be denied that salaries and demand have decreased in some sectors. Research from our sister company, ARM, shows that even in more buoyant areas such as cybersecurity and automation, the volume of job adverts has fallen.

    However, search terms around AI, analytics and green technology are on the increase, reflecting the current mindset on making societal changes within our working lives.

    Decreases in hiring budgets focus companies on growing, motivating and retaining the people they already have. In tough times, you’re not going to want to lose your top performers.


    Having a transparent talent process is vital to motivate staff, according to Liz: “You have to commit to talent development, not just rely on plug and play recruitment, and hoping for the best.” A clear strategy helps to prevent protectionist managers who don’t want to lose members of their team to another department. To help come up with such a strategy, Liz advises employers to look at their future objectives:
    “Are you an employer looking at today, or your future goals? Who do you want to be?”
    The panel agrees that one of the biggest pitfalls to internal mobility is looking at skills over passion and potential.
    “One of the biggest fallacies of talent development is the focus on skills. Skills don’t mean competency,” says Liz.

    In a flexible working environment with more freelance/contract workers entering the workplace, it’s also important to allow employees to work more creatively outside of their day-to-day roles. That might mean simply giving different responsibilities at work or encouraging the ‘side businesses’ of staff. For example at Checkatrade, some of John’s marketing, finance and IT employees do their own freelance projects or run their own businesses.

    “What it [multiple roles] brings to us is amazing. We get more insights on what’s happening in the marketplace, and we find people are happier, more fulfilled and ultimately, more successful within the business.”

    Multiple jobs are going to become more common, the panel agrees. This point on growing talent outside of the day job sparks discussion. “Isn’t this talent mobility over internal mobility?” poses Felix. “Does internal mobility really exist, or do we need to expand our view to apply to our talent network?”

    “It’s about seeing your brand as a marketplace of talent,” Liz says. With that comes the responsibility for positioning your company as a place to grow and develop. Regardless of internal vs talent mobility, the key is to provide excellent customer experience - from supporting employees to map out their careers, to allowing side hustles and harnessing L&D programs.

    To track talent and enable better decision making on who to promote or train, technology is needed. “Employees need to know about opportunities to be in charge of their own destinies. We can map out career paths of every role, helping people see what’s out there for them,” states Will.

    Ultimately, technology gives actionable insights on typical career paths that should be used to support decision-making. It’s this marriage of data, passion and potential that provides the foundations for talent mobility.

    “The perfect human and machine combination,” Felix concludes.


    To round off the discussion, we asked our panellists to provide a quick take away
    from the session:
    John: “Get the right balance of internal (institutional) and external (new) talent to
    improve performance.”
    Will: “Review data at a granular level, not just by industry or job role.”
    Liz: “You’re not plugging the holes for today, you need to know where you are

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