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Workforce Planning | 21 minute read

The dos and don’ts of talent mobility

June 22, 2023


In today’s competitive and ever-changing labor market, talent acquisition teams are increasingly prioritizing talent mobility programs to help close skills gaps and pivot quickly. However, like any strategy, there are dos and don’ts that organizations should keep in mind when implementing a talent mobility program.  

In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits of talent mobility and the dos and don’ts: 

What is talent mobility? 

Talent mobility (also known as internal mobility) is the movement of employees between different roles, functions or geographies within an organization. A well-developed talent mobility strategy will help talent acquisition (TA), human resources (HR), and learning and development (L&D) professionals address current skills gaps, reduce time-to-hire and boost employee retention. Talent mobility also gives employees opportunities to grow professionally, learn new skills and contribute more effectively to the organization’s success. 

What are the benefits of talent mobility? 

#1: Increased employee engagement and retention

Talent mobility programs can increase employee engagement and reduce turnover rates. When employees are given the opportunity to learn and grow within an organization, they are more likely to feel valued and invested in the company’s success. Additionally, employees who have made an internal move have a greater chance of staying with their company than those who have not.

At the two-year mark, an employee who has made an internal move has a 75% likelihood of staying with their company while an employee who has not made an internal move has a 56% likelihood of staying with their company.

Source: LinkedIn's 2023 Workplace Learning Report

#2: Improved awareness of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) 

Representation of white women and people of color decreases incrementally as career levels rise, according to McKinsey's Women in the Workplace 2022 Report. For example, in 2022, 41% of managers were white men, 27% were white women, 19% were men of color and 14% were women of color. Unfortunately, there is an even greater disparity when it comes to senior managers, directors, VPs, SVPs and the C-Suite.

Web capture_21-6-2023_12453_www.mckinsey.com

Talent mobility programs empower employees of all backgrounds to pursue internal opportunities through intentional career pathing. The collaboration between departments, including TA, HR, L&D and internal recruitment (IR), ensures a proactive approach to attracting and engaging with internal talent so existing employees don’t get overlooked when new roles become available. 

Be sure to add skills and completed training programs on internal employee profiles to help TA teams identify if desired skills for a position already exist inside the business. Include internal openings in companywide communications but don’t fall into the mindset that one email or a fleeting mention on an all-in call is enough. You should be encouraging employees to visit a central hub often to see if they are interested in any opportunities.  

#3: Enhanced innovation and creativity 

When employees are given the opportunity to move to different roles or departments, they take unique perspectives and experiences with them, which boosts innovation. Talent mobility provides a path for employees to work on new projects and encourages collaboration, knowledge-sharing and problem-solving across multiple teams. 

What are the dos of talent mobility? 

#1: Develop a clear talent mobility strategy 

It sounds obvious, but before implementing a talent mobility program, TA, HR and L&D should develop a clear strategy that aligns with their organization’s hiring goals and objectives. This strategy should outline how talent mobility will be integrated into the company’s overall talent management framework, identify key stakeholders responsible for implementing the program and set clear objectives and metrics for success. 

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#2: Gain buy-in from leadership  

Managers play a critical role in facilitating talent mobility by identifying suitable roles for employees on the team they lead. To do this, managers should have regular conversations with their direct reports about their career aspirations and identify ways to help them achieve their goals through internal mobility opportunities.  

Managers should also meet with leaders from other teams. Doing so enhances collaboration between departments and makes it easier to pinpoint skill gaps. These meetings are a great time to identify internal "gig" opportunities, reflect on everyone’s unique talents and facilitate a smooth transition for employees switching roles. While leaders may not want to lose team members to other departments, it's important to remember that it is for the benefit of the team member and the business as a whole.

#3: Provide access to relevant training and resources 

To help employees acquire the skills needed for new roles, employers must provide access to relevant development opportunities, such as: 

  • On-demand learning  
  • On-the-job training 
  • Continuing education
  • Certifications 
  • Upskilling programs 
  • Mentorship programs 
  • Reverse mentorship programs 
  • Peer buddy programs 
  • Career coaching 
  • Job shadowing 

By providing all of these opportunities (or a combination of them), organizations can create a culture of continuous learning that supports talent mobility and career growth.  

