Wake Up Call: Put Your Employees at the Center of Your Internal Mobility Strategy

At some point, your workers will leave you. But it doesn’t have to be too soon. Prioritizing your internal mobility program enables your workers to move around your organization, and it focuses efforts on worker retention. This is especially critical for retaining in-demand skills, adapting to sudden events and market changes, and future-proofing against the competition.

Attrition at key times

At key points of the year, often post-holiday season or around qualification milestones, workers reflect on their careers. Given that 3 million workers in the U.S. leave their roles voluntarily every month, retaining a greater proportion of your talent can be a significant competitive differentiator.

Offering opportunities to stay

How easy is it for workers to find new projects and roles across your organization? This doesn’t automatically mean a promotion – lateral job moves can be just as challenging and rewarding. Plus, moving your workers around builds the adaptability and agility that your workforce needs to remain competitive in an evolving market. While the market is still figuring out what automation and emerging technology mean for the workforce.

70% of high-risk retention employees feel that they must leave their organization in the near future to advance their careers. Enabling lateral job moves for workers ensures they’re progressing while aligning their skills, aspirations, and interests. Furthermore, as an organization, it shows investment in worker career growth.

Getting started: Knowing your workers’ goals

Improving your internal mobility strategy starts by understanding what your workers’ goals are. Look at the skills they want to develop, their 5-year plan, and how they intend to get there. Then find ways for your organization to assist them. This might be a stretch assignment in another business area, a tailored learning, and development (L&D) program, a secondment, or an entirely new role.

Offer alternative work styles

These efforts should consider all workers, including permanent, contractors, freelancers, alumni, and recruits. This is known as Total Talent, and by encompassing all forms of talent, you can give your workers the opportunity and autonomy to work how they want. This will give your workforce greater agility, with talent pools that can upscale and downscale as needed, with skilled workers who can be mobilized to different business areas depending on need, and internal and external talent engaged and bought-in to your company culture.

For example, a worker moving from a permanent to a contract role, or vice versa, retains crucial skills and knowledge as people move through different life stages. If someone wishes to retire, for example, they can remain within the organization’s talent pool as alumni — for consulting, one-off projects, or mentoring opportunities — incentivizing workers to remain within the organization in the longer term.

Know your skills data

To get started, you need to look at your skills data. Build a framework to use as a consistent way of describing and valuing skills in your organization and to gain an understanding of what your workforce needs. Every individual and organization will have different ways of describing their skills and competencies, but for any workforce-related strategy to work (like internal mobility), there must be consensus on describing and valuing skills.

Likewise, you need to gather a baseline of all the skills currently in your workforce, the skills workers wish to develop, and the ones that your business needs. Then look at how your internal mobility and Total Talent efforts can help you achieve this. Visibility over all skills ensures your workers are in the best roles for them and for the business, keeping them fully utilized and engaged.

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Give a reason for upskilling and learning

A further step is to give them a reason to learn new skills. Most people won’t upskill unless they see a tangible benefit to it – like a career opportunity. By linking work (via projects and roles) with learning, you will motivate people to constantly grow and take control of their careers.

Once workers understand how their upskilling efforts link directly to their career growth, they will actively seek opportunities to learn. This is made easier when each individual can access a dedicated skills profile that feeds into their career and learning opportunities. They’ll be able to see their current skills, their aspirations, and any opportunities that help them get to the next phase of their career.

Senior backing is needed

Of course, this is a significant change in the status quo and will require senior leader buy-in. When workers see their leaders actively upskilling, working on new projects, and using their skills, it causes a waterfall effect across all levels of the organization. A culture of career growth, internal mobility, and learning will develop, and that can pay dividends in the long run. With greater retention, agility, responsiveness to the market, and utilization of worker skills.

A constant journey

Keeping the best people moving throughout your organization, instead of moving on, should be a key priority for all business leaders. And it starts with your internal mobility strategy, plus an assessment of your organization’s effectiveness to mobilize skills and provide continuous learning.

Make sure your 2020 goals are around future-proofing your business.

Chris Milligan is founder and CEO of Adepto, a Degreed company, which he founded in 2013 in Brisbane, Australia and grew to a global company with offices in London, Australia and New York. He is an established Total Talent thought leader, award winner and speaker. Chris spent the early part of his career as a management consultant, building a multi- million-pound business and subsequently winning a place on the Australian Institute of Management’s “Top 30 under 30”.

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