If you want your organization to stay competitive, you need to keep your best talent with the company for the long term. But employees can, over time, grow out of their roles. But there’s a simple solution to keep talent with your company, even as they grow professionally.
And that’s talent mobility.
Talent mobility allows you to move employees within your company. This can help to improve everything from employee experience to engagement to retention.
But what, exactly, is talent mobility? Why is it so important? And how can you develop a talent mobility process that helps keep top talent with your organization?
What is talent mobility?
Talent mobility is a talent management and talent development strategy. More specifically, it’s the process of moving existing employees to new roles or departments within the same company. So, instead of hiring new talent to fill open positions? Organizations fill those positions with their current employees.
Generally, these moves are based on a few factors. These factors include the employees’ skillsets, new skills they want to develop, and their desired career paths. Talent mobility may also be used to address talent or skills gaps within the company. Vertical vs. horizontal mobility
When it comes to talent, there are a few different types of mobility—most notably, vertical mobility and horizontal mobility.
With vertical mobility, employees move into higher positions and job levels. Essentially, they’re promoted within the company.
For example, let’s say you have a marketing manager that shows real initiative. And, in response to their initiative and hard work, you promote them to marketing director. That’s an example of vertical mobility.
Horizontal mobility is a bit different. With horizontal mobility, employees are moved to new positions in the organization, but at the same job level as their previous role. This is also known as a lateral move.
Let’s say you have an executive assistant (EA) that supports a C-level executive—like your Chief Marketing Officer, for instance. If you were to reassign that EA to a new executive, like the CHRO, that would be considered horizontal mobility. The employee is taking on a new role, but they are making a sideways move rather than taking on a role that comes with a change in pay or authority.
Talent mobility vs. internal mobility
If you’ve ever heard the term ‘internal mobility,’ you might be wondering how it differs from talent mobility. The same goes for the term ‘internal talent mobility.’
And in short, they don’t.
Internal mobility and internal talent mobility are just synonyms for talent mobility. They are terms that describe moving current employees into new positions within the company.
What about promoting a top team member to an open position in their current department? Or what if you move an employee from one department to another, for example, from marketing to data analytics? You can call it talent mobility, internal mobility, or internal talent mobility. All of these terms are essentially interchangeable.
The benefits of talent mobility
Talent mobility offers a host of benefits—both to organizations and employees.
So what, exactly, are those benefits?
Some of the biggest benefits of having an effective talent mobility strategy include:
Retaining top talent
If you want your company to stay competitive, you need to retain top talent. And talent mobility is a great way to keep retention rates high.
Talent mobility has a lot to offer current team members. Employees get the opportunity to grow professionally, advance their careers, and develop new skills. This, in turn, shows employees the organization is invested in their career development. They feel more secure in their careers with the company. And when employees know their company is invested in them for the long run, they’re more likely to stay with that company for the long run.
Attracting new talent
What kind of reputation? A reputation for being a great place to work, a great place to plant roots, and a place that offers a wide variety of opportunities.
And when that reputation starts to spread in the talent marketplace? You’ll have top talent lining up to work for you.
Increased employee engagement
Most organizations have a serious problem with employee engagement. According to Gallup, only 36% of U.S. employees are engaged in their workplace.
But luckily, there’s a way to seriously increase employee engagement within your organization: talent mobility.
And that engagement boost can have a host of positive benefits for an organization. For example, according to the 2017 Gallup State of the American Workplace Report, engaged employees are 17 percent more productive and have a 41 percent lower rate of absenteeism than their less-engaged counterparts. Gallup also found that engaged employees are significantly less likely to be looking for jobs than disengaged employees—37 percent compared to 73 percent.
Less time onboarding
Another major benefit of talent mobility has to do with onboarding. Or, more specifically, how it can save you time and energy during the onboarding process.
When you move internal candidates into new positions, there will, of course, be a learning curve. You’ll need to onboard them to their new role and all the new tasks and responsibilities that go along with it.
But that learning curve will be significantly less with existing employees than it will be with external candidates. Brand new hires need to be introduced to everything. That includes how your company functions and all your processes, policies, and procedures. Because internal hires already work at your company, they can skip that part of the onboarding—saving time, energy, and resources.
Internal candidates will also be able to hit the ground running far faster than brand-new hires. In fact, according to research from Deloitte, it can take new hires almost two years to reach the level of productivity of an internal hire.
How do you develop talent mobility?
Clearly, talent mobility is a win-win for organizations and employees. But when it comes to talent mobility, what are the best practices you’ll want to keep in mind?
Here are the top three we recommend to foster talent mobility in your workplace.
1. Get your executive team on board
Like anything else, in order for your talent mobility program to be successful, you need to have the support of your executive team. So before you get too far into creating your talent mobility strategy, make sure to generate buy-in with your executive team.
Schedule a time to meet with your C-level executives. Have the HR team prepare a presentation that outlines your plan for talent mobility. Make sure to also showcase the benefits—and how talent mobility will not only help your employees but the organization as well.
Make the business case for internal mobility. Get your executive team on board. If your top executives support talent mobility, it will make the strategy easier to roll out across the organization.
2. Create a talent mobility task force
Setting up a talent mobility process effectively takes time, energy, and resources. For your internal mobility strategy to be successful, one of the best things you can do is create a talent mobility task force. And once they’re in place, give them the time, energy, and resources they need to be successful.
Your talent mobility task force will be the team in charge of developing and implementing your talent mobility strategy. Creating a talent mobility task force—rather than just assigning talent mobility to HR—offers some definite benefits.
Having a dedicated team to manage talent mobility ensures your program will get the time, thought, and attention it deserves. As such, it’s likely to be more successful, and you’re more likely to reap the program’s benefits.
