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Most companies would say that internal mobility is important. Hiring from within is considered a best practice. There are challenges to its implementation, however, that can impede even the best efforts.
Let’s first clarify what is internal mobility. The most common form of mobility within a company is promotions, where an employee moves up in the organization to a position of higher rank and responsibilities. There are also lateral transfers that happen when an employee stays at the same rank but moves across to another business unit or type of role within the company. Mobility can also take other forms like a promotion along with a direct transfer. With each type of move comes its own challenges. Here are the “probable suspects” that may arise when a company implements an internal mobility program.
One of the biggest challenges to internal mobility is perhaps the most common. LinkedIn asked talent professionals about obstacles to internal hiring. What was the top barrier? “Managers don’t want to let go of good talent” was the number one reason answered by 70% of the survey participants.
Losing good talent to another team may seem like the worst-case scenario for a manager. The worse case for the company, however, is if they leave altogether. This can happen if employees don’t see a way up in the organization, as noted by a Deloitte review. Instead, employers should create a relationship with employees that helps them with their long-term career goals while also growing the company. Leadership should embrace this commitment to career development across the organization.
Formal programs and processes will help make internal mobility a part of the culture. For example, creating an internal job board and matching system will not only inform employees but also encourage them to apply. Gartner research found that only 27% of employees feel it’s easy to find new opportunities within the company that match their interests.
Above all, a fair system should give everyone an equal chance to learn about new opportunities. Creating one may involve some trial and experimentation. Here are some examples: Google built an internal job marketplace powered by AI where managers and employees would bid for different assignments. Similarly, a Swiss bank created a matching system that allows employees to assess the fit of new roles while allowing recruiters to source internal candidates.
Note: Our solution, Censia, is an AI-powered talent intelligence software that can help recruiters know which internal employees are ready for promotion or lateral transfers. You can create a model of the ideal candidate and then Censia will instantly analyze employee profiles and return a shortlist of ranked internal candidates. This can all be done inside your existing applicant tracking system.
LinkedIn survey respondents reported that the number two challenge to internal mobility is “Not enough qualified internal candidates.” Many companies may not have programs dedicated to career development. As a commitment to employee growth, they’d need to provide new learning opportunities and projects.
For companies that would like to see more lateral mobility, upskilling should be coupled with incentives. Harvard Business Review notes the following example: A large professional services firm wanted to encourage lateral transfers. Internal mobility remained low, despite efforts to highlight new opportunities and promote them. It turned out that there was no concrete long-term reward for the employees who chose to make the move. They were not promised a change in salary or promotion if they made a lateral transfer. Given the risk assumed by the employee to change roles, there didn’t seem to be any long-term benefit to mobility.
This idea of conveying the benefits and long-term value of internal mobility will require not only a way to communicate the existence of internal opportunities, but also require a way for employees to know that such change is worth it. Once this value is actively demonstrated and reinforced, it will become a part of the company culture that ensures progress and builds a relationship between employers and employees to develop together.