5 Steps to Building a Culture that Supports Internal Talent Development and Mobility

Our new research found that while 68 percent of all respondents – leaders, frontline managers, and non-managers – believe that upskilling is important, 42 percent are concerned about not having skills that are relevant to the future of work. That’s largely because people are not getting access to skills and career development opportunity.

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What we have here is a failure to communicate.

All over the world, working people are craving support to learn, grow and future-proof their careers. They understand that the very nature of work is changing, and if they are to remain relevant, they will need to acquire new skills to fill the jobs of the future.

And for the most part, employers understand this pressing need for career and skills development. But somehow, even though we all want the same things, employers, and the people they employ just can’t seem to start the career development conversation.

That paradox is laid bare in new data collected for Resetting Normal: Defining a New Era of Work, a ground-breaking global survey from The Adecco Group. In early 2021, an online survey reached 14,800 white collar workers between the ages of 18 and 60, spread across 25 countries. The respondents all had desk-based jobs, worked at least 20 hours a week and were required to work remotely during the pandemic.

The survey found keen interest in career and skills development among senior leaders, frontline managers, and non-managers. However, what was also patently clear was that there were very few focused conversations going on between these constituencies to jump start the career development journey.

The survey found that while 68 percent of all respondents – leaders, frontline managers, and non-managers – believe that upskilling is important, 42 percent are concerned about not having skills that are relevant to the future of work, in fact whilst this is a significant number of people globally this increased to more than three in five (64 percent) respondents expressing concern in Australia. This is largely because people are not getting access to the skills and career development opportunities.

Globally only 22 percent of managers and 31 percent of senior leaders are getting upskilling opportunities. That might explain why only 31 percent of non-managers believe that their leaders are willing to give them time and resources for upskilling or reskilling.

Whilst the responses were generally more favourable across Australia with up to 64 percent of all respondents receiving some time and resources for training, upskilling and reskilling in the last 12 months it was clear support received by non-managers was lacking and it was the senior leaders (82 percent) that felt they had the most opportunity, although interestingly less than half said they had participated in leadership training. 

That last data point certainly suggests while all respondent groups support the concept of skills and career development, there is no overarching culture of learning and development at play, and no internal mechanisms to allow people to seek internal re-/skilling opportunities.

How can organisations create that culture and build those mechanisms? Take these five steps to building a culture that supports internal talent development and mobility:

1/ A culture of life-long learning and development starts with senior leaders. It is impossible to satisfy the cravings of your employees for career and skills development unless senior leaders are enunciating their support and backing up those words with resources. And they must communicate clearly and directly with their direct reports and frontline managers to let them know that career and skills development are essential for long-term success.

2/ Formalise a system of internal mobility to create the opportunities that will inspire people to re-/upskill. One of the main reasons employees do not seek re-/upskilling is that they do not think there are any opportunities for internal mobility. Sometimes, this is a result of managers hoarding talent and discouraging people from seeking other jobs within the same organisation. In other instances, hiring managers may prefer to hire externally rather than go through the trouble of identifying and developing internal talent for new roles. Senior leaders must create an internal talent mobility mechanism that allows people to step forward to seek new opportunities and engage in learning that may go with those new roles.

3/ Active career conversations need to be part of ongoing communication between employees and frontline managers. The survey showed that far too many non-managers are discouraged from seeking career and skills development because they think their managers do not want to spare them the time to engage in re-/upskilling. This needs to change. Managers should schedule regular career conversations with their teams, identify employees ready to learn and grow, and help plot a path to new opportunities.

4/ Build a career lattice for your people, not a career ladder. A feature of any functional internal talent mobility mechanism is a lattice structure for career development. Many organisations who are leading their industries in internal talent mobility encourage employees to seek all kinds of opportunities – from lateral moves to foreign assignments and special projects – that do not necessarily mean a move up the traditional career ladder. Non-linear career development promotes better alignment between talent and role, which ultimately taps into an individual’s potential. That is a win-win for organisation and employee. 

5/ Make sure your employees know they share the responsibility for career and skills development. Although organisational support is important, the individual bears much of the responsibility for moving their careers forward. Organisations can open doors to re-/upskilling opportunities, and conduct regular career conversations, but it’s still up to the individual to drive those conversations and voice career aspirations. No one can be dragged kicking and screaming into learning opportunities; employees need to be equal partners in the career and skill development journey.

Creating a culture and mechanisms that allow internal mobility to flourish can create benefits for both individual and organisation. For the individual, it’s the opportunity to learn, grow and achieve true career satisfaction. For the organisation, it’s the opportunity to get the right people into the right jobs and empower them to achieve their full potential.

Download our report and learn three best practices that will address the disconnect and engage employees in setting career goals.


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