As business needs evolve, organisations often take a traditional approach to hiring that involves adding new roles and filling these roles with external talent. In some cases, employees are let go if their role is no longer relevant to broader business goals and is therefore eliminated. But when restructuring their teams, many companies inadvertently overlook their top source of talent – their current workforce. Taking an intentional approach to moving employees to new roles, projects and gigs within an organisation to meet shifting business demands – known as internal talent mobility – can help you create an agile workforce capable of seamlessly pivoting in response to rapid change.

A key reason internal talent mobility has yet to see widespread adoption is that organisations need to first overcome common cultural barriers before this concept is fully embraced. According to a report from Gartner, ‘Creating a Culture of Talent Mobility,’ top obstacles include a lack of employee awareness about available internal roles and hesitation to pursue internal roles. In addition, the report points out that hiring managers and HR leaders may not have a full grasp of employees’ complete skill sets and managers are hesitant about the idea of hiring or sharing internal talent.

While internal mobility has long been overlooked and underutilised, more employers are starting to recognise its benefits. Data from LinkedIn shows that role changes within organisations – such as promotions, transfers and lateral moves – have increased by 10% over the past five years. Additionally, the 2019 Deloitte Human Capital Trends report found that 76% of C-suite executives rate internal talent mobility as important and 20% rate it one of their organisation’s three most urgent issues.

Whether your organisation lacks an internal talent mobility strategy or you’re looking to improve the strategy you have in place, consider the following benefits when communicating the importance of making it a priority across the company.

reduce recruitment and onboarding costs

The 2020 LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report found that 63% of talent acquisition professionals believe internal recruiting accelerates the hiring process, while 69% believe it speeds up new hire productivity. By hiring from within – whether for an open role, project or gig work – you can bypass many of the hiring steps and costs you would otherwise incur with an external hire. These include costs related to job advertisements, background checks, assessment tests and onboarding, among others.

Internal hiring can also lead to a more efficient hiring process, as you won’t have to read countless external resumes, and you can likely cut back on certain rounds of the interview process. For example, if the employee is already thriving in one role at your organisation, you probably don’t need to schedule an interview specific to determining culture fit. When an organisation taps into its internal pool of talent, rather than looking externally to fill a new role, current employees already have cultural knowledge about the organisation and an understanding of the company’s mission.

While there might be a learning curve as the employee gains new skills in a different role or on a project team, in many cases, getting a current team member up to speed on a new role is much more cost effective and efficient than onboarding an outside hire with limited previous knowledge about the organisation. Depending upon the type of position, it can take three to six months for an employee to reach full productivity.

avoid redundancies and preserve your brand

Redundancies are often a last resort, but business and HR leaders need to constantly reevaluate how their workforce is structured to meet changing demands and economic conditions and adapt to digital transformation. Rather than laying off employees, organisations can tap into rapid redeployment, which enables companies to move current employees to other internal roles or assignments, either on a temporary or permanent basis, based on business needs. For example, if an organisation is facing a slow sales cycle – as is the case with many given the economic impact of the pandemic – salespeople can be moved to customer support or other high-demand roles until business picks up.

Not only does redeployment enable you to avoid layoffs and support employees, but it can also help your organisation maintain institutional knowledge, which can provide a competitive edge, especially when the economy recovers. Redeployment can also significantly reduce costs related to unemployment taxes, outplacement and recruiting, hiring and onboarding new employees down the line. 

Taking extra steps to avoid layoffs also helps protect an organisation’s employer brand and can drive positive employee satisfaction ratings on sites such as Glassdoor. From a recruitment perspective, potential employees will also view organisations that make the most of redeployment and other internal talent mobility options as employers of choice. Top talent will seek out employee-first organisations that promote career development and offer holistic coaching support for their employees.

improve employee engagement and retention

Talented employees who don’t see opportunities for growth and development with their current employer won’t hesitate to look elsewhere for work. An annual survey from Work Institute recently found that lack of career development opportunities has been the top reason employees choose to leave a company for 10 consecutive years. Additionally, a 2018 study from Randstad found that 58% of workers said their companies didn't have enough growth opportunities for them to stay long term.

The best employees in any organisation have a growth mindset and value continual learning. They are committed to not only growing in their careers, but also contributing to continued business success. Without career development resources and opportunities for internal talent mobility, your organisation may risk losing top talent to outside job opportunities. Conversely, by enabling internal talent mobility, your company can retain top employees and boost engagement by up to 30%, according to Deloitte.

empower employees to grow their skill sets

Data from McKinsey projects that as many as 375 million workers – or 14% of the global workforce – will have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the need for employees to learn new skills and make career transitions to meet rapidly evolving business demands.

As your organisation’s priorities shift, you can support the long-term employability of your workforce by encouraging them to take on new roles, projects, stretch assignments or internal gig work and temporary assignments. In addition to learning that naturally happens with these new opportunities, you can also support employees through a strategic approach to continual learning and skilling.

An impactful skill-building strategy combines technology, such as access to online courses and job market data, with personal guidance from a career coach, a career concierge and a certified learning advisor. A career coach can help an employee make sense of job market data and assessments to determine what skills to build. A career concierge can provide handpicked courses and experiential learning opportunities that are tailored to the needs of an employee, while a learning advisor can help employees stay on track with their learning plan. With this approach, employees are more likely to meet their goals and close skills gaps efficiently – promoting both your success as a business and individuals’ long-term employability.

New skills equate with employee sustainability. Equipped with these skills, employees can excel in their current roles, as well as grow in their careers through new roles on their current team, across company divisions and with partner companies.

drive ongoing agility across your organisation

While the world of work is always evolving, the year 2020 has presented countless challenges and shifts for organisations across industries. If there’s one lesson HR leaders can learn from this year as they look ahead to 2021, it’s that anticipating and preparing for change is key to long-term business success. While nobody could have predicted the widespread impact of the global pandemic, organisations with an agile approach to their workforce are better equipped to navigate disruption in any circumstance.

By taking a deliberate approach to talent mobility and enabling smooth internal transitions – whether to new roles, teams, projects, or gig work – you can support a growth mindset across your organisation that is so critical to agility.

creating a culture of internal talent mobility

According to the 2019 Deloitte Human Capital Trends report highlighted earlier, only 6% of HR leader believe their organisations are excellent at moving employees from role to role, while 59% rated their organisations as fair or inadequate. Additionally, more than 50% of respondents indicated that it’s easier for individuals to find a new role outside the organisation than inside.

Maintaining a strong culture of internal mobility isn’t just about posting positions on an internal job site.  To be a truly agile organisation, it’s important to not only support internal talent mobility but also make it a priority by developing a culture that encourages talent sharing across all levels and departments.

Organisations that prioritise internal talent mobility do so from the top-down, as leadership team members must understand the importance of offering opportunities for career development and individual employees must be eager to continually learn and take on new responsibilities. This also includes setting expectations with managers that their teams are impermanent and helping them recognise the value of making talent visible and mobile throughout the organisation. Maintaining a talent sharing mindset is in everyone’s best interest.

Driving long-term business sustainability requires helping your employees continuously develop their careers and skills to move to new roles and opportunities within your organisation. How well do you understand your organisation’s readiness for talent mobility?

beth kempton.

senior public relations and content manager

10 December 2020

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