Five Reasons Why Internal Mobility Initiatives Fail

We are all familiar with the rising costs of recruitment, hiring, and onboarding. While Millennials have been attributed with starting a trend of shorter tenures with companies and the rising costs associated with turnover, the catalyst may actually be more complicated than that. While the current economic conditions have been a boom for employees and many companies, the tight labor market and promises of greener pastures have led many employees to consider a three-year stint at a company as long-term employment. This is more a result of economic conditions than the characteristics of any one age group. Since people are able to move between jobs fairly easily, many factors are at play when an employee decides to leave a company, including company culture, relationship with their current manager, unfulfilled career goals, lack of mobility, and lack of competitive benefits—including salary.

For organizations, the tight labor market combined with an increasing incidence of employee turnover have created financial challenges. In fact, according to a Work Institute report, it costs $15,000 per person (earning a median salary) to hire a replacement. In addition, the study highlights the cost of lost knowledge and productivity loss as the new employee gets up-to-speed.  Allowing employees to move within the company (redeployment), instead of leaving it, reduces costs at both ends of the spectrum—eliminating recruiting, hiring, and onboarding costs while retaining valuable institutional knowledge. Additionally, talent mobility has a positive impact on company culture and the fulfillment of career goals—two major factors that cause employees to leave. As common sense as a talent mobility or redeployment solution seems, it’s not always a successful venture within organizations.

Allowing employees to move within the company (redeployment), reduces costs at both ends of the spectrum—eliminating recruiting, hiring, and onboarding costs while retaining institutional knowledge. @EmilyM_Elder #SmartTalkHR @RiseSmart

Related content: The Intersection Between Talent Mobility and the Employer Brand

So why isn’t it successful? We’ve isolated five main reasons internal mobility initiatives fail.

#1 Management isn’t onboard

When we talk about floundering initiatives, it often comes down to a management team that isn’t fully onboard. When we talk about people initiatives that fail, it almost always boils down to a management team that doesn’t embrace the concept. In the case of talent mobility, or redeployment, having 80 percent of your management team in agreement may be a recipe for disaster. When you’re trying to ease the path from one department to another, less than 100 percent buy-in will mean that certain employees will be successful and others will not—for no better reason than friction between the managers involved.

When we talk about people initiatives that fail, it almost always boils down to a management team that doesn’t embrace the concept. @EmilyM_Elder #SmartTalkHR @RiseSmart

There are a couple of ways that managers can derail an internal mobility program. First, and probably the most important, is the reluctance to hiring internal employees. Because a hiring manager can design a job req with all the specific skills and experiences that would fulfill their dreams of a perfect candidate, they often prefer to look outside the organization. While the search for skills is still the top reason managers carefully develop open job descriptions, this mindset does not meet the realities of today’s workforce availability. In reality, even an external search may not produce a candidate who perfectly meets all the job requirement line items.

What can HR do?

First, educate. Before you introduce a talent mobility through redeployment initiative at your organization, educate your executive team and then your frontline managers about the benefits and costs savings of retaining employees, even if some career development is necessary to fit them into open roles outside of their current departments. Secondly, ask your executive team to hold managers responsible for increasing headcount through internal candidates. Thirdly, support internal candidates with career coaching, resume writing, and access to open roles. And finally, keep track of the efficacy of the program and report back with analytics that support your initiative.

#2 Lack of clear visibility into open positions

When we conducted our recent survey of 1,500 HR professionals, we found that the number one point of friction between very effective and less effective redeployment programs was the ability to communicate open roles effectively.

There are a couple of reasons why internal candidates may not see all the internal opportunities at an organization. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of having the right technology. If you don’t have access to an applicant tracking system or other platform that allows you to track all the open requisitions within your organization and then make those jobs visible to your employees, the manual effort of posting open positions will very quickly cause your initiative to fail. Additionally, if your technology cannot suggest job matches to employee’s they may miss opportunities available within other areas of the company just because they don’t recognize the job title or they aren’t familiar with what that department does.

In other cases, it comes down to the hiring manager. If there is no expectation that every role is first posted internally, managers may simply access their external networks to find someone to fill the open position.

What can HR do?