#4: Build a robust L&D program for reskilling and upskilling 

76% of employees said they would be more likely to stay at a company that offers continuous learning opportunities. 
Source: SHRM’s 2022 Workplace Learning & Development Trends Report

To help employees acquire the skills needed for new roles, companies need to create a culture where learning is encouraged and celebrated. The best way to do this is by building a robust L&D program that addresses current skills gaps and supports ongoing learning. Consider creating compelling content on topics such as leadership development, decision-making, stress management and problem-solving. You can also use gamification, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to make your L&D program more immersive, interactive and fun. 

L&D programs set the foundation for successful talent mobility programs and movement within the company, so the time and resources spent upfront will be well worth it in the long term. 

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#5: Recognize and reward employees who take on new challenges 

Employees who take on new challenges and succeed in their new roles should be recognized and rewarded for their efforts. Here are a few ideas to pull inspiration from:  

  • Regularly spotlight your employees’ accomplishments in team meetings, company calls and companywide emails.
  • Create digital certificates and/or award badges that employees can share on social media or keep for their own record.
  • Send company swag items or gift cards to employees who succeed in their new roles around the 30-, 60- or 90-day mark. 
  • Reward employees who proactively drive their career development with a promotion or out-of-cycle bonus. 

By recognizing employees who take on new challenges, you can demonstrate your organization's commitment to supporting employee growth and development.

What are the don'ts of talent mobility? 

#1: Don’t ignore employee preferences and interests 

While 81% of HR managers believe tapping into employees’ interests is important, only 47% of employees think their employers take their future interests into consideration. 
Source: Gloat Research Group

This discrepancy reveals how important it is to factor in the preferences and interests of your employees when building a talent mobility program. By working with HR and L&D departments, TA teams can tie employees' skills back to the business’s overall priorities and objectives. This also accounts for different career pathing opportunities, whether employees wish to become people leaders or subject matter experts, or change departments entirely.  

#2: Don’t overlook the importance of communication and transparency

A solid communication strategy is integral to having a successful talent mobility program. Overlooking this could discourage employees or make them feel stagnant. Prioritize positions internally — especially with skills you know are available — before you promote them externally. You can also host internal career fairs, create an internal talent marketplace for employees to browse, communicate opportunities via email and include in other companywide communications.  

#3: Don’t neglect ongoing feedback and support 

Transitioning to a new role can be challenging, and employees need ongoing support, feedback and encouragement to succeed. This is a collective responsibility across the organization, including leaders, internal recruitment and L&D team members— all should work together to support employees and build skills within the organization.  

Leaders should always use one-on-one meetings to coach, mentor and support employees who are transitioning into new roles to help them overcome any newfound challenges. Internal recruitment also plays an important role by supporting employees who express interest in internal openings, acting as a support system throughout the application and interview process and providing constructive feedback to candidates who were not selected for the role. 

#4: Don’t forget to measure the impact of your talent mobility program 

To ensure the success of workforce planning, organizations should measure talent mobility’s impact on employee engagement, retention and productivity. Send surveys to your employees to gauge their level of satisfaction with your talent mobility program. Ask about their experiences, whether they feel supported in their career development and if they believe the program has provided them with new opportunities for growth. This also includes exit interviews for those who are changing roles.  

It's ideal to include questions on whether your talent mobility program has allowed them to gain new skills or improve existing ones. This provides measurable impact you can use to gain future buy-in for more training and upskilling opportunities.  

Measure your talent mobility efforts through the following: 

  • Track hiring costs, such as recruitment fees and onboarding expenses, as well as time-to-hire.  
  • Conduct focus groups to gather employees’ perspectives on your program’s strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement.  
  • Measure the number of underrepresented individuals in positions of higher responsibility and assess if the program has contributed to a more inclusive workforce. 
  • Track the percentage of positions filled internally (a higher internal mobility rate indicates your talent mobility program is working). 
  • Compare the retention rate of employees who have participated in the talent mobility program with those who have not.  

Unlock the full potential of your workforce with talent mobility 

By embracing talent mobility, your organization can boost employee engagement and retention, foster diversity and inclusion, and drive innovation and creativity. However, talent mobility is part of a larger, more holistic talent acquisition strategy so it's important to balance big-picture business goals with external expertise and diversity of thought. By considering these dos and don'ts, organizations can build effective talent mobility programs that unlock the full potential of their workforce and drive sustainable success in today's dynamic business landscape

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About Kelly Charbonneau

Kelly Charbonneau joined WilsonHCG in 2022 as a Sr. P&C business partner of talent and organizational development. Kelly has spent her career creating and implementing talent solutions in various industries including consulting, healthcare and financial technology. She's passionate about developing solutions that drive employee engagement and development, organizational effectiveness, and a high-performance culture.