Ten Ways to Boost Internal Talent Mobility
We all know that mobilizing internal talent is beneficial. After all, you’ve already invested heavily in your employees – why not maximize that investment, and reduce costs by cutting reliance on external recruitment?
Still, companies make it surprisingly difficult for employees to move internally. Gartner suggests that only 27% of workers feel that their employers make it easy to find and switch into attractive internal opportunities.
Why is internal talent mobility such a tough nut to crack, and more importantly, what can companies do to smooth the road for loyal workers?
What are the hurdles to internal talent mobility?
Before we look into ways to grow internal talent mobility it’s worth questioning what holds back internal mobility, despite the obvious benefits – such as the fact that internal hires perform better at their jobs.
First, though internal hiring is often a priority, for some reason or another, internal mobility programs struggle to come to fruition. It’s simply a lack of concerted action. As always, knowing something and doing something about it is two different things.
HR culture is another stumbling block. Hierarchical structures leave fixed paths upwards in the internal pyramid, but few routes through and across the organization. Often, internal mobility lacks an agile approach as hiring managers fixate on existing skills at the cost of recognizing the capability of internal hires to learn while adjusting to a new role.
We’d also suggest that the absence of incentives can trip up even the most elegant talent mobility scheme. Incentives and monitoring can be the only way to overcome the human inertia that blocks internal recruitment.
So, what actions should a company take to get talent mobility flowing, how can it change its culture, and what incentives are likely to work? Let’s take a look.
How to increase internal talent mobility
Fluid internal talent can help your organization gets the most out of its talent year in, year out. Here are our top tips to drive talent mobility in your organization.
1. Set up a formal internal mobility program
Good intentions will only get your company so far. Fluid internal mobility requires programming – and strategy. Identify the paths to mobility so that you can communicate where the opportunities are and look to change corporate structures that block internal mobility. Your internal mobility program should communicate continuously and drive an ongoing discussion around internal mobility.
2. Develop accessible (and novel) paths
It helps if the road to internal promotion is clear, but companies must be more creative when thinking about the nature of the road and the destination. Mobility is not always about moving upwards – it can also entail a sideways move that leaves a more rounded colleague who thrived on a new challenge. Don’t limit your thinking to promotions, instead, think also about horizontal moves that can help employees gain valuable new skills and experiences. Temporary job swaps is another good idea. Or consider involving your employees in part-time projects: lending their skills while breaking through groupthink.
3. Make sure you have the right technology
Large organizations hold a complex web of opportunities. Hiring managers will understandably find juggling the mix of hiring requirements and available internal talent a struggle. Talent management software helps make sense of it all by increasing the visibility of opportunities and by making it easier to identify and grow internal talent. Look for software that has career pathing and internal mobility capabilities. This will help you systematize your efforts and make internal mobility accessible and achievable across your entire company.
4. Invest in training and mentoring
This is an obvious point but worth repeating over and over. Investing in the training and mentoring of your existing employees is not free, but it’s cheaper than hiring externally by a long shot. Training can help upskill employees so they can more easily switch to a new internal role and contribute faster once they switch. Having a development program also encourages existing employees to stay, while making your company more attractive to external recruits.
5. Recognize the value of institutional knowledge
Your internal candidates will have institutional knowledge in spades. In contrast, an external candidate may take years to learn the nuances of your company, its clients, and its environment. Rather than always reaching outside for the specific skills you need, consider growing those skills in-house. Through building the competencies of your existing staff (think learning programs and career pathing) your company can benefit from both skills – and institutional knowledge.
6. Set internal hiring targets
We mentioned incentives earlier. One solution is to set an internal hiring target. Yes, targets are arbitrary and do not necessarily serve recruitment goals well. That said, an internal hiring target will force hiring managers to at least consider the internal wealth of talent. Forcing HR to hire internally at least some of the time limits the default, easy option of hiring externally.
7. Incentivize your employees to stay
Incentives can not only help external recruitment, but they can also help to encourage existing employees to stay in your organization – and to actively look for new roles inside. Cash, perks and bonuses can be important motivators. However, ongoing training and a clear career path carry even more weight with employees. Your colleagues must feel there is a future for them in your organization. You can achieve this by actively planning careers and by being transparent about the next steps for every staff member.
8. Consider succession planning
Particularly at a senior level, leadership may block internal mobility because they may feel that they’ve solved one problem – only to create another. It’s always good to have a succession plan in place, but a succession plan also aids internal mobility by ensuring that an employee that shifts to a new position does not leave a gaping hole behind. Developing an internal talent pool is essential to this process: grow the skills of your employees and you have a ready-made cohort of recruit to choose from.
9. Measure internal hiring success
Targets are a start, but comprehensively measuring and monitoring the outcomes of internal talent mobility will prove how hiring internally is simply cheaper and less risky than hiring externally. Success stories will motivate hiring managers to consider internal talent and encourage your existing employees to keep an eye on internal opportunities.
10. Start at the top, change the culture
Finally, the drive towards internal mobility must come from the top. It’s a cultural change, leadership must see internal mobility as an organizational principle. Direct managers have the power to influence employees. Influencing those who hire, and influencing everyone else to look for internal opportunities to grow. Talent hoarders must be put in their place – team members must feel free to consider internal moves without the risk of blowback.
Kick off your talent mobility program and enjoy broad benefits
We’ve outlined some of the hurdles to internal talent mobility and provided top ways to kick-start a talent mobility program. The right mix of enthusiam, planning and formal programs will get your company on the road to internal talent mobility.
And it’s a road worth taking. Your company will save on recruitment fees, get more out of your new recruits faster, and provide the prospect of future opportunities for the employees you already have.
Yes, starting the internal talent mobility machine takes a concerted effort – but your company will enjoy the benefits for years to come.
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