The days of starting work in the mail room and ending up in the board room are over. Today’s innovation economy relies on specialized talent to keep the wheels turning and that sort of skill level doesn’t come with your burger and fries.
Many of today’s most in-demand jobs require both advanced degrees and years of specialized on-the job experience, making it much harder or even impossible for junior employees to climb the ladder.
While we’d never advocate hiring someone who wasn’t up to the job, it’s important to keep internal mobility alive and well at your company. Nobody wants to do the same job forever, no matter what they say during their annual review, and retaining your A-Players at all levels of your company will depend on how well you can plan for their future.
Internal Mobility: Does it Exist at Your Company?
“Internal Mobility” is one of those HR phrases that gets thrown around so much that it ends up collecting a whole lot of nonsense around the useful, core definition.
Here are the top two definitions of “Internal Mobility” from a Google search that are written in jargon-ese:
““Internal mobility” (a.k.a. mobility and talent mobility) is a dynamic internal process for moving talent from role to role – at the leadership, professional and operational levels.”
“Internal mobility is the procedure, which should be clearly defined by means of a policy, regulating the transfer of employees from a position to another within the same organization.”
Neither of these definitions are right. Besides being overly complicated, mobility is a state of being, not a process or a procedure. Making a career move within your company may depend on many separate procedures and policies, but, in the end, mobility is a measurement of how easy it is for your employees to advance in your organization.
If you are a high mobility organization, it means that your employees are able to advance within your company and make career moves inside of your organization. If you are a low mobility company, it means that you are probably favoring fresh hires over internal promotion and your employees are probably sick of it.
If your employees aren’t mobile, you can bet that they know it. While some people enjoy doing the same thing every day…forever…other people (especially talented people) want to go somewhere in life. You may have leadership, development or mentorship programs in place at your company, but do these programs add up to your employees believing they have a promising future with your company?
If your employees don’t believe they have a promising future with your company, they will find an employer who plans for their future. Simple as that. Whether it’s an entry level position or a senior positon, failing to provide mobility to your employees will ensure that their next career step is outside of your company.
Everyone can agree that being able to advance in your organization sounds good, but many employers are having trouble putting their money where their mouth is. According to a survey from Futurestep:
“Of the more than 1,000 executive responses, 87 percent said that having a strong internal mobility program, whereby employees are encouraged to apply for new roles within their organization, would definitely help with attraction and retention efforts. However, only one-third report that their companies have such programs.”
“Further, nearly one-third (32 percent) said employees have to keep their intent to apply for new positions within their company a secret from their current managers.”
Does this sound a little backwards to anyone else?
While most executives agree that internal mobility is a strong talent attractor and retention promotor, the majority of these executives aren’t actually doing much to help their employees toward their future goals.
This may not be anything new, but with the rise of employer review sites like Glassdoor, companies who falsely claim to provide mobility end up looking pretty bad online. While you’re welcome to keep claiming that your employees have a bright future at your company, this sort of dishonest policy will only result in resentment and negative publicity when your employees realize that they’re in a dead end job.
3 Reasons to Give Your Employees a Future
No matter where a job fits into the hierarchy or workflow at your company, you should provide all of your employees with the resources to advance in your organization. Here are the 3 big reasons why mobility is so important for attracting and retaining top talent.
Emphasizing Mobility Promotes Stability
Emphasizing mobility will go a long way toward decreasing turnover at your company. Nobody wants to feel like they’re stuck in a dead end job, and employees who feel this way are much more likely to disengage and, ultimately, quit as soon as they’ve found a better job.
More mobility means less turnover, which means more consistency for everyone. Emphasizing mobility ensures that your most skilled employees don’t feel like you’re ignoring their skills and hard work. When your senior positions are populated by company veterans instead of unfamiliar faces, it creates a culture of stability and provides an incentive for employees at all levels to do the best work that they can.
Low mobility will always lead to higher turnover and high turnover has a demoralizing effect on your employees. Besides the chaos that is created when an important employee decides to quit, high turnover is expensive and very dangerous. When the best people are always leaving your company, it can create a talent vacuum, a space in which only the complacent are able to do your dead end job. Talented people like to work with other talented people and, if you aren’t allowing your talent to advance, your ability to hire talent in the future will be damaged.
A Lack of Mobility Looks Bad (And Mobility Looks Good)
Would you ever apply to a job that included the phrase: “No possibility for advancement?” Probably not.
Employer review sites like Glassdoor are making it easy for employees and job seekers to blow the whistle on everything from bad management to a lack of cereal selection in the break room. What this means is, if you aren’t planning for the future of your employees, then any job seeker who cares to do minimal research on your company will know about it.
While you’re welcome to rely on your “careers” page to tell the story of mobility in your company, your version of the truth had better match with what your employees are saying. If the “official version” conflicts with what your employees are saying, job seekers will always trust their peers over the copy on your website.
It’s Better to Build From the Ground Up
Emphasizing mobility at your company will ensure that your organization never loses sight of the key details that add up to the big picture. Too often, the people at the top have very little hands-on experience with the front-line, revenue-generating work that keeps the wheels turning. This disconnect often leads to unrealistic expectations of these front-line workers or changes to policy and procedure that aren’t informed by first-hand experience.
While selling a product doesn’t automatically qualify you to produce or design that product, this sort of sales experience is still useful to have in a builder or designer. If you can provide the resources for your employees to further their skills and education, you can have senior staff who have valuable first-hand experience at multiple levels of your company.
As more jobs are automated, consolidated or replaced with an app, we are coming to see a more specialized workforce. This means that higher education and training will become more important for on-the job success. Investing in the skills and education of your employees will ensure that your staff has the skills to compete in the innovation economy. Additionally, having senor staff who have worked in junior roles will allow for improvements to be made to the way work is done at your company.
It is more important than ever to emphasize mobility at your company. Employer review sites are removing the option to fake this stuff and failing to provide mobility will hurt your ability to hire new talent and retain the talent you already have. Invest in the mentorship/learning programs that will allow your employees to climb the ladder at your company, or watch all of your best and brightest flock to your competitors.