How to Unlock In-House Talent with an Internal Mobility Strategy

How to Unlock In-House Talent with an Internal Mobility Strategy

Recruiting to fill an existing or new role in an organisation is expensive and time consuming. However, according to new research only 19%3 of existing employees are encouraged by their employers to take an interest in internal role changes. Add in the fact that externally recruited candidates are 21%1 more likely to leave during the first year than an internally recruited candidate, you might think why are the majority of businesses, over two thirds2, filling vacancies with external candidates? In the mid 20th century  90%2 of vacancies were filled by internal candidates, so why the change? Well, those recruiting are often obsessed by trying to attract top talent who have CVs that detail the best educational institutions and high level positions in leading organisations. However, even the best talent is a risk, as any new employee is. In addition they need to become familiar with the business’s culture, values and norms, and the complexities of the role to start becoming effective.

When employees leave a company, they take valuable experience and knowledge with them. They have an understanding of the company’s history, values and business objectives, and if they’ve been with the company for some time, have played their part in building the culture of that organisation, all of which takes time to develop. It is having this good understanding that contributes to adaptability, better decision making and problem solving in all roles across a business.

We all know the saying, ‘a business’s best asset is their staff’, so why are employers not putting more emphasis on prioritising staff retention? Well of course, it’s not a quick fix! As I’ve written about before in ‘Is Employee Turnover Contributing to Skills Shortages?‘ there are many factors that contribute to staff retention, but none are more important than training and development. In the Workplace Learning research 20243 it was found that ‘companies with strong learning cultures see higher rates of retention, more internal mobility, and a healthier management pipeline compared to those with smaller levels of commitment’. The research also found that 80% of people said that learning adds purpose to their work.

The good news is that 33%3 of organisations do have internal mobility programmes. They are encouraging employees to think beyond their job roles, to recognise their skills and how they could be applied to wider opportunities within the business. The benefits to the business are higher staff retention and a much more agile pool of workforce skills that can be applied across the business.

So how can those businesses who haven’t thought about internal mobility get started? Well, as with all processes their needs to be a strategy to inform the approach, and to have an effective and embedded strategy takes time. When it comes to the ‘Internal Mobility’ or ‘Skills Agility’ strategy, employers may not have established systems for identifying internal talent or records of employee’s skills and aspirations. Therefore, employers often revert to what is easier, and what they feel more comfortable with, which is to recruit externally. However, with the exception of smaller businesses or those in niche industries, most businesses have a pool of untapped talent within their workforce. For these organisations, putting an internal mobility strategy in place absolutely makes sense.

Strategy considerations to unlock in-house talent:

  • Focus on Skills Identification:
    • Create detailed inventories listing the skills and competencies present within the workforce. This will highlight areas of hidden expertise.
    • Encourage employee self-assessment by providing tools that employees can use to identify their strengths, interests, and potential areas of growth.
    • Encourage employees to share their talents with their managers.
    • Use performance reviews as opportunities to discuss skills and developmental goals beyond the current job role.
    • Provide pathways for employees to visualise their possible growth within the company.
  • Provide Opportunities for Growth and Development:
    • Put a mentoring programme in place by pairing experienced employees with those developing specific skills. This allows for knowledge transfer and on-the-job skill building.
    • Break down silos and expose employees to different departments or functions within the organisation.
    • Allow employees to take on challenging projects outside their usual scope to foster new skill development.
  • Cultivate a Learning Culture:
    • Offer tuition reimbursements to employees’ who complete formal education and upskilling activities.
    • Provide in-house training on relevant skills and topics, utilising the expertise of current employees as trainers where possible.
    • Facilitate easy sharing of knowledge, best practices, and resources across the organisation.
  • Recognise and Reward Talent:
    • Celebrate and share knowledge and skill development.
    • Show recognition of successful employee skill development by assigning new projects or responsibilities to those employees.
    • Tie promotions, bonuses, or other incentives to the development and application of employees’ skills.
  • Open and Agile Communication Between Manager and Employee:
    • Managers should proactively engage employees in discussions about ambitions, aspirations, and development areas.
    • Create a clear system for posting and sharing internal job openings and project opportunities.

There are barriers and challenges that an organisation might face to implementing an Internal Mobility strategy, which includes a bias towards external recruiting the best talent and bringing new blood into the business. Understandably, managers who have excellent talent within their team are not keen to see those employees elsewhere in the business.

All of which means that a cultural shift is required towards organising employees by their knowledge and skills, not their job role, to align with the business objectives. L&D has a crucial role in this to help assess where skills are needed, and equip employees to utilise their existing skills, and grow and develop new ones to meet the needs of the business. With 87%3 of L&D professionals saying they can show business value in doing this, hopefully more employers will get on board. This can be truly defined as skills agility, where employees work wherever their skills can make a positive difference to the business.

The strategic advantages of adopting internal mobility, rather than external recruiting that senior managers need to know. It can:

  1. Build business resilience
  2. Enable the building of a talent pipeline
  3. Improve innovation and adaptability with the organisation
  4. Bring cost effecticiencies
  5. Speed up knowledge transfer across roles
  6. Deepen knowledge across the organisaton
  7. Improve employee morale, loyalty and therefore retention
  8. Minimise knowledge loss
  9. Reduce the risk of a new person in post leaving
  10. Quicken productivity
  11. Develop employee talent and career growth
  12. Preserve company culture

In conclusion, implementing an internal mobility or skills agility strategy makes good business sense. Those who do stay competitive, foster innovation, and build a workforce that is adaptable and resilient in the face of change.

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Author: Carolyn Lewis, Head of Business Development



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