internal career mobility

More than 60% of an organization’s future roles can be filled internally by current employees according to analysis by Bain & Company cited in the Harvard Business Review. That’s the good news. Reskilling and redeploying employees is far less expensive and less disruptive than traditional ‘hiring and firing,’ which can drive up costs associated with severance, lost productivity, and new talent recruitment, acquisition and onboarding, especially in today’s ‘seller’s market.’ Finding ways to help people move internally also sidesteps potential damage to employer brand that can result from a reduction in force.  

Given the confluence of major talent shortages worldwide, the flight of employees as part of ‘The Great Resignation,’ global talent scouting enabled by remote work and the mismatch of skills with business needs, developing a pathway to a sustainable workforce by filling roles from within the organization is essential for business survival.

While the news that six in roles in 10 future roles can be filled by current employees is cause for rejoicing among HR, the challenge lies in the second half of Bain’s assertion: …assuming that adequate programs are in place.

Such initiatives will drive career mobility, in turn helping organizations remain agile and prepared for the future. A global panel of Randstad RiseSmart leaders discussed these issues, among others, during the recent webinar, ‘How to promote employee experience, retention and redeployment with severance and workforce transition planning.’ As organizations address how to put programs in place to promote workforce sustainability, here are some key principles to consider.

the case for career mobility – by the numbers

Recent surveys by Monster revealed that 86% of US workers feel their careers stalled during the pandemic, with up to 95% considering a job change in 2021. Globally, this number is about 41% according to a Microsoft survey. One way to combat job switching behaviors is to offer more opportunities internally. LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2020 report found that, on average, employees stay 41% longer at companies with lots of internal hiring compared to those with very little. Similarly, 81% of talent professionals said internal recruiting improves retention and that employees were far more likely to stay with their employers when they were able to move within the company.

Many organizations have clearly responded, some due to an employee-first mindset and others probably due to necessity. According to RiseSmart’s 2021 Guide to Severance & Workforce Transition, 77% have formal redeployment programs in place to help employees find new roles internally, a 28% increase from 2019. The pandemic likely drove more companies to use redeployment to hold onto employees during the downturn. About half reported that they used redeployment to rapidly redeploy employees to busier segments of the business and to temporarily share talent with partner or outside organizations.

Fast forward to today, and we see that 42% of employees indicate they’re likely to move into a different role within their current company according to RiseSmart’s Q2 Career Mobility Report, almost double the percentage from Q1. What’s more, 50% of organizations believe that at least 25% of their jobs can be filled though internal mobility, while 81% of employers and 61% of employees have a positive outlook about the availability of internal mobility opportunities. The research also finds a positive trend in internal attitudes. Talent hoarding by managers – which has been viewed as a barrier to internal mobility – seems to be softening. About 80% of HR managers and over 60% of employees believe that managers are more open to internal mobility initiatives.

Clearly, it’s time to act expeditiously. What should organizations think about as they consider how to approach providing career mobility opportunities for their employees?

related article: turning the great resignation into the great retention

adopt a mindset of ongoing and comprehensive career support

Services such as career development, redeployment and outplacement have typically been thought of as discrete, point-in-time programs. According to Stacey Blanch, sales director for APAC, forward-thinking organizations will adopt a new outlook.

‘Best-practices employers of the future will be those that evolve from a reactive concept of transition to a more proactive commitment to career mobility, a true end-to end continuum of career support for every employee.’

In such an environment, Stacey says, employees will be empowered to take ownership of their careers, to openly discover, explore and refine their potential futures continuously rather than as just-in-time or event-based responses. And, they will have the ability to move throughout the organization according to their knowledge, abilities, interests and skills.

‘This creates a win-win situation, driving engagement for employees while strengthening and securing an organization’s future talent pool,’ Stacey adds. ‘If we’re going to do career mobility well, we need to promote this holistic approach.’

Companies will also see long-term benefits to employer brand that will improve talent retention and acquisition. ‘In a recent survey we did in India, 99% of employees said they want to work for an organization with a great reputation,’ says Joel Paul, managing director, IMEA. ‘Organizations can keep that reputation intact by investing in careers, redeployment, reskilling and outplacement.’

take stock of your end-to-end career mobility journey

A career mobility strategy must be a key pillar of a company’s overall talent strategy, and the employee experience should be front and center, according to Simon Lyle, managing director, UK. ‘Hold up the mirror at every single touchpoint – whether it’s at onboarding, career development, internal mobility, offboarding or exit – and ask the question, ‘To what extent can we improve this?’ Good enough is not going to be enough when it comes to competing in the markets.’

related article: 3 ways to support an employee-first through internal career growth opportunities.

ensure equity in a hybrid work environment

A recent Gartner survey revealed that managers are biased in favor of in-office employees: 64% of managers believe these workers are higher performing and, as a result, are more likely to give them higher raises than employees who work remotely. But the opposite is actually true. Other Gartner surveys showed that fully remote workers are five percent more likely to be high performers than those who work full time in an office – and that was pre-pandemic.

