Internal mobility, talent marketplaces are ‘life-or-death’ survival strategies

In an uncertain economy, one constant for employers is people strategy—specifically, hiring the right people, retaining the right people and adapting people’s skills so businesses can thrive and grow. That’s according to global industry analyst Josh Bersin, who opened HRE‘s HR Technology Conference Virtual today with a keynote titled “HR Technology 2023: The Disruption Continues.”

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Today’s economic reality means that the HR tech industry is focused on productivity, sourcing and recruiting talent, understanding skills, boosting employee experience, figuring out fair compensation despite the inflation-charged economy and a few other themes, Bersin said. Investment in the HR tech industry will continue to grow this year, he told hundreds of attendees, but it will slow compared to recent years as businesses tighten their spending, leading to consolidation in the market.

And that’s probably good for HR leaders who are juggling and struggling with dozens of HR systems. Bersin cited recent research that found most big companies have an average of 70 to 75 HR tech systems—”too many,” he says, likening it to an overflowing kitchen junk drawer where you can never find what you need.

But if the market is shrinking and organizations are cutting back on their systems, how can HR leaders manage to improve employee productivity without giving up the HR functions that they need?

Josh Bersin“Internal mobility and talent marketplaces and identifying adjacent skills for employees—allowing people to do gig work—those are life-or-death survival strategies in an economy like we’re in today,” Bersin said.

Here are three skills-related takeaways about these “life-and-death strategies” from Bersin’s keynote. To hear the full presentation, conference registrants can go here. To register, visit

  1. Progress on skills tech remains frustrating. Skills technology is “everywhere,” Bersin said, and it’s the No. 1 topic that he discusses with companies. But skills are ever-changing, making it a challenging area to master. His advice? “Don’t try to boil the ocean with 25,000 skills. You won’t get a lot of value out of that.” Instead, relate to skills as a dynamic part of your company’s infrastructure and focus on skills in the most critical parts of your business. The technology needs to be embedded into different use cases in HR, he said, including learning, talent mobility, career progression, and most recently, compensation. So far, no vendors can handle skills across all of these systems, Bersin says. That means that HR leaders probably will need specialized vendors for different applications in order to gather the data they need to figure out skills. Ultimately, “a lot of skills projects evolve and turn into talent intelligence projects, which are very, very strategic projects.”
  2. Talent marketplaces are a must-have. It’s hard to believe that the term talent marketplace was a relatively new one just a few years ago, given the size of the market today and the speed of its expansion. “This is a category that is legitimately adding about as much value as anything I’ve ever seen in my years as an analyst,” Bersin said. By connecting people to everything from gigs to jobs to projects to mentors to opportunities, it is essentially recreating other categories. “In some senses, it’s eating talent management from the inside out,” he said. That’s because it could eventually contain learning programs, career development, performance management and more. Building them requires both technology and a cultural change, he noted.
  3. Learning and growth are coming together. Bersin called learning and development a “fascinating area of innovation,” as the function moves toward an academy-focused system and begins to incorporate the possibilities offered by ChatGPT and similar tools. “ChatGPT is as much a learning tool as it is anything else,” he said. It can help create quizzes, fully develop learning programs, serve as a teaching assistant and much more. This year, he expects to see the number of tools reduced as capability academies develop. But even capabilities are not enough, he said, adding that what employees really want is growth. As one of his slides put it: “Where corporate learning is going: From Chief Learning Officer to Chief Capability Officer to Chief Growth Officer.”

Registrants can watch the session replay here until May 1.

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Elizabeth Clarke
Elizabeth Clarke is executive editor of Human Resource Executive. She earned a journalism degree from the University of Florida and then spent more than 25 years as a reporter and editor in South Florida before joining HRE. Elizabeth lives with her family in Palm Beach County. She can be reached at [email protected].