As the job market continues to flourish, organizations are seeking more creative and competitive ways to attract, develop, and retain top talent. And with good reason; a recent survey by LinkedIn found that more than half of workers are thinking about leaving their jobs in 2023.
However, one area companies often neglect in their quest for top talent is to help their workers find new jobs – within the company. I’m talking about having an internal mobility talent strategy.
An internal mobility approach to talent management that involves identifying and nurturing talent within the organization to fill critical positions rather than always seeking external candidates. This can include a range of internal moves, including new positions or projects, lateral job swaps, job shadowing or horizontal promotions.
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The Importance of an Internal Mobility Talent Strategy
Recruiting external talent isn’t cheap. A new study from SHRM puts the cost of hiring and onboarding a new employee at $4,700. And this doesn’t include the cost of external recruitment firms, which can run in the tens of thousands of dollars, nor the “soft costs” of lost productivity while a role sits open or while a new employee is onboarded.
An internal mobility talent strategy leverages an internal candidate’s existing knowledge of the organization’s culture, processes, and stakeholders, cutting hiring and onboarding costs significantly.
The time it takes to find and hire qualified candidates continues to rise. Average time-to-fill now hovers at a record 44 days. External recruitment often takes longer due to the need to source, interview, and onboard candidates – work that’s often done by already overstretched talent acquisition teams.
Any recruiter will tell you that much of their work is dedicated to screening candidates who don’t even end up being qualified for the role. Internal mobility speeds up this process by tapping into a pool of qualified employees who can be vetted and vouched for by internal managers
Enhanced Employee Engagement
Employees cite lack of career opportunities and advancement as the second biggest reason for leaving a job. But when workers see opportunities for growth and advancement within the organization they’re more likely to stay engaged and motivated. An internal mobility talent strategy shows employees that their development and career progression are valued by the organization.
People succeed best when they’re in an environment that aligns with their own personal values and motivations. If companies examine which employees are their “culture carriers,” they’ll likely find some overlap with their top talent. These net promoters of company culture help maintain cultural continuity and ensure that any new, external leaders are aligned with the organization’s core principles.
Implementing an Internal Mobility Talent Strategy
Identify Your Talent Mobility Goal
Identify your area(s) of focus. Are you focused on vertical mobility (a promotion to a higher level with more responsibility,) horizontal mobility (a transfer to another role or department for exposure to something new,) or functional mobility (a short-term transfer resulting from business need?) Ideally an internal talent strategy involves all three so your talent has more opportunities to grow and advance.
Get Managers On Board
Especially if an internal mobility talent strategy is a departure from your usual hiring model, make sure managers understand what your mobility program is, why you’re implementing it, and how it will benefit them. After all, they’re the ones who know the organization’s talent best and you’ll need to lean on them to identify and vet internal candidates. Encourage them to hold regular conversations with their employees to discuss development goals and career aspirations, thus keeping a pulse on high potential talent.
Define the Talent Pathways
Employees often complain about not having a transparent understanding of the skills and experiences required to advance. Review job descriptions and identify the skills needed for specific roles. Then work with managers to understand the steps someone would need to take in their career to gain those skills. Employees want to understand “how to get there from here.” Defined talent pathways are a valuable tool to help them with this understanding.
Audit Your Talent Pool for Future Needs
Start with the end in mind. Which positions will you have a future need for? Which are the most competitive or expensive to hire for? What are the growth areas of the company? What skills will you need to maintain this growth? Answering questions like these will give you a handle on your short, medium, and longer term talent needs.
Identify Skill Gaps
Identify the skills and potential of your existing workforce through regular performance appraisals, skill assessments, and other manager-informed talent processes. This will give you a baseline understanding of where the gaps are that you’ll need to fill, and which employees may be best-positioned for upskilling or internal moves.
Target Your Learning & Development
Your internal mobility strategy will only be as successful as the learning and development programming that supports it. Employees can’t grow and advance professionally without the right training.
Managers should work together with the learning and development team to create personalized training programs for employees who are targeted for internal moves.
Communicate internal opportunities as widely as possible. Managers, in particular, should be aware of them, as they are the ones with the most direct knowledge of their employees’ skills and aspirations. The more broadly opportunities are disseminated, the higher the chance of having a robust internal talent pool from which to hire.
Acknowledge and celebrate employees who have successfully transitioned into new roles internally. Recognition not only boosts their morale but also sets an example for others to follow.
Measure Your Program
Create channels for employees to provide feedback on their mobility experiences. Leverage data on time-to-hire, time-to-productivity, and employee engagement to track the success of your program and continue to enhance it.
Once integrated into your company’s culture and hiring processes, an internal mobility talent strategy can yield numerous benefits, from cost savings to enhanced employee engagement and retention. In a job market where the battle for top talent shows no signs of abating, an internal mobility talent strategy stands out as a smart and sustainable approach.
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