Reframing Career Development with an Opportunity Marketplace

Talent retention is a huge concern for employers. Employees leave for many reasons, such as dissatisfaction with management or pay and benefits. But Brandon Hall Group research shows that the biggest reason for turnover over the past several years has been a lack of growth opportunities.

Growth opportunities mostly involve:

  • Learning, which until recently has mostly been course-based with a one-size-fits-all approach that is not engaging for the modern learner nor an effective driver of business outcomes.
  • Career Development, which has long lagged behind other talent processes — even performance management! — in effectiveness.

While some employees still see career growth as moving up the vertical management ladder, an increasing number see it as having a variety of opportunities to grow beyond their current roles. This can range from a lateral job role to a stretch assignment, selection to a project team or any other opportunity that can supplement the day-to-day scope of work or fill a temporary gap in the organization.

But organizations struggle to have visibility on the full set of skills their employees have or the opportunities they seek. Meanwhile, employees lack visibility on opportunities — beyond job postings — they might be able to choose from to continue to grow.

This inability to match employees to opportunities that meet their interests and aspirations hurts engagement and accelerates turnover.

The Opportunity Gap

Top talent won’t remain without believing they have opportunities to grow.

Technology can be a great enabler here, but most organizations fail to leverage anything other than websites and apps. The emergence of AI has led to the development of tools that can match employees to myriad opportunities within the organization that provide growth options while helping employers meet targeted and/or short-term needs. This concept — mutual benefit for employee and employer — is the new currency of the modern workforce.

Organizations Leveraging Technology to Enable Employees’ Professional Growth

  • How can we reposition career development to provide opportunities for employees to grow beyond lateral and vertical career moves?
  • How can we make better use of technology to match employees with new opportunities and help the organization meet critical needs at the same time?

Employers are only beginning to take advantage of what is a new, emerging category in human capital management — the opportunity marketplace.

Opportunity marketplaces are digital platforms where organizations provide — and workers find — the opportunities most relevant to their mutual benefit and success.

Relatively new tech companies such as Gloat and Fuel50 are providing these platforms while iconic providers such as Oracle, SAP and others are rushing to add an opportunity marketplace to their expansive suites.

As employers — even large enterprises — struggle to build career paths that provide enough high-quality opportunities to attract employees to stay, matching employees to shorter-term options is an efficient and inclusive way to strategically align the aspirations of individual employees and the enterprise.

Case in Point: Coca Cola

Take the case of Coca-Cola, a 2021 Gold Award recipient for Best Advance in HCM Innovation in the Brandon Hall Group Excellence Awards:

The Problem The COVID-19 crisis created new priorities at Coca-Cola to accommodate changes in the market (e.g., the shift in consumer buying habits from on-premise to online) and the shift from in-person to virtual working.

The Complications Resources needed to be realigned to the highest priority work, hiring costs had to be reduced and the dependency on contingent workers was eliminated. There were some teams or functions that absorbed more work with fewer people to contribute and some teams or individuals temporarily had more capacity and a lengthier runway to complete the work. This was a tall order that needed a quick, but effective solution.

The Solution Coca-Cola deployed an internally developed web-based open marketplace that empowers its workforce to connect and partner on short-term opportunities aligned to high-priority work.

Opportunity Marketplace was designed, developed and launched in six weeks to solve this resourcing problem. It solved the initial resourcing mismatch caused by the pandemic, but it went beyond that in aligning the company’s people strategy designed to support the company’s longer-term ambition to become a more networked, agile and flexible organization.

The Benefit Coca-Cola now has a system to address temporary capacity challenges while operating a system through which employees have access to sources of new experiences that help them grow while meeting immediate business needs.

Most organizations do not have the resources to develop such a dynamic solution in so short a time. But the technology is out there and tech providers are developing the products.

We recommend that organizations give serious thought to the concept of the opportunity marketplace. It helps reframe career development from lateral and vertical moves to dynamic experiences that provide individual growth options while meeting organizational needs. We believe the opportunity marketplace will emerge as a staple of talent management in the months and years ahead.

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.