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Increase Retention and Engagement With Internal Mobility

November 21, 2022 Learning and Development
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Labor has long been known as the biggest cost of doing business, and this is especially true in a record-high inflation environment with rapidly rising wages. What's doubly extenuating today is that these costs are combined with an accelerated pace of turnover that has shown little signs of easing since the onset of the Great Resignation.

Companies seeking to maintain healthy profit margins have significant work to do to retain the talent they need. One strategic way to do so is to build the skills you need in-house and help current employees transition and grow into the roles they seek for the future.

Internal mobility — also referred to as upskilling or reskilling — is a great way to mitigate the high costs of recruiting.

A 2022 survey by software company Lever found that 61% of employees would search for a new job if their company didn't allow for a role switch. And this isn't new: just a year prior, a study by SHRM had also found that one-third of departing employees did so because of a lack of career advancement.

Advantages of Internal Mobility

Internal mobility is a crucial driver for keeping employees with their current employer. According to Lever's study, 41% of those people who stay with the same employer will ask for a role change, and 31% would be willing to take a pay cut for a new position.

Beyond that, internal mobility can also save organizations steep onboarding costs in addition to the costs associated with productivity loss from turnover. A 2021 study by Gallup, for instance, found it could take 12 months for an external hire to reach peak organizational performance. When recruiting internally, the employee is typically more effective sooner, thanks to the fact that they already know the ins and outs of the organization.

In short, WebServ CEO Preston Powell said, internal recruitment helps companies avoid the high costs and risks associated with finding, hiring and onboarding an external applicant.

Related Article: Want to Retain Employees? Invest in Training and Upskilling

4 Ways to Improve Your Organization's Internal Mobility

So, what are the tips for improving internal mobility within your organization?

1. Use an Internal Jobs Board

Ashley DeJesus, marketing and sales manager at IT consultancy AIS Network, said: "An internal job board is the best bet because everyone knows a job board's function and will keep an eye on it to track promising positions."

But to make it work, all managers and recruitment professionals within the organization should make sure to publish their latest internal job opportunities on the board. If some jobs aren't posted, employees may lose faith in the board's effectiveness and turn elsewhere for updates on opportunities.

Similarly, employees should be encouraged to check the board regularly and set up alerts for new possibilities that might interest them. Without activity on the board, it may prove to be a waste of time for managers and recruiters.

Managers can also play an active role for team members, scanning current opportunities and informing qualified team members of new suitable positions. DeJesus said she does that regularly. She may lose a valuable team member, but the company's health is much improved.

2. Promote Upskilling and Training

It is common for companies to conduct external searches for candidates on the grounds that internal candidates don't have the skills required for the new role. But in a tight labor market, this may be a costly move.

For instance, a 2021 Gartner survey found that 64% of organizations won't adopt emerging technologies and create new roles because of a lack of talent. Not considering training and developing employees to fill this role is a missed opportunity.

"The best way to advance internal employees is to prioritize upskilling and training," said Michelle Tilton, VP of marketing at 

Related Article: Where's the Technology to Address Internal Mobility Needs?

3. Collect Employee Feedback

Managers should have regular conversations with their employees about what the future looks like to them. Taking the pulse on their interests and career expectations can help not only stave off departures due to lack of opportunities but also build a strong roster of motivated workers to fill anticipated skills gaps.

Meanwhile, employees can receive feedback on their performance and the areas where they need to improve to access new roles. As a result, they will feel more engaged with the company and more likely to stay.

Ideally, these conversations should be done regularly, with clear steps that can help employees achieve their career aspirations.

4. Develop L&D Policies

HR leaders should work with managers to develop a good policy for internal mobility programs. These should have clear goals in mind and be mapped out carefully. For instance, the company may anticipate needing workers with AI or ML skills within the next three years, or a manager may be able to forecast certain team members losing interest in their role unless they can be given greater challenges in the near future.

Working together to develop goals and strategies that address the specific issues of the organization — and each of its departments — is key to L&D success. Some of the questions to address could include:

  • How are employees supported when looking for a job role change in the organization?
  • Are managers encouraged or incentivized to select internal candidates for new job opportunities within the organization?
  • Do employees know there are upskilling and internal mobility opportunities?
  • Does the company have a skills matrix or database to help them find or develop internal candidates for certain positions?

By answering these questions (and many others), companies can create an internal mobility framework to boost internal recruitment, engagement and retention. This one step can save the company significant labor costs and help them realize their long-term strategic goals.


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