Internal mobility (IM) is a hot topic that has risen to prominence as organizations find themselves in the throes of significant market disruption and entering the era of the future of work. As the focus shifts towards doing more with less and with approvals for new headcount becoming more scarce, internal mobility can be a solution to ease this challenge. Given its importance we wanted to shed some light on some of the possible barriers of internal mobility and how to overcome them to maximize the effectiveness of your strategy.
What is Internal Mobility Exactly?
First and foremost, it is useful to understand what constitutes internal mobility as well as why it is important. Although there seem to be several definitions, in simple terms, internal mobility represents the movement of employees from one job to another within an organization or exposure to projects and tasks outside their immediate team. This is the activity of changing roles across companies and should be managed through TA or HR teams and based on policy.
On a more profound level, it is clear that successful internal mobility is the solution to some of the biggest HR challenges organizations are facing in the current market. Increasingly companies are being faced with the challenge of improving engagement, retaining their workforce, upskilling and attracting talent. With changing generational workforce expectations enabled through new technology, a broader understanding of employees’ skills and experience needs to be adopted in order to improve levels of employee retention and engagement.
It will be those companies that can accurately assess candidates’ skills and abilities that will be able to welcome these moves and subsequently hold on to their best talent. Primarily because employees that are looking for a new challenge will be encouraged to look at their current organization as the preferred place to grow their career if they know they will be supported.
Key Considerations When Implementing an Internal Mobility Strategy
We are now seeing that the benefits of internal mobility are becoming more understood by business leaders. Positive outcomes such as higher retention rates, a more engaged workforce, reduced external hiring costs and empowering the next generation of leaders, means there could be an assumption that everyone already has a program in place, but this isn’t always the case.
The idea of having an internal mobility program is simple but does take a concerted effort to execute with a purposeful strategy. Below we cover some important aspects to consider when building your own IM strategy to maximize results:
Promoting a Culture of Commitment
Cultures within organizations can be notoriously challenging to change. If there are legacy preconceptions about the value of IM, then these can act as a barrier to it being successfully adopted. Judgements can stem from the idea that IM is inconsistent and ill-managed or just that employees don’t fully understand what it is.
This can mean that managers have a short-term view of their team and hoard talent to ensure they stay competitive and maintain their own reputation within the organization. This can lead to pockets of the business believing in it and championing change with others not following suit.
To combat this, strong leadership, comprehensive communication about the programs benefits and a crawl, walk, run approach can start to build a case for IM and steer the ship in the right direction.
This can also be backed up with a shift in performance management for managers away from solely looking at performance metrics to including their aptitude to cultivate talent. On top of this ensuring that employee bonuses are tied into company results and encouraging peer-to-peer recognition for successful internal mobility through employee engagement platforms such as Avature DNA, can create extra incentives for those late adopters.
Formalizing Your Internal Mobility Program
Often, if the IM platform is not driven through HR it is difficult to create consistency that can subsequently affect its credibility.
Formalizing it and appointing dedicated staff to manage the initiative will help ensure its success. If the program is just one of many projects sitting on the side of someone’s desk, then you can guarantee its effectiveness will reflect this.
This goes hand in hand with investing in the right technology to help create a solid foundation from which to formalize your strategy. The easier your IM platform is to navigate the easier it will be to create a clear structure behind your strategy. Technology will also allow you to build and showcase the success of IM within business units, which will help to create followership.
Costs and Resources
Training in its own right is no longer just an activity to upskill your workforce but fundamental to building your employer brand and attracting new talent into your organization.
So, what about the obvious question of cost? Is that a valid reason for not implementing a comprehensive IM strategy? Although some may be concerned about the initial investment, in the long run it is more costly not to implement an internal mobility strategy. According to Deloitte the departure of an employee earning US$130,000 annually in salary and benefits results in a loss of US$109,676 based on lost productivity and the subsequent cost of recruiting. On top of this, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median employee tenure for all occupations in the US for employees between 25 to 34 have is 2.8 years. So, with a high cost of replacing employees and their diminishing tenure, keeping hold of talent becomes paramount.
There is sometimes also the question around the cost of training employees to move to a different business area if they could turn out to be a flight risk. This again for many can seem like a risk at first but training in its own right is no longer just an activity to upskill your workforce but fundamental to building your employer brand and attracting new talent into your organization. The top leaders understand this and, subsequently, training and internal career development are no longer just nice to have, but essential to stay competitive in an employee-driven market.
Keeping Morale High for Unsuccessful Applicants
Of course, even with a successful program in place, not every employee that applies for a new opportunity will be the right fit and there is a common concern that this rejection might end up demotivating them.
However, the manner in which employees respond to a missed opportunity depends on the leadership and credibility of the IM program. If organizations have detailed career development programs in place that are supported by a broader strategy, employees are going to believe in the process.
To add to this, making sure that employees have as much information as possible about the IM process and available positions, skill gaps analysis, career pathing options and recommended opportunities, the more they will feel engaged with the company and the more they will be able to grow.
Conclusion: What Does the Future Hold for Internal Mobility?
As we find ourselves in the midst of a global health crisis, we are seeing accelerated disruption to the workplace as we know it, giving heightened importance to internal mobility. On top of this, technological advances, skills shortages, as well as a rise in customer expectations, will lead to an increasingly mobilized workforce even after the crisis has passed. So, making the most your internal talent and doing more with less has never been more important.
The future of work will fuel the focus on enduring skills. Abilities such as problem solving, reasoning, negotiation and the ability to learn new skills will be required for all roles and will be seen as central to company cultures who understand that internal mobility is crucial to their ability to stay competitive.
Resistance to change often becomes the biggest barrier to implementing an internal mobility strategy. So when implementing an IM strategy, you shouldn’t expect to run before you can walk. Create the vision, implement it and watch it slowly build momentum.
Finally, choosing flexible technology that can grow with, and mold to, your business can make all the difference. We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of what technology can do to enable strategic internal mobility programs. At present, it provides a platform to find opportunities, map careers and manage key projects and highlights development areas and gaps in knowledge and experience that can be addressed. Looking forward, IM capabilities are only going to expand and as we progress into the future of work, IM platforms will become the keystone to all progressive talent management strategies.