Why internal mobility should be a key pillar of your talent strategy

As the TA community continues its steady march through the 3rd year of a significantly disrupted talent market, talent teams across organisations of all sizes are looking for that one magic solution to deliver talent success.

Talent scarcities caused by restricted immigration policies, the explosion of new markets driven by innovations sparked by the Pandemic, and The Great Resignations and Reshuffles have all driven talent teams to redirect their gaze inwards and focus on internal mobility strategies in a bid to retain the quality talent currently residing within their organisation.

In fact, the recent 2022 global Talent Trends Report released by Randstad Sourceright –  which surveyed more than 900 C-Suite, human resources, and talent acquisition leaders across 18 markets (including Australia and New Zealand) – found that 54% of all organisations have committed to invest more in internal mobility in 2022.

The report also found that:

  • More than 1 in 4 employers reported having shifted people from one area of the business to another in 2021
  • 65% of employers say that internal mobility had a positive impact on their business over the past 12 months
  • 25% of employers say that improving internal mobility is one of the reasons their company is considering a complete TA model in 2022

However, progressing internal mobility isn’t always as easy as it sounds, and there are some key factors – such as company culture, employees’ hesitancies around their own potential, and hiring managers who object to “losing” valued team members – which can seriously hinder an individual employee’s ability to move, as well as the talent team’s capacity to encourage greater internal mobility.

Making it easy for employees to move

According to futurist Kevin Wheeler, the biggest blocker for employees looking to make a move within an organisation is the over-regulation of movement.

“HR creates policies that restrict transfers and place conditions such as length of service, the criticality of the job, and so forth on any employee’s potential move,” says Kevin.

“Bosses have to be notified and give their permission. Employees are afraid to ask for fear of being seen as not loyal or for fear that asking might impact their performance review or pay.”

And hiring and line managers can often be a key blocker for employees who want to make a move to another part of the business.

“Hiring managers often look at internal mobility as something they should control independent of the employee’s wishes or timeframe. No one wants to lose a good employee, and when there is a conflict between what the manager wants and what the employee may want, the employee usually loses,” says Kevin.

Of course, these attitudes not only limit talent development strategies for organisations, they can also actively contribute to increased turnover – if employees perceive that the change they seek is too difficult to achieve in their own organisation, they will simply look to other organisations to find what they want.

Helena Turpin, Founder of Flow of Work Co, believes that not only should HR and talent teams be working with hiring managers to ensure they aren’t blocking employees from internal mobility, they should in fact be empowering hiring managers to work with their team members to help them progress within the organisation.

“Managers play an incredibly important role in either hoarding or enabling talent,” says Helena.

“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,” she says.

“They also expect employees to play an active part in their own career journey.”

Internal Talent Markets: Allow employees to choose their own projects

Internal talent marketplaces, which allow employees to choose specific projects they’d like to work on within the organisation, provide an alternate solution to overcome some of the barriers presented by current internal mobility strategies.

These marketplaces provide employees with more vertical and horizontal movement around the company and expose themselves to different parts of the company.

According to Josh Bersin, this kind of exposure is critical for employees looking for professional development as internal mobility is less about “careers” and more about “experiences and skills.”

“High performing professionals want to try new things, learn adjacent skills, take international assignments, and get a chance to work with different leaders. These types of mobility scenarios cannot be planned or programmed into career models. They happen in real-time,” says Josh.

Providing employees with the opportunity to nominate which projects they want to work on based on their interests and desires allows for pockets of knowledge traditionally held by specific workers or teams to cross-pollinate across the organisation, while also recognising the importance of employees’ growth and professional development.

Kick-starting your internal mobility strategy

So in a world where internal mobility is shaping up to be the most important strategy for talent teams to focus on, how can TA teams get started re-vamping their mobility strategies?

Kevin Wheeler suggests 6 key questions that all talent teams should be asking themselves as a starting point to ensure they make it easy for employees to move around within their organisation:

  1. Do your HR policies encourage mobility?
  2. Does your organisation offer cross-employee development?
  3. Is internal mobility part of TA’s responsibility?
  4. Do you offer internal internships?
  5. Do you reward managers for promoting or moving employees?
  6. Do you have a generous tuition reimbursement policy?

Cover image: Shutterstock

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