Employee mobility: Why vertical promotions are not the only career path
Interviews / Opinions

Employee mobility: Why vertical promotions are not the only career path

, Former Content Marketing Manager

In today’s rapidly evolving job market, retaining top talent is a major concern for employers. They recognize the importance of nurturing employees’ skills. And of creating an environment of growth and development.

Employees need opportunities for career advancement to grow. However, the traditional focus on vertical promotions often limits those opportunities. It’s time to reevaluate traditional notions of career progression.

A seismic shift is occurring in the world of talent management.

Employers who want dedicated and loyal employees know that employee mobility goes beyond just moving up the corporate ladder.

Embracing a broader perspective on your employee mobility strategy can lead to better retention rates. It can increase job satisfaction. And it can help you in building a strong employee workforce.

You can unlock all this potential through robust reskilling programs.

Employee mobility: How reskilling opens up new career paths | TalentLMS

What is employee mobility?

Employee mobility is when employees move between positions within an organization. It’s a typical part of employee career progression. But the employee mobility process isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept.

It encompasses various paths that can lead to a fulfilling career within your organization. Let’s break down some of the different types of mobility, namely:

  • Vertical mobility
  • Horizontal mobility
  • Diagonal mobility
  • Skill-based mobility
  • Project-based mobility

Vertical mobility is the classic climb up the corporate ladder. It involves promoting from within to higher positions in the same department or team. While vertical mobility is crucial, it’s essential to remember that it’s just one piece of the puzzle.


Think of horizontal mobility as moving laterally within the organization. Employees shift to different roles or departments at a similar level of the hierarchy.

This type of mobility allows individuals to explore new skills and perspectives. But without necessarily aiming for a higher position.

Diagonal mobility combines elements of both vertical and horizontal mobility. Employees take on roles that may be different from their current position, but that are still within the organization’s hierarchy.

They may move up or down the hierarchy but across a different team or department. This helps them gain a broader understanding of the company’s operations. It also fosters a more versatile skill set.

In a changing job market, skill-based mobility is gaining traction. It means employees learn new skills or get certificates that qualify them for different roles in the company. Even if they don’t follow the traditional hierarchy.

Sometimes, employees move from one project to another, working on diverse tasks and with different teams. Project-based mobility encourages adaptability and innovation while preventing stagnation in one role.


Each type of employee mobility brings its unique advantages. A well-balanced combination of these can create a vibrant and engaged workforce. Let’s take a look at the benefits of embracing this multifaceted approach to career growth.

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Why look beyond vertical promotions?

Vertical promotions have been the gold standard for measuring success in the workplace. However, they aren’t always the most realistic or optimal way to promote employees. Here’s why:

  • Limited opportunities. In a traditional corporate structure, there are only so many positions at the top of the ladder. With limited vacancies for higher roles, not every deserving employee can move up vertically. This can lead to frustration and disengagement among your talented workforce.
  • Skill mismatch. Vertical promotions may not always align with an employee’s skills or interests. Elevating someone to a managerial role simply because it’s the next rung on the ladder can result in a manager who lacks the necessary skills. Or one who would prefer to remain in an individual contributor role.
  • High expectations. Employees on a vertical trajectory often experience pressure to perform at a higher level. This can lead to burnout and hinder their job satisfaction.

The benefits of embracing different types of mobility

Vertical promotions certainly have their place in career progression. But they shouldn’t be the sole focus.

Expanding your company’s view of employee career progression can benefit both you and your team. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Enhanced adaptability. Different types of mobility encourage employees to become versatile. When they experience different roles and departments, they gain a broader perspective on your organization’s operations. They’re also better equipped to adapt to changing business landscapes.
  • Increased job satisfaction. Opportunities for lateral, diagonal, or skill-based mobility helps employees pursue their interests and strengths. When they can choose their career path, they’re more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. Happier employees mean greater wellness and more productivity in their roles.
  • Improved skill sets. Having a variety of mobility options promotes continuous learning. Employees will focus on acquiring new skills and experiences that can benefit both their current roles. But also on those that will help them in future career growth.
  • Better innovation. By encouraging employees to explore different roles and work on diverse projects, you create a culture of innovation. Fresh perspectives from employees with varied experiences can lead to creative solutions. They can also help improve business practices.
  • Higher retention rates. When employees see a clear path for growth that goes beyond vertical promotions, they’re less likely to look for alternative opportunities (e.g., career cushioning). Offering internal opportunities can reduce turnover and save on recruitment and training costs.
  • More diversity. According to Rasty Rueff in TalentLMS’ podcast series “Keep It Simple,” taking non-traditional career paths can enhance diversity in the workplace.

Rasty Reuff on non-linear career

Unlocking employee mobility with a reskilling program

Mobility is crucial to employee satisfaction and success. However, employees may hesitate to suggest moving to another team within the company. Or they might not even consider it in the first place.

One of the most effective ways to actively encourage employees to explore different career options within your organization is by implementing a robust reskilling program.

Let’s look at six key elements of a successful reskilling program. We’ll also see how, together, they can be a game-changer in promoting employee mobility:

1. Career discussions and skills gap analyses

Reskilling programs often begin with open and honest career discussions. These happen between employees and their managers. During these discussions, employees can express their career aspirations. They can share interests and areas where they feel they lack necessary skills.

Managers, in turn, can provide guidance. They can share insights into potential career paths within the organization.

2. Cross-functional teams and projects

To foster lateral and diagonal mobility, consider forming cross-functional teams. Or supporting projects where employees from different departments collaborate.

These moves not only expose individuals to new roles and responsibilities. They also encourage people to share their expertise and learn from colleagues with different backgrounds.

3. Personalized learning paths

Reskilling programs often involve creating personalized learning tracks for each employee. These are paths that are tailored to the employee and their career goals. They address skills gaps identified during career discussions and skills gap analyses.

Targeted L&D opportunities help employees get the skills they need to transition into different roles or departments.

4. Learning and development opportunities

Give employees access to a variety of learning and development resources. These resources enable them to gain expertise in new areas and prepare for career shifts.

A helpful program includes L&D options like workshops, courses, online modules, and mentoring.

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5. Skill certification and recognition

Skill certification and recognition can be a powerful motivator. Recognize employees who learn new skills or complete specific training for their achievements.

This not only boosts morale (a key factor in enhancing employee retention). But it also validates their readiness for different roles. It will give your employees the ability and the confidence to step into new roles.

6. Transparent career paths

Make career paths clear for all your employees. These might be visuals that illustrate various mobility options. Or written documentation that’s easily accessible.

But make it easy for employees to understand how roles and departments are connected.

When they understand the different paths they can take, it makes it easier for them to explore new avenues.

Employee mobility serves a greater purpose

The goal of any L&D initiative is to unlock people’s potential. It’s to help them increase their skills and boost their creativity. And that may mean helping them transition to a new department, get a promotion, or thrive in their current role.

True employee satisfaction isn’t always about advancing within the company. It’s about learning and growing.

A well-executed reskilling program can empower employees to shape their own professional journeys. Whatever that entails.

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Christina Pavlou - Former Content Marketing Manager

Christina, ex-Content Marketing Manager at Epignosis, focuses on L&D, diversity, and enhancing workplace well-being. Learn how to improve your work environment. More by Christina!

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