How HR teams can encourage internal mobility in the workplace

'How do you promote it? How do you demonstrate and show that this is something that's really important,' says expert, providing tips

How HR teams can encourage internal mobility in the workplace

For organisations, one of the major benefits of internal job mobility is staff retention, says Melissa Bowden, senior HR director, Asia Pacific & Japan at Workday. And this in turn feeds into higher employee engagement.

But there are different types of job mobility that aren’t just a promotion. They can also involve lateral moves, Bowen said.

“There are things like transfers, when you think about in-country transfers and geographical, international transfers,” she told HRD Australia. “If you think about secondments, project assignments, job rotations, and then even temporary assignments.”

Another key advantage of internal mobility Bowden highlighted is faster internal onboarding.

“If you think about where people are moving across, they know the organisation and… the key stakeholders, et cetera,” she said. “That onboarding is going to be far faster than it is if you bring in someone externally. We also know that we're going to be able to preserve the knowledge that is within that individual.”

Barriers to internal talent mobility

Bowden mentioned some of the barriers employees face when seeking internal mobility. She referred to a recent Workday report which found that 58% of internal employees went through the same recruitment process as external candidates.

And while a company may do this because they want to have a “competitive process”, she said it “really impacts the people's willingness or reluctance, perhaps, to actually go for those roles. And so there's a tendency that they may actually look elsewhere.”

Another key challenge for employees is the lack of visible job opportunities, Bowden said.

“Is there favouritism? Is there unconscious bias?” she said.  “So having an internal marketplace becomes really important.”

How to encourage talent mobility in a workplace

Bowden shared three tips for HR leaders on fostering workplace mobility. The first is to think through the processes that employees go through to seek a new job opportunity within the company. Particularly if it relates to the same process as an external hire.

“Maybe think through that: how do you remove those barriers so that it becomes really easy and provide that clarity and simplicity of a process?” she said.

The second step is to encourage internal mobility.

“How do you promote it? How do you demonstrate and show that this is something that's really important?” she said. “Organisations, even at a senior leadership level, do cross-functional mobility; leaders swap into different functions. And of course, that's typically part of succession planning but it's a great way to demonstrate it.”

The third is investing in a skills-based approach and understanding the skills an organisation needs to meet its strategic goals.

“At an organisation level that is so important in a dynamic and changing world that we have today,” Bowden said. “If you look at your skillset, and you're like, ‘We don't have enough of those skills in the business, we now need to develop’, it really helps when you're looking at enablement and training to really surface that and provide those opportunities.”  

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