At a recent event hosted by Norman Broadbent Plc, talent acquisition and HR professionals convened for an intimate breakfast seminar led by Annabel Hooton, Director of our HR Practice.
The focus of the morning’s discourse centred around a topic critical to every forward-thinking organisation: “Future-proofing Growth: Harnessing Internal Mobility for Tomorrow's Talent." Our distinguished speaker, Mark Thomas, Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Development at Abcam, shared his invaluable insights on navigating the complexities of talent retention and development during periods of rapid organisational growth. Mark delved into Abcam's successful internal mobility strategy, highlighting its transformative impact on both employee growth and the company’s ability to meet escalating talent demands.
A significant challenge faced by rapidly growing companies is enabling individuals to develop at a pace that matches organisational needs. Historically, Abcam struggled with this balance, evidenced by an initial employee net promoter score of minus 8 and an internal mobility rate of less than 5%. However, through a number of strategic people initiatives, they spectacularly increased their ENP to +40, which put them in the top 20% of companies who use the Peakon survey. Their internal mobility rate also rose to 45% when measured in terms of externally advertised opportunities captured through their applicant tracking system, but when taking into account internal promotions too, it rose to a magnificent 80%.
Central to this success was a cultural shift. The leadership team at Abcam recognised the need to move away from the mindset of siloed talent, instead embracing the concept that great talent could contribute expansively across the entire business. The key to employee’s accelerating their development, was for them to take up internal opportunities and step outside of their comfort zone; either through cross functional moves or promotions. This approach changed their personal growth and unsurprisingly meant that they became far more engaged with Abcam as a great place to work.
Abcam implemented several targeted initiatives, one of which was promoting and highlighting positive narratives of internal transitions. These stories served to both encourage employees and alleviate any apprehensions about internal mobility. Additionally, they revamped their performance management system, moving away from counterproductive processes and focusing on transparency, open communication, and growth-oriented methodologies.
Particularly notable was their adoption of the JDI tool, an academically recommended model, to drive a growth mindset among employees. This innovative approach, coupled with the elimination of restrictive assessment methodologies, contributed significantly to nurturing a conducive environment for talent development.
The results of these systematic changes have been nothing short of remarkable. Currently, Abcam fills approximately 400 roles annually, with 80% of these positions being filled internally when considering promotions.
Moreover, their efforts have yielded impressive diversity outcomes, with women accounting for 70% of internal promotions. This success extends beyond statistics, as reflected in Abcam’s sterling employer branding, with glowing Glassdoor reviews and a reputation as a talent magnet within the industry.
The session provided a wealth of learning, particularly around the transformative potential of a robust internal mobility programme. It reiterated the importance of cultural shift, leadership buy-in, and innovative talent development frameworks. It also highlighted the necessity of transparency in internal processes, the impact of recognising and praising to maintain high morale, and the strategic role of line manager coaching.
As organisations look to future-proof their growth, the insights from Abcam's journey underscore the imperative of investing in internal talent. As Mark Thomas succinctly stated, the goal is not just about filling positions but about nurturing a workforce that grows in tandem with the organisation, ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
We extend our sincere thanks to Mark Thomas for his enlightening presentation and to all the attendees who contributed to the vibrant discussion.