Whether an employee is working 100% in the office, 100% from home or a mix of the two, how do you guarantee that the career mobility experience is the same for all?

In a workplace, explains Simon, impromptu face-to-face conversations allow people to learn about upcoming business strategies, new areas of growth and the next area of product diversification – all of which can translate into new role opportunities. This natural flow of conversation doesn’t typically take place in more structured online meetings. In addition, individuals can influence internal stakeholders who are involved in the internal hiring process. How does HR make sure opportunities for internal mobility remain equitable to all regardless of where they physically do their work?

‘It’s about not letting that get in the way and ensuring there’s a really robust internal mobility strategy to cope with hybrid working by having a platform that allows for the total democratization of career mobility,’ Simon says.

The right technology platform will deliver transparency so that an organization is aware of its talent no matter where it’s based while also enabling employees to see available roles. Likewise, the right technology can show internal hiring managers which employees are the best matches for open roles, rather than relying on individual opinions and casual conversations.

know what matters to your employees

Has your workplace (however you now define this) value proposition changed in the past five to 10 years? According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by the year 2030. As noted in the Harvard Business Review article cited earlier, this generation wants ‘flexible schedules, diversity in the workplace, engagement, autonomy, and a meaningful connection with their employers.’ The pandemic has shifted not only their view of the world but has given all of us time to pause and think about what really matters in our lives.

‘Companies are having to rethink how to attract employees,’ says Lindsay Witcher, VP, global practice strategy & solutions. ‘The pandemic allowed a lot of professionals the time to…do a lot of introspection and think through what is it that they want their lives to look like. I think a lot of people are making changes right now.’  

Beyond competitive pay and benefits, if an organization’s culture doesn’t speak to the values of most of its employees, how can it hope to engage and retain them? Work has become far less transactional and far more relational. What one does eight to 10 or more hours a day is part of who they are 24/7. Attending to the needs of employees means focusing on the values and needs of the whole person, not just the ‘worker.’

related article: why every company needs a strong employee value proposition.

promote an inclusive culture

How are you nurturing inclusion in the workplace? Is it a hiring issue or a value that pervades everything you do?

Inclusive cultures should be equitable and diverse. One of the primary ways to establish and promote an inclusive culture is by democratizing opportunities through career development, access to coaching and mentoring, skill-building for all who are interested and transparent access to internal opportunities. These can serve as a tide that lifts all boats.

Even though millennials are rapidly becoming the majority of the workforce, Stacey notes that organizations must also manage and build age-inclusive cultures to address aging workforces, which is a particular focus in APAC: ‘Depending upon the industry, this may require strategies to respectfully support mature-age workers as they move to their next career phase to allow for new talent to come through. In some countries, companies struggle to retain older talent as they attempt to maintain relatability with their aging customer base.’

For organizations that manage multi-generational workforces, a holistic approach to career mobility ensures that they’re ‘considering career exploration and development for all workers, including mature workers because even though they’re mature, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be developed,' Stacey says.

consider non-traditional talent pools

What assumptions are built into your internal talent searches? These may be inhibiting you from promoting career mobility and retention. While it’s often been assumed that talent with skills adjacencies – skills that are similar to other skills – are the people who can most easily move from one role to another, LinkedIn found that assumption was not entirely supported by the data. In its 2021 Learning Report, LinkedIn discovered that many employees who’ve moved into emerging roles have come from unrelated industries. People are far more capable of learning new skills and moving to new roles than once thought.

Applying this to internal career mobility, explains Simon, simply means ‘being open to the backgrounds and different experiences' that people have. While considering employees with skills adjacencies for open roles is still important, it should not become the sole measure of an internal candidate’s likelihood of success.

think about employee happiness

In a Fast Company article, Stacey Epstein, CMO of Freshworks, advocates that ‘optimizing for employee happiness’ rather than efficiency or productivity should be top priority. Why? Simply put, happy employees perform.

Extending this idea to career mobility, Stacey Blanch believes that ‘employees benefit greatly from clarity around their purpose and passions, from knowing how they will act upon those drivers in their current roles and in their future career paths, all while promoting health and wellness of self and of relationships.’

make skilling available to all

According to Joel, ‘One part of the talent shortage is having to find great talent.’ The other part is having a lot of people, but not enough qualified people.’

One important way to decrease the mismatch between skills and talent is to make skill-building available to all. The right technology can make this a reality and goes hand-in-hand with career development and redeployment. To maintain agility, organizations can incorporate technology that helps employees make sense of market data about their roles or roles of interest, understand their skills gaps and shows them courses and other experiential learning opportunities to take their skills to the next level. When done in parallel with career coaching to help employees identify their unique opportunities and best choices, career mobility becomes tangible.

michelle gouldsberry.

content marketing manager

24 September 2021

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