Shifting focus from external recruitment to internal mobility

Last week, Kevin Wheeler shared the story of Sally Williams, the top performing hard worker at the financial services firm who everyone loved, but who languished in a dead-end clerical job for years because everyone assumed she was happy where she was.

After working with Kevin, she found a new position within the organisation with more responsibility and picked up the critical elements of the role within weeks, as opposed to the many months that it often took external recruits to understand the intricacies of the role.

Stories like Sally’s aren’t overly shocking or uncommon. We all know the benefits of recruiting for positions internally, particularly while working in a talent scarce market such as we’re facing right now. The understanding of the organisation, reduced disruption in the offboarding and onboarding process, and ability to make use of internal networks at the company to pick up new work more swiftly have a significant positive financial impact on the recruitment budget (not to mention the recruitment marketing savings), while the ability to retain employees and make them feel valued as a team member provides a great boost to employee engagement.

But understanding the benefits of internal mobility is an entirely different thing from actually having the processes, systems, and support networks in place to facilitate it.

So what do organisations need to do in order to boost their internal mobility and nurture the professional development of their existing workforce? I reached out to Flow of Work Co’s Co-Founder and winner of the ATC 2021 Innovation Lab Helena Turpin to get some practical tips.

One of the biggest challenges for recruiters right now is filling business critical roles. How can shifting focus over to internal mobility (rather than external sourcing) mitigate that challenge?

Having access to a pipeline of internal talent and a culture that promotes mobility can reduce time to hire, improves employer brand AND lowers recruitment costs. Aside from these benefits, showcasing your commitment and investment to progressing the careers of your existing workforce is one of the top ways to reduce employee turnover and attract external talent. Every organisation we speak to is taking internal mobility very seriously because in the current market if you aren’t tapping your own talent on the shoulder, rest assured someone else is!

What if there is no-one sufficiently skilled to fit the vacant position within the organisation?

The upside of the last two years we’ve all survived is that we’re seeing some really innovative approaches to filling roles.

For example, talent teams taking a skills-based approach to hiring suddenly find their potential pool of candidates widens – they know that to fill high demand roles like data scientists, they can also approach people with a background in database administration because of the significant overlapping skills. These teams know their future project managers are their current EAs and their next generation of product managers likely sit in their customer service function.

We’ve met teams redesigning roles. There is a well-known TA function in Melbourne that deconstructed their recruitment process and redistributed tasks between customer service reps and administrators, leaving a smaller core set of recruiters to work on more specialist tasks like interviews, business partnering, and headhunting.

We also have a fantastic client in the US that has almost doubled in size since Covid hit, who are now too big (and too remote) to know everyone’s skills and interests as they did when they worked in the same office. They wanted a way to unlock their untapped and hidden talent to fill 90 projects in their pipeline. We co-created a career upgrade experience that not only helps the employee (and their manager) get clarity on their career goals and aspirations, but it’s given our client the data they need to match employees to projects they know will engage and stretch them.

Given the low unemployment rates, uncertainty about when immigration will return to normal and fierce competition for certain skills, I think we’re going to have to be creative for a while longer.

Where does the onus lie for progressing internal mobility? Is it up to employees to apply for vacant roles within their organisation, or should TA functions be taking the lead?

I saw a post in a forum recently that recruitment is a team sport which really resonated. The most successful functions I see have a clear process owner (usually TA), tools that make it easy to find internal talent and a mechanism to ensure employees are aware of all internal opportunities available to them – including projects, learning and mentorship. Managers also play an incredibly important role in either hoarding or enabling talent. The organisations that I’ve seen with the highest rates of internal mobility (and lowest rates of employee turnover) enable managers to have honest and open career conversations with their direct reports, helping them understand the career pathways available and the skills and experiences needed to get there. They also expect employees to play an active part in their own career journey.

In the vast majority of instances, positions are filled on a “need now” basis. What systems can organisations put in place to develop a sustainable pipeline for internal mobility?

I think it helps enormously to start by getting visibility of the skills and talent you currently have and at least a medium-term view of the talent your organisation is going to need either because of anticipated employee turnover, growth, or transformation. Almost every HR leader we meet is looking for workforce and market insights to help them make more informed decisions about their current and future human capital strategies.

I also believe that every mid-large organisation has the opportunity to make internal mobility sustainable and actually leverage it as a tool to develop, upskill, and retain talent. Technology is enabling talent teams to manage the career movement and development of their people at scale so that they stay, develop, and thrive which is why I’m so excited to be a founder in this space.

Want more practical tips to help boost internal mobility within your organisation? Connect with Helena on LinkedIn or visit Flow of Work Co.

Image source: Shutterstock

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