4 Ways to Optimize Your Internal Mobility Program for Employee Retention

9 out of 10 employees would rather do more meaningful work for less pay. That means that retaining employees goes far beyond offering them a competitive salary. 

In a survey conducted by Gallup, lack of career advancement was one of the top reasons employees left their previous position. Optimizing your internal mobility program can curb such risk of employee churn, but there are so many other benefits that come with prioritizing talent mobility. 

From cost-saving to fostering a diverse workforce, it’s no surprise that career mobility should be your priority. So, how do you optimize your internal mobility program and what can you get from such optimization? That’s what I’m taking you through in this Process Street article.

Let’s go! 

Internal mobility and what it can look like  

Internal mobility, also known as career or talent mobility, is the movement of employees from one role to another (or a complete change in occupation) while remaining in the same company. 

Having a good internal mobility program in place can contribute to employees achieving long and short-term goals because they’re given the opportunity to:

  • Advance in their career;
  • Engage in experiences outside of their regular job position;
  • Hone extra skills than those they need for their typical working day.

Internal opportunities are all around us. This is especially true for startup companies because there’s so much room to grow and job positions that haven’t been created yet. 

As an HR professional, you play a vital role in promoting internal mobility within your business. Understanding the needs of your organization and the competencies of your workforce can help you build a mobility program that links these opportunities for employees. 

Here are a few ways a career mobility program can be implemented: 

Employee mentoring

Experienced employees can mentor their junior colleagues to help broaden their skills. Developing a broader skill set is an excellent asset to both your company and the employee despite whether that employee intends on moving into a different position or remain in their current one.

Even after I’d completed my initial onboarding at Process Street, I continued to be mentored by other members of the team. My onboarding had covered a lot, but there were still areas I wasn’t 100% confident in yet and tasks I hadn’t performed in a “live” situation. 

For example, soon after I finished onboarding, I was assigned my first customer testimonial project. Before the actual meeting with this customer, my mentor took me through the process of what to expect. We came up with questions together and he sat in on the meeting with the customer to make sure I got everything I needed. 

After that, I was guided through the process of turning that recorded interview into the polished article now on our Process Street blog. From having this mentorship, I could develop the skills I needed to work more independently. 

Interdepartmental job-swapping 

Another example of talent mobility is job-swapping: two employees from different or the same department switch places for a specified set of time. From this, they can develop their skills and gain a better understanding of the key responsibilities of that specific role. Of course, this isn’t the right choice for all job types, but it can be useful even if it’s only a one-person swap. 

For example, an employee might benefit by doing another employee’s job. While I was hired as a writer for Process Street, I was actually working in the Customer Support department for the first two weeks of my employment. 

Why? Through handling customer complaints, I was able to quickly learn about the product that I was ultimately writing about. Those two weeks were like a crash course in everything Process Street and I learned a ton, which helped to better understand exactly what I was writing about. 

Interdepartmental transferring 

This form of transferring happens when an employee is moved to a different department where they work under a different job title. Our very own Sophie Sykes is the perfect example of interdepartmental transferring. 

Sophie started working as a Process Street Content Writer. As Process Street started expanding, marketing efforts became larger. This came with new opportunities, specifically in video production and that’s where Sophie took the lead. Her focus moved away from our Process Street blog and more towards responsibilities regarding video production. With these new responsibilities, she slowly transitioned to Video Producer.  

Internal promotion 

Promoting internally is done to fill a vacant higher position from an existing pool of internal employees. Often referred to as climbing the corporate ladder, this is one of the most common types of internal mobility. 

We have tons of stories about internal promotion at Process Street. Oliver Peterson started as a Process Street Content Writer. He was then promoted to a Content Editor, took on more responsibilities, built up his skill set, and has now become our Content Lead. 

Encouraging supplementary projects 

Employees can be assigned to different projects that don’t form part of their day-to-day tasks. In some cases, supplementary projects can be assigned when an employee is temporarily absent and work needs to continue as intended. Otherwise, it can be used as a way to develop an employee’s needed skills in order to be promoted. 

In our Content Creation team, we have one day each month that’s dedicated to focused experimentation. We call it Hackaday – and we proudly stole the idea from our IT department, who stole it from Microsoft. During this day, we all have a free pass to do whatever we want in the name of innovation. 

Stuff like researching different personas, finding new blog post ideas, improving existing processes, and thinking of new workflows are all examples of what might come out of a Hackaday project. The following day, we have a team meeting where we can showcase what we did and why it might be useful for our team. 

Why is internal mobility important? 

The latest Conference Board Annual Survey found that one of CEO and HR executives’ main internal stressors is retaining and attracting top talent. After all, an organization is only as good as its employees. 

Career mobility works as one major mechanism for retaining your high-value talent. But what exactly can you expect from optimizing your internal mobility program? 