So, who should be on this task force?
Include key stakeholders that are involved in your company’s hiring processes. This includes HR leaders and other HR professionals (like HR managers or recruiters). It may also include hiring managers.
Depending on your organization, you may assign employees to this task force. Or you might allow employees to volunteer. Whatever route you take, just make sure your task force includes top HR talent, hiring stakeholders, and strategic thinkers.
3. Create a clear strategy and processes around talent mobility
In order for talent mobility to be successful at your organization, you need executive buy in. You need a team dedicated to talent mobility. And, perhaps most importantly, you need a plan.
It should go without saying, but having a clear strategy for talent mobility is an absolute must.
Talent mobility strategies will vary from company to company, but some key things you’ll want to think about include:
- What are your ultimate goals? In order for your talent mobility program to be successful, you need to be clear on what success looks like. Define what goals you have for your talent mobility program. For example, are you looking to increase retention rates? Fill leadership roles with internal candidates? Fill skills gaps without investing in hiring new talent? Make sure you’re clear on your goals from the get-go.
- What’s your hiring process for internal candidates? It’s also important to define what your hiring process will be for internal candidates. For example, will internal candidates follow the same interview process as external candidates? Or can employees move to new roles based on manager recommendations? How will you handle onboarding for employees when they move to a new role? Iron out the details of how you plan to interview and hire internal candidates.
- How are you going to invest in growing your current employees? Talent mobility requires employees to develop new skills. This is particularly true for vertical mobility. So, as an organization, how are you going to help your employees develop those new skills? For example, you might expand your learning and development program. Or, you might give employees an education stipend.
- Are you going to combine talent pipelines? Internal mobility doesn’t mean you stop hiring outside talent. So, how are you going to manage internal and external candidates? Are you going to have two separate talent pipelines? Or, in other words, will you only consider internal candidates for some open roles and only external candidates for others? Or are you going to combine the two and consider both internal and external candidates for all your open roles? Deciding this upfront will help you stay organized and ensure the right candidates are being considered for each role. And that’s true whether they’re internal or external.
Bottom line: The clearer your talent mobility strategy, the more success you’ll have in moving your employees within your organization.
Developing an effective talent mobility process
You know what talent mobility is. You know why it’s important and the best practices to keep in mind when incorporating it into your hiring and growth strategies.
Now, let’s cover how to develop an effective talent mobility process.
1. Create clear guidelines around talent mobility
Talent mobility is all about moving talent around your organization. As such, it’s important that your employees know exactly how they can make those moves.
In order for this kind of career mobility to work effectively, there need to be clear guidelines, processes, and policies. While these policies will vary by organization, some guidelines you’ll want to set include:
- Application processes. Employees should know exactly how and where to apply for an internal role or promotion.
- Interviewing processes. Your employees should also know what to expect from the interview process when they apply for a new internal role.
- Time guidelines. If you’re going to have any restrictions around how often employees can change roles, that should be clearly outlined. The same is true if you’re going to have a minimum tenure in roles before making a move. For example, employees must be in a role for one year before moving to a new role.
- Promotion policy. For vertical mobility, you’ll want to have a promotion policy. This should outline the requirements employees will need to hit before being considered for a promotion.
2. Create detailed job descriptions
As mentioned, talent mobility can help you address skills gaps. It can also help you maximize your current employees’ skills, talents, and experience. But that’s only true if you know what those skills gaps are. And in order to identify potential skills gaps, you’ll need detailed job descriptions for every new role.
Create detailed job descriptions for all roles within your company. This should include key information like experience level and the role’s day-to-day responsibilities. It should also include any skills an employee would need to be successful in the position. For example, does an employee need a certain level of experience in a client-facing role? Or proficiency with a specific software? If so, it should be outlined in the job description.
The more your job descriptions break down, in detail, the skills needed to succeed in that role, the easier talent mobility will be. It will make it easier it is to identify skills gaps and match them with your existing employees’ skillsets. This will help you move talent in a way that makes sense and maximizes your human capital.
3. Map out your current employees’ skillsets and career goals
You can’t help your employees move to a position that would be a better fit if you don’t know what a “better fit” means for that employee.
So, another key element of developing an effective talent mobility process is career planning.
Have your managers sit down with their employees to map out where they are now within the company—as well as where they’d like to be in their careers. This includes listing out their current skills and identifying skills they’d like to develop. It also includes talking about their career goals and long-term aspirations. For example, are they happy in their current career path—or do they think they’d like to explore another team or department within the company? How do they see themselves growing in a year, five years, or ten years?
Getting clear on where your employees currently stand and how they’d like to grow professionally is crucial. It gives you the insight you need to leverage talent mobility in a way that serves your employees and helps them reach their career goals. And by giving them opportunities that align with their long-term goals, you can increase their job satisfaction. That, in turn, will increase the likelihood they’ll stay with the company.
4. Ask for employee feedback.
Talent mobility directly impacts your current employees. So, if you want to develop an effective talent mobility process, ask for their feedback.
Ask your employees what kind of internal mobility opportunities they’d like to see at the company. As you roll out your program, ask for feedback on your processes and policies. When you move an employee, ask them for feedback on the experience. This includes everything from applying to the role to interviewing to onboarding.
Then (and this is the important part!) take that feedback and use it to continually improve your talent mobility processes. Not only will your processes get better over time, but your employees will feel respected and heard. That can also go a long way in improving retention.
Use talent mobility to empower your organization
When done effectively, talent mobility can empower your organization. An effective internal mobility strategy can help you retain and attract top talent. It can also help your company fill skills gaps and improve productivity and engagement. And now that you understand why talent mobility is so important and how to develop a strategy yet out there and take your team—and your organization—to the next level.