Your initial education efforts should help you out here. In addition, you’ll want to make sure there are policies in place that require all job requisitions be posted internally for a specific amount of time before external candidates are contacted. It’s helpful to have a platform that allows jobs to be easily posted and tracked through the HR department and readily available to all staff who may be interested. If your ATS system isn’t up to the job, there are other options through other business partners, such as your outplacement provider.

#3 Desire for a one-to-one match

People change careers. That’s just a fact of life. As we live longer and our tenures with companies shorten, it’s natural that people will not necessarily stay in their lane and work and the same type of job for 50 or 60 years. Most companies are open to interviewing people who are undergoing a career change, as long as they have the soft skills—like communication and creativity—and other skills that are transferrable from what they were doing to what the new job requires. As the talent market continues to tighten, organizations are becoming more flexible in their hiring expectations.

Talent mobility programs that redeploy employees from one role into another seem like a natural extension of the hiring flexibility we are now seeing. What appears to be missing are the internal champions for people looking to make a move. If you have an employee in a marketing role who has an interest in finance, someone from within the organization needs to be able to recognize that this person has the work ethic, company loyalty, and enough transferrable skills to make the move possible.

Of course, it’s up to the individual employee to articulate how their skills can transfer to that position. But, if internal transfers aren’t normally granted, then fewer employees will seek those opportunities internally and look externally, instead. If your organization is serious about wanting to retain talent through redeployment and other talent mobility initiatives, you will most likely need to make an investment in programs to support those initiatives. Employees hoping to make a career change will need help articulating how their skills transfer to a position where the skills matches are not obvious and the opportunity to enhance skills that would be transferrable through things like tuition reimbursement, online courses, or other avenues of learning

What can HR do?

Partnering with a third-party services provider that can deliver career coaching and resume writing services will help employees better prepare to apply, network and interview for open positions. In addition, providing all hands events that promote internal networking is a good way to start the conversation. Beyond that, building a culture where cross-department collaboration is part of the way work is done gives people an opportunity to get real-time exposure and experience in other parts of the business.

Related content: How Internal Networking Helps Employees and Organizations

#4 Employee perceptions

As much as we talk about the positive effects on company culture when talent mobility solutions are in play, HR and management need to make sure they are being transparent about the process.

Believe it or not, I was having a conversation with an HR executive who told me they were struggling with employee perceptions around their redeployment initiatives. Because people were vacating roles around the company to take advantage of new internal opportunities, there was a perception that the company was experiencing high employee turnover. In fact, their regrettable turnover rates had dropped significantly, but that wasn’t what people saw.

In some cases, external employees had to be hired to fill the vacated roles and therefore it wasn’t obvious that there was a lot of internal mobility at play.

What can HR do?

Improve communications. If you don’t have an effective internal communications program in place, now is as good a time as any. In the future, you can let people know where their colleagues have landed and use the platform to communicate about the great culture and opportunities within your company. While you’re celebrating the move, your internal communication tool also gives you a vehicle to publicize another open position, thereby achieving even greater ROI on your efforts.

#5 Internal friction

Internal friction happens when the incumbent manager decides that talent belongs to one department or another. It’s understandable that a manager would not want to see a top employee leave a position where that person is performing well and contributing to department and team goals.

However, when even one manager decides to not cooperate with the process, everyone loses. Often, the manager will agree to the transfer with the caveat that the employee continue to work in the current role for some period of time—during the transition. The problem with this arrangement is that the employee is busy trying to learn a new position and deliver value while still being held accountable for a whole other set of deliverables. It wouldn’t happen longer than the normal 2 to 4 weeks if a person left the company and it shouldn’t happen if they leave one role for another.

When the incumbent manager continues to reach out with tasks for the transitioning employee, it introduces roadblock that prevent that person from succeeding in their new role. It’s not good for the employee, and it doesn’t look good to the rest of the employees who are watching from the sidelines.

What can HR do?

At this stage of the process, the HR professional needs to be intimately involved with the process making sure that the employee is able to complete the transition from the old job in two weeks. After that time, the employee should be confident that it’s ok to make a clean break to the new position. Keep in contact with the individual to ensure that there are no “special asks” coming from the old manager. Because the employee is still with the company, it will be hard to say, “no”. That’s where you come in.

The ability to move people into, within, and out of your organization with ease will be the key to future business success. When a talent mobility program includes an effective redeployment component, businesses can save time and money while preserving company culture and institutional knowledge.

11 June 2019

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