Enhanced employee retention

Employees are 41% more willing to stay in a company that has a good talent mobility program and regularly hires within. A Gartner report also found that employees are 27% more likely to put extra effort into their work when organizations have better internal mobility. 

68% of employees say that development is one of most important policies a company can have while 98% say that well-planned training improves overall engagement. On the other hand, a lack of career progression causes employees to leave their workplace. So, career mobility offers job satisfaction, which helps retain your top talent.  

Cost and time saving 

You’re likely spending half an employee’s salary just to replace them with an external recruit. This is even more evident when you’re hiring for high demand roles or a position requiring a considerable deal of experience and skill. 

Couple that with the fact that internal hires generally outperform external candidates in their first two years of employment. So, not only are you losing a ton of money, but you’re also reducing your productivity. 

When you’re investing in a career mobility program, you’re leveraging your existing talent. That means you can avoid external recruiting procedures (posting job listings, sifting through applications, and screen recruits) that are expensive and time-consuming. 

But it’s not just the recruiting, hiring, or even onboarding of someone with no experience in your company or that particular role. The manager, mentor, and rest of the team also loses productivity because of time devoted to training the new hire. 

So, you lose out on the work that new hire will be responsible for while they’re training plus you have the daily tasks not being done by existing employees that are now involved in training and covering responsibilities. This doesn’t apply when you hire from within your organization, resulting in A LOT of saved time and resources.  

Internal mobility best practices to leverage existing talent 

Designing and implementing specific procedures to move your existing talent around makes internal mobility easier. But, like with most things, there are many ways to skin a cat. 

Here are four of the internal mobility best practices that you can use to start leveraging your existing talent: 

Cross-train your employees 

When you cross-train an employee, you set them up with the skillset to perform another job within your organization along with their primary role. One of the main benefits cross-training has is that it enhances organizational flexibility. 

By cross-training your employees, you offer them a stronger understanding of how the company operates at various levels. At Process Street, one form of cross-training happens during the onboarding process. 

Like I mentioned earlier, when I first started, I did shadow work in the Customer Support department for two weeks. During this time, I was responding to support tickets from users. The goal behind this was to increase my knowledge of the product itself, rather than the generic use cases I would need to know to write articles about it. 

Use technology 

Career mobility is structured throughout an entire organization. This is a pretty intense process that every employee needs to be familiar with if they want it to be successful. 

That’s why process documentation is so important. It standardizes your internal mobility for your entire organization. Digitalization of this process is key. From this, you can ensure all your employees have access to this talent mobility program. 

Given that everyone is looped into your internal mobility program, you need to effectively manage cross-department collaboration. The bigger your company, the harder it’s going to be to sustain collaboration and keep your career mobility program organized. 

Process management tools, like Process Street, can help you detail everything that needs to be done in your talent mobility process and assign the necessary people who need to participate in it. Any work that needs to be approved can be done through approval features and due dates can be set to ensure all work gets done on time. 

Prioritize transparent communication 

You want your employees to feel in the loop. Articulating your career mobility process is an excellent way to achieve this. 

Before launching the program, you want to inform your existing talent and communicate the strategies you’re taking. This will help your employees understand how the process works. 

Process documentation is great for creating this transparent communication. You can outline what new roles or opportunities are available, how they can apply, what they can expect, and the next steps in the process. 

When you communicate this, you also give your existing employees the opportunity to address any concerns they might have, making them feel respected and valued.

Educate managers 

As an HR executive, it’s your responsibility to ensure management understands how your internal mobility program works and why it’s important. Given that you’re putting a lot of time and effort into this program, you want it to reap as many benefits as possible. 

Educating your management on how the process works is going to help them spot and create internal opportunities while linking competent existing employees to such opportunities. From here, these managers can also help in fostering a transparent, supportive, and growth-focused culture. 

Across is the only way up 

When you have a good internal mobility plan in action, you’re maximizing your workforce’s potential. You’re basically getting the greatest return on what you’ve already invested in your existing talent. Who doesn’t want that? 

But you’re not just getting a better return on your investment. Offering opportunities for existing employees to move within your organization boosts employee engagement, reduces churn, and diversifies your culture and workforce skill set. 

Internal mobility isn’t limited to one department. It involves the entire organization, which can make communication tricky. The larger the corporate structure, the more complicated it is to ensure these opportunities are meeting the right people. 

That’s where process documentation can help keep your program clear for everyone involved. When you document your process, you give your employees a uniform model of what they can expect, what is expected of them, and how they can move forward. Everything is clear, which is what you need for your talent mobility process to reap employee retention and overall success. 

What types of internal mobility do you encourage in your company? Which do you think is the most effective? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Grace Donaldson

Grace is a content writer with a thirst for knowledge and coffee. You'll find her reading in a small café or singing at a rundown jazz bar when she's not overconsuming coffee or compartmentalizing her thoughts into a blog post.

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