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Turbocharge Your Talent Strategy with Internal Mobility

internal movement of talent, talent mobility concept

If you read any articles or surveys on the top priorities for HR in 2023, recruiting and retaining talent tops every list. With the combination of uncertainty and scarce talent seen in 2022 showing no signs of ending in 2023, attracting and retaining employees is more important than ever. While many employers are looking at salaries as a way to attract and keep talent, a more effective solution is internal talent mobility.

Internal talent mobility (also referred to as internal career mobility or internal career management) means that employees can advance their careers and continue professional growth and development within the same organization.  Employees are encouraged to explore opportunities beyond their current role, including moves into adjacent departments or into entirely different career fields. This type of mobility includes upward mobility, such as promotion into a management role or lateral mobility; transitioning into a completely different department within the company at the same level.

Lack of career advancement (63%) was equal to poor pay (63%) as the top reason employees leave a company as reported in the Pew Research Center’s 2022 American Trends Panel. What’s more, the latest workforce survey from The Conference Board found that 58% of professional/office workers surveyed say they are likely to leave their company without professional development—or continuing education and career training to help develop new skills, stay up to date on current trends, and drive career advancement.

It’s clear that people don’t just join and stay at a company for the money; they want an experience that helps them grow personally and professionally. Gen Z and Millennials, in particular, are committed to their personal learning and development and this remains their first-choice benefit from employers according to research by PwC.

Five Benefits of Internal Talent Mobility Programs

Internal talent mobility provides a multitude of benefits that positively impact company performance, culture, and brand perception.  These include:

Minimizes risk to the organization’s growth – By recruiting internal talent, the organization reduces the expenses and inefficiencies associated with hiring only outside talent and boosts retention and engagement by ensuring a worker’s position grows with them and the organization. It also helps retain institutional knowledge.

Boosts productivity – Internal hires tend to perform better than external hires as they get up to speed more quickly because they already know the culture, processes, and expectations within the workplace. In addition, as employees migrate to different areas in the organization, they bring knowledge of the previous department, providing a more holistic view of the company’s operations, interdependencies and opportunities for enhanced collaboration and efficiency.

Enhances your employer brand – Your company brand is visible through Glassdoor, LinkedIn and other social media sites. Building a strong internal talent development program can boost your organization’s ability to hire external talent. When candidates see the company’s commitment to the growth and development of its employees, they are more likely to apply to that organization.

Increases employee retention rates – Employees at companies with high internal mobility stay at their company nearly twice as long as organizations with low internal mobility. Additionally, these employees report a heightened level of engagement and commitment to the organization.

Increased Engagement – Research shows that providing development and career enrichment opportunities is a key driver of engagement. For example, in one study, 80 percent of surveyed employees said that development opportunities would help them feel more engaged at work.

How HR and Upper Management Can Approach Internal Talent Mobility

The new year presents a good time for HR and senior leadership to revisit and revise internal career mobility programs, advancement opportunities, and skills development to help their employees build a long-term career path within the organization and prevent them from pursuing new opportunities elsewhere. Below are a few approaches to internal talent mobility that organizations of all sizes can consider and implement:

Train employees and managers to have career-focused discussions – Many people feel uncomfortable having career discussions with their manager, especially if the goal is to move to another area of the company. Remove the stigma associated with these conversations by making them a normal and regular occurrence.

Encourage internal networking – When an employee reaches out to another department head, it is a signal that they want to stay and grow within the organization. Make it easier to network internally or they will seek those opportunities externally.

Post jobs internally – Transparency matters. It’s surprising how many organizations overlook this simple, no-cost solution to recruitment and retention. According to iCIMS’ 2023 Workforce Report, 70% of workers do not know how to progress in their careers, and more than half think it’s difficult to find and apply to open jobs internally. Communicating internal job openings to employees shows that the organization values and sees potential in its employees and helps direct employees to roles where they have skills and interests.

Take a skills inventory – Tools like career assessments and 360-degree feedback can help you learn where individuals (and the organization as a whole) have strong skills and where more training is needed. This insight can help managers identify internal candidates for current openings or determine the most promising internal career paths for individual employees, then facilitate career path conversations with those employees and build in the learning and experiences required for the employee to take the next step.

Mentorship program – Creating a mentorship program allows employees to establish a relationship with an experienced team member to broaden their understanding of the organization, priorities and contributions of other roles or functional areas.  Mentees benefit from a coworker’s professional experience by learning how to more effectively navigate the culture of the company. Plus, those who mentor gain skills and experience to prepare them for leadership roles within the company.

Cross-training – Internal talent mobility isn’t just about workers moving from one position to another within the company. It also includes the ability of workers to temporarily switch to another employee’s job tasks without leaving their current position. Offering cross-functional projects, cross-training opportunities, and stretch assignments are great ways for employees to grow and develop while staying in their current role. Providing the opportunity to cover for another employee while they are assigned to another project or on leave is a great way to gain exposure to a variety of company activities.

Coaching – A coach can help employees discover what they want to do, assess job-fit, take ownership of their career path, and accelerate the timeline in which they move into the right role. Your organization can hire an external coach or train managers on how to be effective coaches. Both approaches will lead employees to take ownership of their career paths and identify their career development goals.

Professional Development Reimbursement Policy – One of the easiest things an organization can do to promote internal talent mobility is to offer reimbursement for educational courses or certifications that increase an employee’s skills and provide the flexibility and agility they need to move to different roles within the organization.

Start Unlocking Your Organization’s Potential

Building a strong and agile talent pipeline is crucial for businesses today. By investing in internal talent mobility, your organization provides more growth opportunities for employees, develops a pipeline of future leaders, closes skills gaps in your organization—all of which enables your workforce to remain agile and ready for future disruptions. How you invest in and develop your employees today will ultimately determine whether your organization thrives tomorrow.

Kimberlee Beck
Director of Marketing
CCI Consulting