What’s in this article
- What is internal mobility?
- Why internal mobility matters
- How to track and measure internal mobility
- Top internal mobility challenges (and how to overcome them)
- Internal mobility best practices and case studies
- Internal talent marketplaces are the next frontier
- Internal mobility: 3 easy steps to get started
Internal mobility will become a trump card and secret weapon for the highest-performing companies of the next decade. In this age of constant change and a tightening job market, doing more with less is essential at both the company and individual level.
It’s imperative for companies to remain agile and for employees to access career development opportunities. However, unlocking a culture of internal mobility is easier said than done, so we have prepared an easy guide to help you get started on the right foot and prepare for the future of employee management.
What is internal mobility?
Imagine that your company is a big and complex maze with different departments, projects, and opportunities. Internal mobility is like a GPS that helps your employees find their way through the maze and explore different paths to reach their goals.
For example, a digital marketer might look to become an SEO specialist. This could grant them the ability to be assigned to SEO-related projects in their current roles or get promoted to a role that takes on more SEO-specific responsibilities.
It's not just about moving up the ladder, but also about moving sideways to gain new skills, or even moving down to explore a different department or project that aligns with their interests.
Internal mobility programs are like personal fitness programs for your employees' career development. Just like how you need to work out regularly to build and maintain a healthy body, internal mobility helps your employees build and maintain a healthy career fit to their needs, interests, and strengths. It helps them avoid stagnation and complacency, and keeps them motivated and engaged by providing new challenges and opportunities. You could consider an HR manager to be the trainer that creates that program and accompanies the employee in their journey, ensuring they achieve the necessary milestones to reach their goal — like identifying that a 3-month PMP certification course needs to be passed for a manager to be promoted into a senior role.
Career progression is valued by the new generation of workers: A survey by LinkedIn found that 43% of Millennials would consider leaving their current job for a role with more opportunities for career progression.
The benefits of internal mobility are not just for the employees, but also for the organization as a whole. It helps retain valuable employees by showing them that they have a future in the company, and it saves the company money and time on recruiting and onboarding new hires. Plus, it fosters a culture of continuous learning and development, which attracts top talent and boosts the company's reputation, as well as produces subject-matter experts which are extremely valuable to organizations.
Why internal mobility matters
Companies that have a robust internal mobility program experience higher performance and retention rates. How so? Several benefits come from implementing an internal mobility strategy, including:
- Greater visibility and collaboration across the company which helps break down silos as well as promote teamwork and communication. This involves creating a company culture where departments are open to sharing information and collaborating on projects — such as a marketing team working with a sales team to create a cohesive strategy for lead generation.
- Career development acceleration by encouraging the development of more rounded skills and T-shaped employees. Encouraging employees to develop a diverse set of skills can increase their value and make them more adaptable in their careers. A graphic designer who takes courses in UX design and social media marketing is an example of this.
- Maximizing existing resources instead of overreliance on new hires or external consultants. This means looking at current employees and their skills to see if they can take on new responsibilities before hiring new employees or consultants. A company may identify an employee who has a talent for social media and have them manage the company's social media accounts instead of hiring a new employee for that role.
- Increased employee engagement because employees feel their work is seen as valuable when they feel they are part of the bigger picture of the business. This creates a sense of ownership and purpose by providing opportunities to learn about the company's overall goals and strategies. A good way to do this is for a company to hold regular town hall meetings to update employees on company performance and future plans.
- Shift to a project-based approach instead of a role-based approach, which creates a culture focused on positive outcomes rather than personal advancement. This means focusing away from job titles and roles, and towards project successes. For example, a company may have a team of employees working on a specific project rather than assigning tasks based on individual job titles.
- Encouraging intrapreneurship achieved by encouraging employees to be entrepreneurial within the company, allowing them to create and innovate. Creating an internal innovation lab where employees can pitch and work on new projects is something many tech companies do.
- Flatter organization instead of top-down decision-making, which fosters a culture of ownership and accountability. This means moving away from hierarchical management styles and giving employees more autonomy to make decisions. At a basic level, companies may give employees the authority to make decisions related to their work (such as task prioritization) without having to seek approval from a manager.
- Enlisting new mentors offers a variety of perspectives, and working and leadership styles. This is a good thing, as learning from multiple people is better than from the same manager all the time. Encouraging employees to seek out mentors who can provide guidance and support can be done through creating a mentorship program that pairs employees with mentors from different departments or areas of expertise.
