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Internal Talent Mobility: The Key to Boosting Engagement and Retention

A new survey from The Adecco Group on the future of work suggests that the allure of the Great Resignation can be dimmed by meeting the core needs of talent with career development opportunities, flexible work, and competitive salaries.
Adam Alexander

The antidote to the Great Resignation is hiding in plain sight.

Far too many employers have tried to fight the Great Resignation with an intensified recruitment strategy. It is a ‘fight-fire-with-fire” approach, where organizations are trying to replace departed employees with new talent as quickly as possible. Organizations are finding this strategy costly – with the inflated salaries and bonuses that are required – and thus not sustainable. These inflated salaries and bonuses also jeopardize progress in areas such as diversity and pay equity.
 
But if not recruiting to replace lost talent, then what are organizations supposed to do to maintain a more consistent and predictable workforce? A new survey from The Adecco Group (TAG) on the global future of work suggests that employers can reduce the siren lure of better salaries with an emphasis on providing their talent with genuine internal opportunities for career growth.
 
Money is a priority for top talent, but it is not the only priority

Among those survey respondents who indicated they were either changing jobs, or planned to do so over the next year, pursuit of a better salary was the prime motivator for 44 percent. However, when you look at the next three reasons to change jobs – and view them through the lens of career development – a new finding emerges.
 
The survey showed that of all respondents, including those who ranked salary as the number one reason to jump to a new job, 27 percent identified a desire to “try something new”. Another 25 percent said they were unhappy in their current role and a final 25 percent identified a lack of career progression with their current employer.
 
Money may be doing most of the talking right now, but deeper and longer-term needs to learn, grow, and try new things are driving some of the Great Resignation. On the positive side of the ledger, these findings also suggest there are more than enough tools available to employers right now to dull the allure of a shiny new job.
 
Internal talent mobility is the antidote to disengagement and a talent exodus
 
Companies that are the most successful at attracting and retaining talent know the value of giving internal candidates priority for job openings, new positions, and training support. In a global labor market that is still suffering from a critical shortage of skilled talent, using existing employees to fill the jobs of the future is a logical and cost-effective approach.

And workers – whether they are being recruited or are the subject of retention efforts – want to work for companies that provide internal career opportunities. Right now, however, employers do not seem to be meeting those desires: only 17 percent of all workers surveyed are actively looking at internal opportunities.

The TAG survey found that two thirds (66%) of all respondents at all levels expect their employers to “hire internally” and put a priority on allowing internal candidates to compete for any new jobs. Support for this approach to talent management was high among managers (72%) and among Millennials (67%).
 
How should employers help internal candidates move into new roles? The survey found that 70 percent of all workers wanted their current employers to do more training and upskilling to move internal candidates into new roles before hiring external candidates.
 
The internal talent market – a checklist

  1. Learn more about your existing employees. Ask the right questions to understand your workforce. What are the drivers of career satisfaction for existing employees? What are they doing, what other skills do they possess, what would they really like to do, how close to future jobs are they now, and what kind support would they need to fill those jobs?
  2. Talk to your people about career development. Nearly one in three workers surveyed said they have only one career conversation annually with their managers and 23 percent of workers have never had one. Those who have frequent career conversations are three times more likely to be encouraged to apply for internal job opportunities. There is no magic number for the right number of conversations. Use a combination of formal and informal conversations to keep the dialogue going, and the interest in internal opportunities burning.
  3. Define a path to internal opportunities. In many instances, there is going to be a skills gap preventing an existing employee from moving into a new role. Companies that have mastered the internal talent market establish benchmarks for the percentage of skills/qualifications an internal candidate needs to qualify to apply for a new role, as well as what training will be needed to prepare a candidate to succeed in the new role. These companies also make sure skills training is directly connected to emerging roles.
  4. Make internal mobility part of your culture. In many organizations, hiring managers prefer whenever possible to look outside to fill a job. To fully embed the internal talent market into your talent culture, you need to put in place policies and processes to ensure hiring managers give internal candidates a first look before going to the broader external talent market. And there must be clear and unequivocal messaging from the senior-most levels of leadership that talent hoarding is out, and internal mobility is in.
  5. Provide a variety of learning opportunities. In rare instances, an existing employee will have all the skills needed to be able to move into a new role seamlessly. However, many others will need upskilling and reskilling opportunities. These learning channels must be accessible and flexible, and you must directly connect the learning with the new job.
  6. Measure the impact on engagement and retention. Moving people internally is only part of the challenge. In addition, you must have the tools in place to track and monitor success. Some of the world’s best companies have detailed dashboards that track hiring and internal mobility activity, so that they know how well they are doing in pulling value from existing employees.


Conclusion

Recruitment of external candidates will always be an important part of talent management; no company can ever have a stockpile of existing workers capable of filling every job opening. The nature of work and the skills needed for future success are too dynamic.

However, internal mobility and redeployment can and should have a much greater profile in talent management strategies. It is not only more cost effective overall to develop internal talent to fill new roles, but it promotes greater employee loyalty and engagement. An organization that is willing to develop and redeploy people to new and emerging roles will become a much bigger talent magnet when it is necessary to go to the outside market.
 
Defusing the Great Resignation, and promoting the Great Retention, is not an “either-or” equation. It is really a “win-win” scenario for employers looking to avert a talent exodus and build greater engagement among existing employees.

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Download our full report, “Global Workforce of the Future: Unravelling the Talent Conundrum” for insights into the attitudes of the current workforce and food for thought to help organizations and leaders future-proof their talent.