Why internal mobility relies on near matches, not perfect fits

It’s time to see your people for their potential. Here’s how:

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist @ Gloat

February 16, 2022

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At this point, most HR and business leaders have internal mobility on their radar. After months of sub-par jobs reports and countless headlines warning about the severe labor shortage, many companies are looking inwards to retain and engage their workforce. And there’s good reason to believe this tactic works: our research found that more than two-thirds of the workforce wants to be considered for new opportunities within their organization.

Although businesses have their sights set on internal mobility, most initiatives aren’t going far enough. Some might think that increasing access to cross-functional collaboration opportunities is enough to set put their people’s skills into motion. But internal mobility is much bigger than that. To fully understand their workforce’s potential, leaders must recognize that employees don’t need to possess every single skill an opportunity requires. Instead, what matters is for employees to know how to build new competencies, and for organizations to have the tools to dynamically shift as business priorities change.

It’s time to stop searching for perfect fits and start embracing candidates who are near matches. While this mindset shift is a major transition, it’s the only way to ensure internal mobility takes off at your organization. So what can you do to convince your managers to take a leap of faith and make the switch?

Internal mobility in the new world of work

As the war for talent heats up and the Big Quit continues, internal mobility can’t remain an afterthought. It must become the standard way of operating. For many leaders, prioritizing growing the workforce from within is a complete 180, since external recruitment has long been the dominant way to fill hiring needs.

Fortunately, embracing internal mobility as your new go-to strategy for talent sourcing has several advantages, including:

Improved efficiency
When external candidates are brought into your organization, getting them up to speed is a tricky process. Harvard Business Review estimates that it generally takes new hires eight months to reach full productivity. In contrast, your existing employees already have organizational knowledge, which means they’re able to get a jump start on pressing priorities.

Enhanced agility
Moving internal candidates into new projects is a win for agility. As the pace of change accelerates, it will no longer be feasible to conduct lengthy job searches to fill roles. Instead, an impactful internal mobility strategy enables you to rapidly reallocate talent and respond to emerging challenges in real-time.

Better collaboration
When employees participate in projects within various teams and departments, they develop a better understanding of how your organization functions at a high level. As a result, your workforce can collaborate more efficiently because organizational silos no longer stand in the way of cross-departmental deliverables.

Why near-matches beat perfect fits

Perfect-fit candidates might have made sense a decade ago when business models were predictable and companies were vying for stability. But now that agility is a requirement for business success, our approach to work and careers must be reimagined to enable rapid pivots.

Organizations are beginning to embrace the pixelated workforce model by deconstructing jobs into projects and gigs. In addition to improving agility, pixelation opens the door to superior internal mobility, since it creates different kinds of opportunities in which employees can partake. Rather than just moving internal talent from one full-time role to another, workers can pursue part-time projects or temporary assignments that align with both personal ambitions and business needs.

As pixelation goes mainstream, best-fit candidates become obsolete. Skill requirements are moving targets. No employee can possess all the skills needed to perform an ever-evolving assortment of tasks and emerging business priorities. But there are team members who have enough related experience and foundational knowledge to dynamically develop new competencies in the face of arising challenges. It’s these near-matches that will make your internal mobility initiative successful.

3 steps to find near-match employees within your organization

The first step to launching a successful internal mobility initiative is understanding that it’s near-matches, not perfect-fit candidates that you’re looking for. But how do you find them?

Here are three best practices that can help you uncover the talent that you’re looking for:

#1. Pass the baton to your employees
Your internal mobility initiative will fail if employees think their career can only take only one direction. Your people need to know they’re in control of their professional progression, and this starts with ensuring that everyone has visibility into the opportunities within your organization. A talent marketplace with career pathing tools can empower your workforce to take ownership of their career progression and identify the internal opportunities that will help them achieve their goals.

#2. Level up experiential learning
What does it take to turn your near-match employees into best fits? While L&D content can serve as a strong foundation, your workforce needs the opportunity to put the lessons they’re learning into practice. And to do that, they must be able to participate in hands-on learning experiences like mentorships and gigs. By aligning employees to tasks based on their skills, experiences, and ambitions, talent marketplaces make allow everyone to access experiential learning opportunities.

#3. Eliminate bias
Human hiring decisions are inherently biased. Even the most self-aware leaders have underlying assumptions that unconsciously sway staffing decisions and limit internal mobility. Fortunately, recent technological innovations have enabled us to remove bias from the equation. Talent marketplaces powered by ethically constructed AI democratize career development and increase the visibility of opportunities and talent so that no systemic barriers hinder talent mobility.

All of us sense that internal mobility is going to be crucial in the new world of work. What often gets overlooked is the mindset shift that must take place to embrace and take action on this new reality. To learn more about the frameworks leaders need to embrace to get ahead in our next chapter, check out our ebook, The ultimate guide to the skills-based organization.

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