How to track and measure internal mobility
Tracking and measuring internal mobility can be done in several ways. We like to call them our Internal Mobility Key Performance Indicators (IMKPIs).
- Employee attrition rates: An attrition rate is the percentage of employees who leave a company over a certain period (voluntarily or involuntarily). By tracking and measuring employee attrition rates, companies can gain insights into whether their internal mobility policies are working. A decrease in attrition rates can indicate that employees feel they have opportunities for career growth and development within the company — and vice versa.
A company notices that they have a high rate of turnover for employees in specific departments. Upon investigating, they discover that there are fewer opportunities for career advancement within those departments. The company then implements a career development program, which includes job rotations and cross-functional training. After a year, the company notices a significant decrease in attrition rates in those departments.
- The number of internal applicants for new roles: This is the amount of existing employees who apply for a different position but within the same company. By tracking the number of internal applicants for new roles, companies can gauge the level of interest employees have in advancing within the organization.
A company posts a job opening for a management position. They receive a high number of internal applicants from various departments. The company recognizes that they have a pool of talented individuals who are eager for career advancement and are loyal to the company. They offer additional training and development opportunities to prepare these individuals for future management roles.
- Positive responses in career satisfaction surveys: Surveys to “take the temperature” of their employees can be anonymous, done digitally or in-person. By measuring employee satisfaction with regards to career advancement and development opportunities, companies can identify areas where they need to improve
A company conducts a career satisfaction survey and notices that a large percentage of employees feel they are not being given opportunities to grow and develop within the company. The company then implements a mentorship program, where senior employees mentor and coach junior employees. After a year, the company conducts another survey and sees a significant increase in positive responses regarding career growth and development.
- The number of consultants: By tracking the number of consultants (non-employees hired to fill a gap in skills), companies can determine if they are over-reliant on external resources and if there are opportunities to develop internal talent.
A company hires a consulting firm to help with a project. After the project is complete, the company tracks the number of consultants used and the associated costs. They realize that they could have used internal resources to complete the project and save money. The company then implements a cross-functional training program to develop internal talent for future projects.
- Time to complete projects: By tracking the amount of time it takes to complete projects (and associated individual tasks), companies can determine if they are effectively utilizing internal resources for the project.
A company begins a new project and brings in a consultant to help. They track the time it takes to complete the project with the consultant and then track the time it takes to complete the project with internal resources. They notice that the project takes less time to complete with internal resources. The company then implements a program to better utilize internal resources for future projects.
- Company profitability: Profitability is the organization's profit relative to its expenses. By measuring profitability at the organization level, companies can determine if their internal mobility policies are contributing to the bottom line — or hindering it.
A company implements a career development program and tracks the profitability of the organization over time. They notice that profitability increases as employees are given more opportunities for career advancement.
- Diversity and inclusion ratios: This is the measure of the employees found in minority to the total strength of the organization. This ratio can be based on gender, ethnicity, age, and so on — and gives valuable insight into the broadness of the perspectives an organization benefits from. By measuring diversity and inclusion ratios, companies can determine if their internal mobility policies are benefiting a diverse set of employees.
A company implements a job rotation program and tracks the diversity and inclusion ratios of employees who participate in the program. They notice that the program benefits a diverse set of employees, ensuring equality of opportunity is available for all.
Top internal mobility challenges (and how to overcome them)
Internal mobility programs can be a great asset to companies, but they are not without their challenges. Here are some of the most common hurdles and how to overcome them:
- Resource hoarding by managers: Some managers may be unwilling to share their best employees with other teams. To overcome this, it's important to emphasize the benefits of cross-departmental collaboration, such as increased innovation and knowledge-sharing, and establish clear politics around this to formalize it at a company level.
- Time management: Employees may be hesitant to take on new roles or projects because they are already overwhelmed with their current responsibilities. To overcome this, it's important to make sure that internal mobility programs are flexible,can be adapted to fit the schedules of employees, and offer a clear view of objectives and expectations.
- Sourcing candidates based on current skill and forgetting about future potential: When looking for candidates for new roles or projects, it can be tempting to stick with those who have the skills and experience required for the job. However, internal mobility programs are all about giving employees opportunities to stretch and grow outside of their comfort zone. To overcome this, it's important to look for employees with potential and a willingness to learn.
79% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills — internal mobility can be a way to address this issue.
- Lack of visibility into employee skills, potential and pathing: Without a clear understanding of employees' skills and potential, it can be difficult to identify the best candidates for new roles or projects. To overcome this, it's important to invest in tools that can help you map out employee skills and career paths.
- Psychological safety: Employees may be hesitant to apply for new roles or projects for fear of being shamed or feeling disloyal. To overcome this, it's important to create a culture of psychological safety, where employees feel comfortable taking risks and trying new things.
Internal mobility best practices and case studies
Let’s take a look at some companies that have successfully implemented internal mobility programs and what we can learn from their efforts.
Hilton Worldwide launched their Thrive@Hilton program to help their employees find fulfilling career paths within the organization. The program includes career mapping, internal job postings, mentorship opportunities, and learning and development resources. As a result, Hilton has seen a significant increase in employee engagement and a decrease in turnover rates.
Key Learnings: Hilton’s internal mobility program is successful because it provides employees with clear career paths and opportunities to grow within the organization. The program is also supported by an extensive suite of additional resources — like online courses, mental health support, financial planning tools, and volunteer opportunities — which ensures that employees have the support they need to succeed.
IBM’s Blue Matching program is an internal talent marketplace that matches employees with projects that align with their skills and interests. The program uses a proprietary algorithm to match employees with relevant projects and provide them with the opportunity to gain new skills and experiences. Since the launch of the program, IBM has seen a significant increase in employee engagement and a reduction in external hiring.
Key Learnings: IBM’s internal talent marketplace is successful because it uses data and analytics to identify relevant opportunities for employees — using AI-powered objectivity rather than human-related subjectivity (and bias). This ensures that employees are appropriately matched with projects that align with their interests and skillsets, which makes the program more engaging and effective.
T-Mobile’s Career Success campaign was a comprehensive internal mobility strategy that helped reinvent its employee growth and development program. The campaign included activities focused on career guidance and job exploration, growth and development planning, opportunities to meet new career advocates and to audition for a future job shadowing. As a result of this campaign, T-Mobile has seen a significant level of employee engagement and an increased participation rate at the CareerFest event.
Key Learnings: T-Mobile’s internal mobility program is successful because it is supported by a range of initiatives that provide employees with opportunities to grow and develop through a comprehensive lens. The program is also designed to be inclusive and accessible, which ensures that all employees have the opportunity to participate.
Internal talent marketplaces are the next frontier
The future of internal mobility lies in the development of internal talent marketplaces (ITMs).
ITMs are platforms that use skill mapping as the company’s currency, allowing employees to be assessed, developed, and matched with the right projects. These platforms can help organizations create a culture of continuous learning and development, while also providing employees with opportunities to advance within the organization.
According to Gartner, the development of ITMs is a critical step in the evolution of internal mobility. By leveraging data and analytics, organizations can gain a better understanding of their employees’ skills and potential, which can be used to create more effective career pathing programs and support the development of the workforce.
Internal mobility: 3 easy steps to get started
In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, internal mobility has become a key competitive advantage for organizations looking to do more with less. By creating a culture of internal mobility, organizations can leverage the skills and experience of their existing workforce to drive innovation and growth — which also boosts job satisfaction and retention of their employees.
Here are three easy steps towards improving your company’s internal mobility capabilities:
- Map your talent pool’s skills: Use skill mapping to gain a better understanding of your employees’ current and potential skills, helping you see gaps and opportunities more clearly.
- Open projects across expertises: Create a culture of internal mobility by opening up projects to employees from different departments and teams, which offers them opportunities to expand their skills and professional horizon within the company.
- Design career pathing around new skills and projects: Use your employees’ skills and interests to create more effective career pathing programs — it’s about personalization rather than standardization.
Internal mobility is a cornerstone of the future of work. Companies that invest in internal mobility programs, supported by internal talent marketplaces or skill mapping tools, are better positioned to succeed in the modern business landscape. By enabling employees to move within the organization and expand their skills, companies can foster a culture of engagement, collaboration, and growth.
Companies who invest in internal mobility programs see 3.5X employee engagement and 2X longer employee life cycles
So, whether you're just starting with internal mobility or looking to enhance your internal mobility strategy, Workleap Skills is here to help.
Get in touch with our team to schedule a free demo and see how you can transform your company programs and leverage your workforce ingeniously.