HR Leads Business

Aug 8, 2019 | Clare Chiappetta

3 Ways to Improve Internal Mobility at Your Organization

A survey of business leaders by Deloitte found that 76% of respondents said internal mobility is important, and 20% rated it one of their organization’s three most urgent issues. It’s not difficult to see why — in a job market short on qualified candidates, filling positions internally can retain talent and reduce hiring costs.

But, even though internal mobility is a simple concept, it’s not as cut and dried as it seems. The same research from Deloitte found that half of respondents said it’s easier for employees to find a new position outside of their current organization than to find one within.

Creating a strategy for internal mobility is a proven method of retaining talent and organizational knowledge and for improving organizational culture. Here are three concrete ways to improve internal mobility at your organization.

Mobility Doesn’t Just Happen: Plan for It

As organizations grow or reorganize, they often create new positions. Rather than only look externally to fill these positions, they should think ahead and consider which internal candidates could bring their skills to a particular role.

Helen McPherson, founder and CEO of McPherson Consulting Group, recommends having a formalized process for the creation of new positions. “When creating new positions, go ahead and develop a database,” she says. List the required knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) for each role, and consider the career path necessary to acquire these KSAs. “Building this upfront saves the headache and appearance of inequity later on,” she says.

Invest in Lateral Mobility

We often focus on promotions when thinking of mobility within organizations, but lateral mobility offers employees the chance to hone their skills and broaden their understanding of the business. “They’ll gain an understanding of the whole operation, rather than working in one narrow area,” says Susan Andrews, an HR consultant at KIS Finance.

McPherson says organizations that embrace lateral mobility also have the opportunity to improve their work environment and culture. It lets employees who feel stifled in their current job move to a new position, giving them the chance to recharge and reconnect with the organization.

This is becoming more customary as the traditional career “ladder” becomes more of a “lattice” that lets employees “move over as they move up,” she says. It’s perhaps a more complicated path, but it can also be more rewarding, as long as organizations communicate with employees on how to navigate it.

Make Internal Development Part of the Performance Review Process

The stereotypical performance review is narrowly focused on an employee’s performance over the course of a year. These can be uncomfortable scenarios as employees fear they’ll be disciplined for poor performance. But, this is a short-sighted view of what performance reviews can and should be, says Shannon Whitman, founder of To B Consulting.

Whitman says organizations should emphasize internal development in performance management. “Changing the focus to career growth is a game-changer,” she says. “The performance appraisals themselves should include a section that documents the employee’s career goals and progress.”

To implement these more dynamic performance reviews, identify the employee’s career aspirations and the skills needed to reach them. Then provide stretch assignments that target these skills. “This creates a win-win situation for the organization, as it improves employee morale and increases loyalty among team members who feel valued and supported,” Whitman says.

To keep performance reviews as useful as possible, organizations also need to review their job descriptions regularly, she says. This keeps employees updated on what’s required as work responsibilities change and enables them to continue professional development opportunities.