During the global pandemic, redeployment of staff to other parts of the business became an overnight reality. Already reeling from shifts to remote work, business interruptions and disseminated service sectors, difficult conversations about dynamic talent management requirements had to take place. Pushed to make decisions quickly, HR and learning leaders needed to reduce the friction while ensuring redeployment could be productive for talent teams, managers and employees.
According to researchers at Gartner, nearly 60 percent of organizations redeployed staff to other parts of the business during COVID-19 and the related economic crisis. Talent management suddenly went from acquisition mode to survival mode. Increased discussions about reorganizations, succession planning and internal mobility turned into action plans.
Redeploying talent is not unusual or new; however, nurturing a culture for redeployment that can shift gears very quickly in response to a catastrophic event is exceptional. Realistically speaking, it will be some time before we know what employers did well or should have done differently during the pandemic. Nevertheless, there are some likely indicators of success:
- Adaptability: Companies that were willing to put their organizational models under a microscope, revisit existing assumptions and act on the changes required are likely doing better than others who weren’t willing to do so.
- Flexibility: Traditional policies and procedures may have impeded employees from being productive in the new environment, making nimbleness and flexibility crucial to defining new ways of working.
- Humanity: Being humanistic helped organizations through those tough, sometimes gut-wrenching conversations about redeployment. Employers needed to understand what employees were experiencing in order to know how to best support them. Doing this well could have important short- and long-term benefits for the employer. Compassion, understanding and, most important, taking a strategic approach to supporting workers so they may thrive can shock-proof — and future-proof — the organization.
Redeployment — especially under stressful, uncertain circumstances — isn’t as simple as moving Joe from sales into customer support or Sue the auditor into operations. From a logistics and support perspective, it can be highly complex.
One of the most important aspects in the redeployment process is knowing your people. If you know who your people are, what skills and knowledge they possess, what their potential is and what motivates them, then you have the knowledge needed to redeploy the right people into the right roles at the right times. This is where industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology can bring tremendous value, especially when applied at scale across an organization. Assessing employees’ innate abilities, such as personality, cognitive ability and social intelligence, will help foretell how they may perform in their next job, even when a person does not have the traditionally expected skill set for a role. By providing a fuller and more accurate picture of the employee — beyond just traditionally captured skills and knowledge — the data can help predict redeployment success.
Reshaping work is not easy. Entrenched mindsets take time to change, and the pervasive impact of the global pandemic accelerated some things while stalling others. Traditional ways of assessing employees, such as strictly relying on credentials or lists of desirable college degrees, means you may never fully realize the skills you have in your company today and the potential you have at the ready for tomorrow. Without insight into innate abilities, such as the ability to problem-solve or innovate, organizational scope is limited. Psychological assessments tap into a unique piece of the employee makeup: transferable skills. It’s what recognizes that a strong communicator from the call center can use those same skills as a project manager in a matrixed environment.
Insights into employees’ natural strengths and areas of development will be helpful both pre- and post-redeployment. Once a data-driven skills profile gets established, mentors, managers and employees can start forming development plans and career mapping. This shared awareness of the employee’s knowledge, skills and abilities allows for employees to be a part of the redeployment conversation and have a sense of control over their own career. With this new awareness, they can better indicate their interest in movement opportunities and evaluate where they may be able to best contribute if redeployed. Post-deployment, these insights can help employees as they navigate novel tasks and challenges in their new role.
In closing, redeployment does not have to be painful when employers can readily see the potential they have among those in their organization. That groundwork starts with knowing your people, enabling them to know themselves and giving them a voice.