Though historically organisations have focused on external recruiting to find people for new roles and to a certain extent have also tried building the internal talent to cater all their exigencies but with growing skill shortages and low unemployment rates, they are now finding that acquisition alone isn’t enough to access the capabilities they need. To fuel growth, organizations need to more effectively tap their current workforce to identify and deploy people with the required skills, capabilities, motivation, and knowledge of the organization, its infrastructure, and its culture. Creating better programs to facilitate internal mobility can pay off in multiple areas: growth, employee engagement, and business performance.
“As talent markets get tighter and the world becomes more connected, a major new trend has emerged i.e. to improve internal talent mobility; to more effectively move people among jobs, projects, and geographies. Nowadays, internal talent mobility has become a C-suite-level topic either as a key priority or as a concern for them”
It’s not hard to understand why. For many organizations, their biggest potential source of talent is to access the enterprise’s own workforce and internal talent market. Surprisingly, however, that market is often undervalued and even overlooked, and many organizations find it amazingly difficult to access. The sad and maddening reality is that employees generally find it easier to find new and more attractive opportunities in another organization than to explore and move to new roles at their current employers.
Internal Mobility Is Important
- Organizations have many reasons for starting to explore internal mobility in earnest. Hiring people with critical skills is highly competitive; workers who want to reinvent themselves don’t necessarily want to leave their current employer; internal mobility can be a way to embed collaboration and agility into an organization’s culture, which is one of the key attributes of becoming a true social enterprise; and agile organizations and career models dramatically improve employee engagement and commitment. Progressive organisations have developed a robust internal career program to help employees reskill themselves for new positions within the organization, and invested in an interactive, an analytics-based technology solution that allows them to explore and access alternative roles and career paths across the company. This results in a significant increase in employee engagement.
- Another major driver for internal mobility is the need for many organizations to globalize their operations or even diversify and expand into newer product lines and geographies too. Nowadays companies are changing their structure from being a centralized operation to having decentralised one. Companies now develop and market products in different geographies, requiring the organization to create a culture of mobility, diversity, and inclusion. By creating decentralised model, the company can now offer roles in different geographies instead in only one location before, which increases both the need and the opportunity for employees to develop and grow into new roles.
- The shift toward flatter organization models also creates a greater need for internal mobility. As organizations start to operate in teams and networks, managers are realizing that open access to the diverse skill sets, backgrounds, and experiences held by the organizations’ own people is essential for success. To staff projects and programs as they grow, team leaders must find expertise throughout the network, which is difficult if the organization lacks an active and open internal mobility process.
Is Internal Mobility Really Hard?
Although internal mobility has become a high priority agenda for many over the period of time, it’s not easy to do well. Still often many of the organisations face a humongous amount of challenges to the practice.
- One reason internal mobility is difficult is that most organizations are modelled around hierarchical structures: systems that people enter at the bottom and spend years working their way up to increase their influence, impact, and rewards. But while organizations have spent decades building career and promotion models to help people move up the pyramid, that’s not the same thing as having a vibrant, easy-to-navigate internal mobility market and culture across the entire organization. The reason could have been as simple as the lack of processes to identify and move employees as a top-three barrier to internal talent mobility. Siloed organizational models make it hard for managers to look for talent outside their own field, and block employees’ views into opportunities elsewhere in the enterprise.
- In addition to the above, incentives are rarely set up to encourage hiring from within. Unless hiring managers are actively encouraged and rewarded for hiring internal candidates, they may pass over existing employees looking for development. Equally problematic, an internal candidate’s current manager may resist other departments’ or managers’ efforts to recruit the person unless incentives are in place to encourage managers to develop subordinates’ skills and support their growth. Indeed, managers resist internal mobility. Team leaders who are rewarded for producing results but not for promoting internal mobility have no reason to welcome the prospect of losing a high-performing team member—creating an obstacle to mobility, no matter how hard HR promotes mobility programs.
- Culture is another barrier in many organizations. The culture around talent-sharing and decision-making around mobility are still inadequate or only fair in many of the organizations. Technology and systems around internal mobility, too, are often lacking. There is still lack of effective tools to identify and move people into new internal roles. More important there to a certain extent HR itself doesn’t give much visibility to internal positions. Many HR leaders often mention that employees find it easier to quit and be rehired than to change positions within the organization because of the lack of systems to enable and promote internal moves.
Are The Problems Worth Overcoming?
Beyond looking at internal mobility to fill open positions, there are several other strategic business reasons for urgently focusing on this issue. Internal mobility not only builds better leaders for the future but also helps in expanding the business in the time of need and increase employee engagement significantly.
Other organizations that have made substantial investments in internal mobility are also seeing these investments pay off. Few global companies have understood the need for this on time and invested in upskilling its employees, both by providing direct education and professional development programs. The sole objective is to fill existing openings with people already in the company, and by that measure, it is succeeding. Many HR leaders are also started focusing on building a new function for internal mobility that integrates talent acquisition with career mobility and takes a holistic view and scope. Not only are internal mobility initiatives moving beyond new programs and processes, but leaders’ mindsets are changing to view the company’s entire workforce as a talent market that allows for multidirectional careers. This, in turn, is influencing how leaders think about operating models and organizational structures as internal boundaries become less important and enterprise teams and internal capability markets increase in importance and impact.
How To Build Internal Mobility
To implement a successful talent mobility policy, one should:
- Build a comprehensive talent-planning process and decision framework to support the growth strategy.
- Identify gaps in the workforce and its capabilities; if your employees’ skills don’t match your company’s needs, employee education might be the best solution.
- Engage senior decision-makers on talent mobility issues and create a sense of urgency with them.
- Do the math: Track the market to benchmark your policies and statistics against your competitors and general market dynamics.
- Engage stakeholders from multiple parts of your company to gain advocates for mobility and be able to quickly resolve any issues.
Internal mobility, in short, can be a major source of critical talent and competitive advantage. To do it well requires investment and a focus on culture, infrastructure, and incentives—but it’s an investment well worth considering for leaders looking for ways to bridge the talent gap. In an economy where outside talent is becoming more and more difficult to find and attract, looking within can make the crucial difference between struggling and succeeding.