Internal Mobility: Onward and Upward

by | Dec 20, 2021 | News

In a recent piece, we talked about the unspoken challenges of D&I: the pressure to deliver – and fast. It’s one of those topics that few people tackle because no one wants to admit that meaningful progress is still years off. 

Today, we’re going to switch gears and examine another topic that we need to get honest about, and that’s internal mobility. There’s a lot of content out there about internal mobility, but more often than not, the focus is on the purpose and benefits. Quotes with buzzy stats like, “Internal mobility is up 20 percent since the onset of COVID-19, according to LinkedIn data,” get recycled and repeated without telling the whole story. Until now, of course. 

Like D&I, the truth is that internal mobility is nowhere near as sophisticated or advanced as you are led to believe. Up 20 percent from what? Where was it pre-pandemic? Are skills “the new currency,” or are tighter budgets causing employers to look inward for the first time in years? These are big questions that don’t get answered algorithmically, at least not to start, and if we keep doing internal mobility the same way, we’ll see the same output. 

That’s why we need to shift our organizational mindset from overlooked and underappreciated to one of advocacy and empowerment. 

Internal Mobility: The employee side 

The blockers to internal mobility are two-fold: employee-side and employer-side. Employees need to understand the opportunities that are available to them and feel encouraged to apply. Scratch that, they need the ability to own their careers, take charge of their trajectory, and develop a sense of responsibility for their path – something that speaks to both culture and infrastructure of the organization. 

Too often, employees take on new duties with the same title and pay and little recourse on the part of their employer. Do you know what happens in those scenarios? The employee quits. 

Prudential Financial’s latest Pulse of the American Worker survey found that 26 percent of workers are planning to leave their current employer after the pandemic. More surprising, however, is that 80 percent are doing so because they’re concerned about career advancement and 72 percent say the pandemic caused them to rethink their skill sets. 

Internal mobility has no chance if retention gets in the way, which is why I return to the concept of stay interviews over and over again. You’ve heard of exit interviews, no doubt, but stay interviews offer the chance for employer and employee to sit down and discuss why the employee stays with the company. 

To get into what makes the workplace experience worthwhile in the long run, and that involves having frank conversations with employees, asking questions like: Who is the advocate for you in your career? How does our culture encourage you to grow? Do you have the resources in place to develop? What are you looking to achieve? 

Internal Mobility: The employer side 

Organizations that are serious about internal mobility have to think long and hard about the culture they’ve built and what it tells employees about their career prospects. Stay interviews are one example because these give employees an outlet and offer the employer critical intel about the existing workforce. 

Then, there are the systems at play. How employees learn about internal jobs, how they apply, and vice versa. Here’s where technology becomes important because, without it, these programs flounder and fizzle out. 

Says Prudential Financial vice chair Rob Falzon, “If you’re an employer and you’re not being accommodating, you’ll lose talent.” That right there is why employers should take a proactive approach to internal mobility and consider matching people to jobs as well as people to people. 

Pairing employees on stretch assignments or implementing job rotations, sharing, “The workforce of the future will look very different inside of a company, where there may even be a talent marketplace that enables employees to sign up for gigs or special projects that will advance their skills.

By now, every recruiter under the sun knows it’s not enough to simply post a job in hopes of stumbling across the right candidate. Recruiting requires the careful orchestration of sourcing, attraction, engagement, and the like to deliver a positive experience back to candidates. It’s time we stop treating internal mobility as something that will just happen. 

Employees are the candidates of internal mobility. It’s not enough to have an internal job board if they don’t feel inspired to use it. You have to know what you want, what they want, and empower one another with the possibilities.


William is the President of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He’s been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20 HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.

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