Posted: 16 Jun. 2022 10 min. read

Organizational culture and the talent marketplace: laying the foundation

How organizational culture impacts your talent marketplace readiness

Is your organization’s culture ready to embrace the Talent Marketplace? If not, here’s how you can start preparing.

Over the past few years, as organizations have shifted their operating models and adapted to new market forces faster than ever before, Talent Marketplace has emerged as a critical solution to address the growing misalignment between supply and demand of work and workforce.1 A Talent Marketplace platform enables dynamic exchange of skills across the workforce ecosystem based on business requirements, increasing employee engagement through enhanced internal mobility and broader learning and growth opportunities, as well as enabling rapid identification of the right resources to support new products and services. Talent Marketplace whips open the door of possibilities, highlighting pathways to internal roles for employees while enabling organizations to be nimble and dynamic in the way they plan projects and teams.

Introducing the Talent Marketplace is not just about procuring a technology platform. It requires an integrated approach bringing together stakeholders, talent processes, an appropriate framework for skills and capabilities, and an interoperable IT architecture – all to enable a seamless employee experience. However, an equally important factor (which is often ignored or trivialized) is Culture.

Culture, the “way things work” in an organization, consists of organization’s values and set of behaviors aligned to those values. An organization’s culture underpins how it operates and can set the context for everything the enterprise does. Culture is a foundational element to activating and establishing a successful Talent Marketplace.2 If there is misalignment between the purpose, culture, and strategy in establishing a Talent Marketplace, adoption is hindered. In the same way that a specific natural environment creates conditions for its native plants to grow and thrive, cultures create the conditions for certain behaviors to take root within an organization.

Take CarMax, for example. CarMax prides itself on having a culture that stems, in part, from a clear expectation that innovations “bubble up” through small, ever-changing product teams. CarMax has well-established norms that encourage talent mobility to supplement product teams’ capabilities as they flex to meet new business demands. Employees expect to transition around the organization while managers expect to share their team’s skills cross-functionally – all with the common understanding that CarMax benefits from optimizing the flow of talent across teams.3

Unlike CarMax, many organizations are constrained by a talent hoarding culture, where managers bristle at the thought of letting their top talent join another product team. Talent hoarding is so deeply embedded into the being of some companies that we’ll be dedicating a follow up to this post focused exclusively on the topic. For leaders looking to implement a Talent Marketplace, addressing any talent hoarding behaviors is a critical first step, importance of which in the transformation journey cannot be overstated.

A culture where talent sharing is a shared valued, talent mobility commitment by managers and leaders is considered standard and talent processes and policies further strengthen the beliefs, lays a strong foundation for Talent Marketplace adoption. Spotify, where employees expect to take on a new role every two years on average, is another great example of an organization that has successfully embedded talent mobility into its ways of working.4 To assess whether your organization has in place some of the key cultural values and behaviors to enable a Talent Marketplace, consider the following:

  • Does your organization value talent’s development of dynamic skillsets and capabilities? 
  • Do your leaders prioritize internal talent mobility and development as part of the workforce strategy?
  • Does your organization have in place appropriate infrastructure, processes, policies and resources to support/facilitate mobility?
  • Do managers in your organization prioritize employee development and organizational outcomes above individual goals or short-term metrics?

    While far from exhaustive, these clues can help you to assess where your organization stands in its readiness for a Talent Marketplace. If your organization is still on the journey to incorporate these values and behaviors, there is plenty of opportunity to spark change. Many transformation journeys and mindset shifts begin with identifying an executive sponsor or using soft launches and pilots to build momentum, but talent leaders don’t always have these options available. Even when HR is heavily constrained by an organization’s culture or does not yet have the support of an executive sponsor, there are tactical steps that can be taken to steer the culture in a new direction. 

Frame a compelling case

First, talent leaders looking to extol the benefits of a Talent Marketplace should consider framing them in a business context. Creating more opportunity for career progression may not catch the attention of your C-Suite, but perhaps enabling teams with diverse skill sets to respond to ever evolving gaps in the market at a moment’s notice, will. Consider the business outcomes that your Talent Marketplace vision will enable and use them to articulate the proposed value and benefits – both short and long term.

Elevate the existing stories

Second, remind decision-makers that bringing previously unconnected workers together around a common goal is not a new concept. Perhaps your organization’s talent exchange pilots are already underway under the guise of rapid response teams, hybrid work squads, or recruiting task forces. Many organizations recently spun up blended COVID-19 working groups, including cross-functional representation from teams that don’t always sit together at the lunch table such as HR, Operations, Real Estate/Facilities and IT. Reference these existing examples to highlight the positive outcomes generated when the right multi-disciplinary team is brought together to solve a specific problem. At the same time, recognize how much more quickly that team could have been pulled together if the process were enabled by a technology platform that automatically identified the right talent based on the skills required. This makes for a compelling argument in favor of strengthening the organization’s ability to respond to future changes that necessitate locating specific capabilities or facilitating the open exchange of skills and talent.

Narrate with authenticity

Leaders looking to shift the culture needle often model the transparency they want to espouse to the broader organization. For example, leaders can be transparent about what they need in terms of their own personal development. A comment such as “To succeed in my new leadership role, I’m seeking opportunities to build my sales skills,” illustrates how sharing your personal development needs can make others feel safe doing the same. Another path is to be transparent about what the business needs. It can be factual and straightforward: “We need someone who can both code in Java and consult with our product teams about the roadmap this year.” Or, it can be reflective and vulnerable: “I believe that our inability to quickly pull together the right team really hurt us in responding to that proposal last month.” Demonstrating openness about the needs of individual employees as well as those of the business can help to lay the groundwork for greater receptivity to a Talent Marketplace.

Design for empowerment

Finally, using a process-oriented approach to deliberately drive behaviors through policies can help reset cultural norms and achieve the intended objectives. For example, companies can require managers to post positions on the Talent Marketplace before looking outside the organization for talent. To support these types of process-oriented changes, leaders must deliberately alleviate employees' concerns about upsetting their managers by using the marketplace. For example, Seagate does not require employees to secure their manager's approval to engage with the platform. Additionally, the organization approves employees spending 15% to 20% of their time on projects related to learning and development without obtaining manager approval.

By creating a culture where leaders champion the open exchange of talents, employees own their career development, and opportunities and skills are made transparent, talent leaders can set the foundational conditions for a Talent Marketplace to thrive. For organizations that don’t yet see these elements in their culture, there are concrete steps available to start moving your culture closer to one aligned with your vision. Implementing a Talent Marketplace is a multi-year journey, but repeated small actions can quickly become the norm and build the momentum required to embark on the transformation journey. Position yourself for success by building a Talent Marketplace launch plan which balances pragmatism with ambition and will resonate with your organization’s unique culture.


1. The Internal Talent Marketplace: Evolution and Future
2. Ready, Set, Activate!: Catalyze your culture for sustained results
3. The value of cross-functional teams
4. Facilitating internal talent mobility



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