These days, people change jobs more regularly and more quickly than in generations past. In the wake of the Great Resignation (followed by the Great Regret), many companies are struggling with how to hire and retain top talent. Organizations that want to succeed should seriously consider embracing internal mobility.
Providing a path for employees to change jobs without changing companies is a great way to manage in the face of job hopping. It’s also a way to invest in employee development to benefit both you and your team members.
Here’s what you need to know about why and how to implement and support internal mobility in your company.
What is internal mobility?
Let’s start with a definition. Internal mobility is when employees move to new careers or development opportunities within the same organization. These moves can be vertical or lateral—they’re not just limited to promotions.
Internal mobility can include transferring to a new department or location or taking a completely different role. For instance, a sales rep who’s been with the company for several years and feels they’ve topped out in their current role may transfer to a role in marketing. This change would give them a similar level of responsibility with little or no change in pay, but offer a whole new set of responsibilities and challenges.
Employers who are concerned with what employees want should take note: internal movement gives people options to learn and grow and achieve their career goals. But it also helps build strong, resilient organizations with the agility to thrive in today’s competitive market. Here’s how.
How internal mobility helps your organization
Supporting internal mobility creates advantages not only for the team members who are learning new skills and progressing in their careers but also for you as an employer.
Allowing for more mobility of employees strengthens your company and boosts your hiring efforts by offering the following:
- Easier recruitment and retention. People want to know they have options so their careers won’t stagnate. Allowing internal mobility shows employees (and prospective employees) that you support career goals and are willing to invest in your workforce. Internal hiring is a benefit that attracts qualified candidates and engages current employees, and more engagement means a boost to retention.
- Faster and lower-cost hiring. Finding, recruiting, and onboarding new hires take time and money. The average cost of onboarding one new employee is nearly $4,700—not to mention the cost of downtime as you wait to fill crucial roles. When you recruit from inside, you cut down on the time and cost of typical outside hiring because you don’t need to sift through resumes and qualify new candidates. Instead, you cover skills gaps faster by leveraging employees with existing company knowledge and experience.
- Improved employee performance. Employees who feel supported and valued have a more positive outlook at work. Recognizing and encouraging team members’ goals is key to showing employees you appreciate them. And when people are allowed to transition to new roles or learn new skills, they’ll be more inspired to put forth their best efforts.
To see the combined benefits in action, let’s go back to the example of the sales rep making a lateral move to take a role in marketing.
The company gets the advantage of filling a vital role without the typical expense of recruiting at that skill level. They also get someone in the role who already has years of company knowledge and experience speaking about and promoting your brand. And the employee gets renewed energy from a challenging and rewarding new role.
Keeping doors open for employee movement within your company boosts your chances of finding and keeping top talent. But if you want to make it work, you’ll need to do some planning.
Internal mobility should be part of your business strategy
Effective mobility doesn’t just happen without planning, nor should it happen on an ad-hoc basis. To optimize your hiring and retention strategy, make sure it includes internal mobility programs.
Start by putting a plan in place that can be shared across your organization and that makes it clear to everyone involved how the process works.
Here are three tips for creating and supporting an internal mobility program.
1. Invest in career development plans
Think outside the scope of current jobs to prepare for changes in an employee’s career trajectory. Invest in reskilling and career development plans and training.
Pay for or develop training that’s not necessarily related to employees’ current jobs so they can be ready to consider and take on new roles when appropriate.
When you allocate resources to developing step-by-step plans to reach goals and offer relevant training, you encourage and enable employees to apply for internal positions.
2. Create (and communicate) clear processes
Help people take advantage of internal career changes by announcing the program publicly. Share career development process info just as you would any policies or procedures for employees and new hires.
Point out the training and development resources they’ll have access to and discuss internal positions they may be eligible for in employee reviews. If possible, share examples of employees who have transitioned to new roles within the company in the past.
If people know they’re eligible for an internal position and are encouraged to think about and grow their career in various directions, they won’t look elsewhere when they’re ready for a change.
3. Make the program a part of the daily employee experience
Instill internal mobility naturally into people’s career progress, so it’s an easy move when they’re ready. Make discussions of interests and future goals part of regular employee reviews. Have managers review the goals and work on them with employees in regular one-on-one meetings.
You can also implement more hands-on learning opportunities. Consider putting people on temporary teams for specific projects or pairing them up for mentorships with someone in the role they’re interested in.
When you make it a priority, your employees will be more engaged with driving their own career goals. And they’ll be motivated to work with you in reaching company goals.
Prioritize internal hiring as you would traditional hiring
Internal mobility is more than just a good suggestion you can implement as you go. If you want to reap the benefits, you need to take it seriously. That means building a structured process that’s clear to employees, but also to managers, recruiters, and your HR department.
Here are a few questions to answer when outlining the process to ensure smooth transitions and set employee expectations:
- How will employees learn about available roles? (Through current manager suggestions? From an internal job board?)
- What will the evaluation process look like? (Will there be multiple interview rounds? Will you give test assignments?)
- Will you also evaluate external candidates? (Or are you only looking to hire from within?)
- When should an employee (or recruiter) inform the current manager about the employee’s interest in another role?
- What happens if a current employee isn’t selected for the new role?
Have clear steps in place so that you’re ready to help employees easily navigate their careers within your organization.
Pair internal hiring with external recruiting for optimal company growth
While internal mobility is an important investment in your people and your company’s growth, it’s just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to building a strong, dynamic team.
As you build out your internal mobility program, continue seeking external talent as well. Current employees offer company knowledge and strong support for your existing culture. New hires will bring fresh ideas and boost diversity.
Together, these sources of talent will help you build and maintain an eager, engaged team ready to stick with you for the long haul.