Why internal talent mobility is broken

An exploration of why companies keep mourning regrettable turnover due to insufficient internal talent mobility. ​

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By Melanie Holly Pasch, Lead Communications Strategist

With growing skill shortages and low unemployment, internal talent mobility has become widely recognized as critically important for companies across industries to meet their business goals. The Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2019 report shows that 76% of C-Suite-level executives believe internal talent mobility is important with 20% stating its one of their company’s 3 most urgent issues.

Internal mobility taps into existing human resources to expand capacity, skills, and output, while empowering individual employees to grow professionally at their careers inside the company. It’s the ultimate win-win for companies and employees, and yet it’s hard to come up with examples of companies that are doing this right across the board. Deloitte recently reported that only 6% of companies surveyed believe they are excellent at moving people from role to role.

Perhaps the reason internal talent mobility doesn’t really work at most companies is the lack of ownership. Companies are only recently realizing the importance of internal talent mobility so its processes and ownership are still up in the air. Should HR departments lead internal talent mobility or should business development, strategy, or operations departments?

Internal positions should be treated like external positions

Recruiters are awesome at recruiting – that is what they do. As William Tincup, President of RecruitingDaily.com once told me: most HR professionals who do not specialize in recruitment, are not good at recruiting – certainly not good enough to tackle internal talent moves perfectly across global enterprises. After an employee is hired, onboarded, and reaches their inevitable plateau, they don’t have access to awesome internal recruiters, instead they ask their direct manager or maybe a general HR manager what their options are. Or more realistically, they don’t say anything at all and simply look for opportunities outside the company on LinkedIn or Indeed and slip away, taking their talents, company knowledge, and client relationships with them. 

The field of Human Resource Management is vast and should be treated as such. Not all HR professionals are good recruiters and large enterprises need internal recruiters. Yet even with an excellent team of internal recruiters, without the large-scale visibility that only Artificial Intelligence can provide, this team would fail to prevent regrettable turnover in a meaningful way. 

Turnover is an inevitable part of a company’s lifecycle. It’s simply a reality. People leave companies all the time for reasons that are both the company’s fault and not at all. Sometimes those who leave do so with the mutual understanding that the timing is right and it’s time to move on, but the turnover that really harms companies is the regrettable kind. These are the people who leave and their absence hurts. Whether it’s their leadership, expertise, or incredible business relationships, some employees are simply priceless. Others, less so, but on an aggregate scale have a significant impact on the company’s productivity, output, and morale.

A report by the Center for American Progress, citing 11 research papers published over a 15-year period, determined that the average economic cost to a company of turning over a highly skilled job is 213% of the cost of one year’s compensation for that role.

Increasing access to internal mobility across large organizations concretely reduces regrettable turnover. People will still have to leave if their spouses relocate to an area where the company doesn’t have a presence or if it’s simply not the best fit for them, but those who don’t know how to find what they’re looking for within the company should be able to do so with an internal talent marketplace.

Internal talent mobility must be a priority empowered by the right technology

Companies aren’t meeting the needs of young workers

Previous generations didn’t demand that companies prioritize visibility and access to clear career paths within the company.  There was once a high premium placed on the stability that came with a nine to five job and people stayed for sometimes their entire careers at one company.  They largely trusted the company to promote them and were willing to slowly work their way up the corporate ladder.

Today, individuals manage their own careers utilizing the many technologically advanced tools to do so such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed. It is quite easy to assess one’s demand in the market without even going out for interviews with these online tools. Millennials are already the largest generation in the workforce with Generation Z on the rise. 49% of millennials are actively looking for a new job or open to a new opportunity, that means half of the largest generation in the workforce has at least one eye out the door. Companies should have their best strategists on this impending talent crisis.

Younger generations don’t want to stay at one company for the entirety of their careers, instead they want a diversity of experiences in different environments amassing skills and discovering their passions. A LinkedIn report found that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. Companies would be well advised to begin to implement internal talent mobility and learning and development initiatives that are structured for success if they want to keep young talent. PwC’s 2017 CEO survey reports that chief executives view the unavailability of talent and skills as the biggest threat to their business. The crisis of retaining and engaging young talent is already here and successful internal mobility and learning and development programs can solve it.

Changing the terms

Part of building the internal mobility and learning and development programs young employees so deeply crave, is adapting to the new mindset of younger generations. The terms have changed, and companies need to show they are ready for the future of work. Rather than jobs, young workers want gigs, be it full-time or part-time, remote, or in-person, the future of work will not be that of the past.

Companies must start talking about roles as gigs, not literally termed gigs, per say, but they aren’t fixed or static – roles that keep young employees engaged and performing at their best are dynamic and changing. The era of one person one job has come to an end. Millennials and Gen Zers want to hold several roles within a company as long as they are gaining new skills and experiences to enrich themselves and their career capital. The Harvard Business Review reports that nearly 90% of employees would move to an internal position without any financial incentives.

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A lack of internal talent mobility fosters a cycle of bad management

Put simply, internal talent mobility gets rid of bad managers. The more visibility an organization has on their talent and how they are working, the easier it is to see which managers are leaders, empowering their employees and which are holding talent back and ultimately costing the company millions in unproductivity due to a lack of engagement and motivation ultimately leading to high turnover. Along with building an infrastructure for internal mobility and career development, companies must hold their managers accountable for their own participation in these programs as well as that of their employees.

These changes in today’s workplace are undoubtedly scary for bad managers as it should be getting harder and harder for them to hoard talent and keep their employees from moving on internally when the time comes. Deloitte found that 46% of managers actively resist internal mobility. This forms a cycle of bad managers preventing top talent from moving inside the company to where they can shine, instead causing them to leave while these bad managers remain in power. Coming up with meaningful incentives for managers to get their employees onboard with talent sharing programs that foster career development and productivity is another important step for companies.

Companies must incentivize agile teams over strict hierarchies to enable the fluid flow of talent necessary to thrive in the future of work.

A lack of visibility and ownership of internal talent mobility

Going back to the core issue of a lack of ownership of internal talent mobility, companies tend to leave this vital component in the hands of those who don’t really care. Managers who have no incentive to share their talent and take on new teammates will not create an innovative culture that promotes agile teams and networks. This is not conducive to future success. Similarly, HR professionals who simply have internal mobility initiatives thrown in their laps because their executives caught wind that this is paramount, will lack the understanding, expertise, and most critically visibility to actually create meaningful change.

At present, most companies lack the visibility to understand their current talent. Many HR professionals at great companies admit resorting to LinkedIn to try and assess their own employees’ skills and experience. Without visibility on a company’s people, they don’t stand a chance at creating a successful structure of internal talent mobility to prevent the costly pain of regrettable turnover.

Introducing the internal talent marketplace

While professionals assess which department or if an entirely new department should be created to tackle the important task of building, maintaining, and fostering meaningful change to empower internal talent mobility, why not empower employees to do this themselves?

AI has gifted the world with the easy of its brilliance in the form of digital talent marketplaces. InnerMobility by Gloat is just that, an AI-based internal talent marketplace matching individuals with personalized career opportunities within the company, be it a full-time role, part-time project, job swap, or even mentorship.

The InnerMobility platform allows individual employees to take ownership over their own careers and their advancement and direction, while providing companies with unprecedented data and visibility on their own employees. For us here at Gloat, the career development of the future is connecting people in different ways within the global enterprise through advanced technology. We’d love to show you how it works.

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