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Making the case for mobility and overcoming the challenges

Mobility is a multifaceted solution, and continues to play an increasing role in the workplace as organisations look to avoid redundancy and retain more staff, retrain and redeploy. But before this can happen, organisations need to overcome some cultural and structural challenges to pave the way for an articulate, streamlined mobility programme.
AUG 16, 2023

Building a case for internal employee mobility


Career development can often be misunderstood by organisations and misperceived by employees. Many employees often look externally to pursue new career opportunities without considering opportunities within their existing organisation. Considering many employers are not effectively engaging with their talent, it is crucial that employers take steps to understanding their employees’ career aspirations to explore their options within the business.


We explore how HR professionals can present the three main cases for internal employee mobility, pitfalls businesses have experienced, and how to measure the effectiveness of mobility that works for both employee and organisation.


The People Case 


According to global LinkedIn data (January 2023), the amount of people and tenure that they stay in companies with internally promoted talent was 60% longer compared to organisations who did not actively promote internal mobility. When an organisation has high internal mobility, colleagues tend to stay for a median tenure of 4.9 years rather than a tenure of just 3.1 years in an organisation with low employee mobility.


The Profit Case 


According to the Institute of Corporate Productivity, organisations with higher top and bottom line performance were paralleled with higher revenue and profits over five years compared to businesses who do not promote employee mobility.


These organisations stated that they are twice as likely to prioritise internal career development and mobility and communicate the processes of talent mobility within their organisations so that employees are aware of the opportunities available to them.


The Future Case 


HR professionals are tackling the challenge of meeting the needs of a multi-generational workforce ranges from Baby boomers to Generation Zers, who are newly entering the workforce. What are the varying career aspirations of each employee demographic and how can the employer effectively meet their needs cost effectively?


According to studies by both McKinsey and Gartner, they identified common ground across the generations. For the last 5 years career development and progression has been consistently in the top five priorities of what people wanted from work.


So regardless of the various career phases that employees experience, from pre- to post-pandemic to the great reshuffle followed by the great resignation, career mobility and progression remains a top priority for people across the UK, across generations.


What do employees want from career progression? 

A recent Gartner survey revealed that 67% of colleagues said they see career progression as external to their organisation rather than internal. Only 1 in 3 colleagues said that they look internally first. This means that on average 2 out of 3 employees are contemplating how to make a move outside of their current organisation. Why is internal mobility still not the first consideration for employees, despite understanding the value and benefits that career development brings?


LinkedIn, Gartner, McKinsey each studied why career mobility or empowerment movement is unusual in organisations. So they asked colleagues directly - what stops you from making moves around the company?


Through LHH’s engagement with hundreds of employers and thousands of employees, we explored what was preventing them from making internal moves in their workplace. Our findings identified 3 recurring themes that acted as obstacles to mobility.


Internal career mobility obstacles


1: My line manager does not support me 

We found that there was a lack of understanding amongst managers of why they need to be talent exporters – supporting the aspirations of their team members and connecting these individuals with opportunities within the business. When managers learn that their talent is exploring an internal move, to another department, many line managers see it as the other team poaching or stealing key members of their own.


HR professionals need to work on changing the mindset of line managers from a position of holding on to talent to one of understanding why talent mobility is important and to collaborate in creating talent magnets across the business to effectively achieve mobility within the organisation.


2: Employees unsure of how to action future opportunities 

We have found that employees are not sure how internal mobility can be beneficial to them leading to a default position of automatically looking externally for new opportunities.


Organisations have the responsibility to spread the word about how internal mobility can benefit the individual career aspirations of employees. They also need to ensure that the systems are in place to assist in the ease of achieving internal mobility and addressing concerns from line managers and employees. By working with HR, line managers and employees simultaneously, it will create a push-pull situation that is mutually beneficial to all parties.


3: Lack of dialogue with leadership about career development 

At a line manager’s review there may be a lack of recognition and thought given to the idea of career mobility. Most line manager reviews are primarily based on performance with measurements of success linked to business metrics. Linking team career development goals is often not measured or there is no incentive for line managers to be talent supporters or career coaches.


According to the Institute of Corporate Productivity, only 12% of organisations review managers for exporting talent to other parts of the business. There can be a conflict of interest if as a manager, they are graded on performance metrics partly dependant on their talent performing, why would they encourage their high performing talent to transfer to another team?


Overcoming career mobility pitfalls

Reward line managers for exporting talent 

Assessing managers on how well they nurture and develop talent holistically for the business is key to promoting organisational talent mobility. Encourage line managers to have regular career conversations with their team and to identify signs that an individual may be unsatisfied with their career prospects. What interventions can they do to address these issues and with the employee, explore internal opportunities where relevant.


Consider whether your organisation rewards managers when they export talent to other parts of the business. Introducing incentives like referral bonuses can go a long way to promoting inward career mobility and help line managers become natural talent magnets and exporters.


Lack of employee clarity on how to action internal opportunities 

Too often, inward mobility can be about who you know rather than what you know. This can be great in organisations with fewer employees, but in larger organisations, employees may be able to see internal opportunities but have no idea how to really action them or how to achieve them. This can adversely affect underrepresented talent especially women, who might lack the strong hand required to pitch and network the way other majority talent would.


Employers need to think about how to streamline and articulate the process of talent mobility that is an easily accessible process by employees. They also need to provide a mobility structure that is intuitive to use by HR and line managers and make identifying internal talent as easy as it would be to hire externally. 


Using a talent marketplace or an end-to-end solution like LHH’s Career Mobility Portal helps you in every step of the way, right from helping people to match roles with goals within the organisation. Finding those skills gaps, upskilling for the role and having hiring managers contact them directly within the company ecosystem is key.


The Talent Leadership Dilemma  

Building future leadership talent pools is a successful strategy to nurture future leaders, and internal mobility can actively support the development of this. But who currently owns this process within an organisation? Are there too many cooks involved, or not enough to take charge of employees’ careers?


Some of the biggest successes we have seen has been when a small team of talent development and talent acquisition work together alongside with L&D professionals to make the process seamless and accessible. This helps make sure that and talent spotted is put through comprehensive cross-skilling and potential upskilling/reskilling assessment to ready them for different roles.


What could this look like in reality? A new enterprise seller recognises somebody from marketing who might be a great fit for their team. If they are interested, they can be placed on a six-month upskilling programme to gain the right sales skills before they move into their new role.


Measuring Internal Mobility Success 

Measurement should not be limited to assessing the amount of available talent but the nature and type of talent mobility. For example quarter on quarter, you're measuring not just the number of internal moves or the type, but over a 6-12 month period, how well that person has performed in their new role. This helps inform HR on how successful talent with similar attributes can transition to a different role.


A business may find that talent moving from sales to marketing demonstrates a greater chance of succeeding in that team, successfully generating more leads and conversions than those from other departments. In the future, HR may look to promote this type of move again knowing that there is a proven track record which it positively impacts engagement, productivity, and the bottom line.



At LHH, we are proud of the work we do on talent mobility. We believe in mobility being key to the future of human capital.