Managing Internal Mobility, Culture & Systems


Most C-suite conversations in today’s HR landscape focus almost exclusively on Talent, Culture & Systems. Which raises the paradox: Most organizations overlook their greatest source of talent—internal? And no surprises – most companies blame company culture & systems for this reality.

Global organizations employ thousands of people across countries and functions. This invaluable source of talent can be leveraged almost exclusively to fulfill all talent needs. However, the culture at many companies is a roadblock for managers to hire internally and HR systems are inadequate to drive this behavior. This article is based on why I stayed with Delphi for 15 years and moved 3 countries and 6 jobs.

Culture of Transparency & Why It Matters

The companies that value transparency are most likely to build strong internal mobility. This is simpler said than done. Organizations often have in place opaque policies that discourage the practice of promoting and recruiting from within.

Transparency in performance management and career planning is a key aspect of internal mobility.

  • Do we tell of top performers that they are important to the company?
  • Do we have candid career conversations with employees regarding their potential and career possibilities?
  • Do we provide timely feedback and support to inform employees of their development needs and how it might limit their career path?

Most employees want this level of transparency in planning their careers. And the best performing employees can either find it from you or someone else.

Visible Career Paths

The key to my career with Delphi has been that I always had a visible career path ahead of me. It was not a chart on the wall but real role models who had built their careers and I wanted to emulate them. My move from a country’s role in India to a regional role to China was to emulate my supervisor who had done a similar move early in his career and he helped mentor me on how to adapt to a new country. After completing 4 years in a regional leadership role in China, I felt the need to step out of business partnering and lead a global HR project. My transparent career discussions helped because when Delphi launched its Global HRIS implementation (Workday), I was one of the key leaders who were selected to lead this project. It was an internal job posting and as an employee, I appreciated the transparency in the selection process. While leading the Workday project, I made it clear to the HR leadership that I was interested in a move to the US and lead Talent Management after the project was implemented. This candid career conversation led to my moving to US after completing 5 years in China. Now, having completed 6 years in the US, I continue having a visible career path that leads me to my final career goal.

Creating a transparent culture of internal mobility isn’t just about posting positions on an internal job site. It involves all leaders encouraging and supporting employees to develop the skills that prepare them for their next role and creating a visible career plan. This is especially true for the younger workforce – after per a recent survey, one-third of millennials believed their organization was making the most of their skills and experience. Also, 38 percent of millennials surveyed said they plan to leave their organization within the next two years.

Connecting Talent & Systems

At many low-performing organizations, talent strategies fail because of poor HR systems. These organizations expend meaningless effort and energy creating work which does not result in meeting the desired talent outcomes. The goal isn’t merely to help an individual worker build a more certain career path. The goal is to build a system of performance reviews, career conversations, and talent management where talent analytics and information enable leaders to make decisions on talent.

“An integrated HRIS & talent system is key to driving talent mobility. In earlier times, employees needed to have ‘face-time’ with top leadership and entire careers were determined by the previous 60 seconds of “elevator speech” that the employee delivered in the one opportunity that they got.”

Technology allows us to do better. Having all key talent indicators in one system enables top leadership to look at all employees on the basis of a common understanding of potential definitions, mobility preference & competency assessment. This levels the playing field and ensures that talent decisions are based on data. Hence, transforming the culture to promote internal mobility is being made possible by deploying a larger, systemic talent management system.

Cost of Falling Behind

By not proving internal mobility, companies lose talent. And this results in financial costs, both direct and indirect: firstly, it leads to loss of productivity, accumulated knowledge, and key relationships when a key talent quits. Secondly, there is the cost of rehiring and training a replacement. Internal data shows that the loss of an average employee earning US$120,000 annually leads to a loss of US$100,000 based on productivity loss and the associated replacement cost. In a company having 10,000 employees and 10% attrition, it results in more than US$120 million annually. The indirect costs are even higher. By losing top talent, employer branding is severely impacted. This results in loss of loyalty in existing employees; leading to lower quality of career planning and learning programs, which means that employees don’t have the skills to be considered for promotion—and there’s no internal mobility. The cycle repeats – the best employees leave, hurting the employers’ brand in the job market.

The Way Forward

The process for aligning the talent strategy to financial outcomes should be by gaining leadership support on the following fundamentals:

  • Building a Culture of transparency in talent discussions & decisions
  • Proving visible career paths to key talents
  • Investing in integrated HR systems with talent outcomes

Taken together, these fundamentals will result in a positive talent cycle. This culture of career growth will attract the right kind of talent who seek opportunities for growth. Also, this linking of talent, culture and HR systems will finally lead to C-Suite conversations talking of how to invest confidently in its own people.

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Rakesh Patnaik, Global Vice President Human Resources, Delphi Technologies, Powertrain Products. He leads HR teams across 11 manufacturing sites & 6 technology centers across Americas, Europe and Asia with key focus is on talent management, workforce planning, performance management and labor relations. Rakesh also led Delphi’s HRIS implementation project by deploying Workday globally. And prior to joining Delphi, Rakesh has also worked with companies like General Electric and Larsen & Toubro. Rakesh is an alumnus of Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune, where he completed his Masters in Personnel Management (MPM). He also did Executive MBA from Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.


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