The Obvious Benefit of Internal Talent Marketplaces Is Not the Most Important

One of the promises of the information age is that it would give us a lot more information. It wasn’t always clear what that information would be good for. However, here’s one effective use of information that is coming into its own: internal talent marketplaces.

The idea of an internal talent marketplace is that if there’s work to be done, you find someone internal to do it. The work could be a job or a project or a task. The internal marketplaces for tasks are the most interesting. 

With task marketplaces, a manager posts work that needs to be done on an internal website. Then anyone with the time and appropriate skills can apply. It’s basically an in-house version of Upwork, Toptal, or Fiverr.

Yet the real benefit of talent marketplaces is different from the apparent one. The apparent benefit is that you get a task done well and cheaply. The real benefit is that employees get to develop skills, network across the organization, and have some fun. It’s hard to quantify these benefits, but I’m convinced they are significant, even potentially transformational.

This could evolve into an important means for how work gets done, how people develop skills, and the whole value proposition the company offers employees.

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Talent marketplaces were not practical in the days before it was easy to post tasks, match skills to tasks, and do work remotely. Now, however, the technology side of internal talent marketplaces is almost trivial.

Nonetheless, talent marketplaces come with organizational barriers. In particular, most managers will resent having one of “their” employees doing work for someone else. The simplest way around this issue is to treat these projects the same way you would treat training. Just as you might budget 40 hours per year per employee for training, you might budget 40 hours for working on extra internal projects.

Ultimately, internal marketplaces are a good idea. They are relatively easy to implement from a technology perspective but harder to do so from an organizational perspective. That’s why before you focus on jobs or projects, start with tasks, which offers potential to post many of them and get a lot of small wins. At the same time, don’t fear the organizational barriers. Simply recognize them. Then find ways around them.

David Creelman is CEO of Creelman Research. Based mainly in Toronto and partly in Kuala Lumpur, he’s best known for his research on the latest issues in human resources.

He works with think tanks such as Talent Tech Labs (New York), Works Institute (Tokyo), Workforce Institute (Boston) and CRF (London). He’s collaborated with leading academics such as Henry Mintzberg (leadership development), Ed Lawler (“Built to Change”) and John Boudreau (future of work).

His books include The CMO of People: Manage employees like customers with an immersive predictable experience that drives productivity and performance with GrandRound’s CHRO Peter Navin; and Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau (USC) and Ravin Jesuthasan (Willis Towers Watson).

You can connect to Mr. Creelman on LinkedIn