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Analysis

How employers can use HR tech to develop an internal mobility program

Retaining your existing staff is much cheaper and more productive than recruiting new employees.

Nicholas Fearn

internal mobility
Credit: DUANGBJ via Twenty20.

But how can HR tech help employers to retain and develop the careers of your existing talent? Unleash Your Potential

Most businesses typically hire people from outside their organization when filling current job vacancies. While external recruitment allows businesses to add fresh blood to their existing workforce and help accelerate company growth, it can also be an expensive and time-consuming process.

For lots of organizations, a better alternative is to train and promote existing staff members through an internal recruitment program.

This can offer massive business benefits, with research from Smart Recruiters showing that 75% of employees who get promoted will remain at the same company for a minimum of three years and that hiring internally allows organizations to realize cost savings of $6,000 for every hire.

But considering that more than two out of five businesses don’t currently offer a formal internal recruiting strategy, this is clearly new territory for many employers. We spoke to several HR leaders about how to create an effective internal mobility strategy and the role technology plays in this.

Internal mobility is key to a strong workforce

Organizations with a strong workforce are best placed to scale and pivot in any situation, according to Oracle HR business director Kealey Chapman.

But in order to build a strong workforce, Kealey argues that businesses need to provide their employees with opportunities for internal mobility.

Chapman tells UNLEASH: “Companies looking to retain and engage high-quality talent must invest in the right digital solutions to meet the career development and learning needs of these motivated workers, or risk losing them after a short-cycle.”

She says business leaders can use cloud solutions and artificial intelligence-based software to gain an up-to-date view of the skills of their employees. This, she says, means firms can attract, develop and grow the right talent internally.

“For instance, the ability to compare existing employee skills and their career aspirations to deliver personalized training recommendations,” explains Chapman. 

Another helpful technology for businesses looking to train current staff members and fill roles internally is a bespoke talent portal.

Chapman says employees can use talent portals to update their skills and look for available roles inside the organization. But they’re also handy for employers, providing insights into available internal expertise. 

“Meanwhile, interactive dashboards and reporting tools can track individual performance, uncover gaps in team knowledge, and guide leadership discussions on future risk and pipeline development,” she continues.

Her view is that businesses can benefit from improved employee engagement and productivity by enabling a clear, tailored pathway for staff to grow internally. 

She says: “It takes time to foster a culture of internal mobility, and continued support from leaders is needed to ensure the long-term effects are realized. Ultimately, the investment you make in your employees now is a direct investment in your company’s future success.”

Staying ahead of the curve 

Businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve in fast-evolving, highly competitive sectors like IT must attract and retain talent effectively, according to Ciklum vice-president of workforce and delivery operations Olga Kuraksa. And she believes that fostering a culture of internal mobility is a great way to do this. 

“As a business that wants to retain its reputation and edge in the IT services market, the need to attract and retain talent is paramount,” notes Kuraksa.

“For us, internal mobility is an excellent opportunity to help bright minds stay within the company. Keeping this in mind, we can fill our openings and various positions faster.”

But Kuraksa admits that internal mobility doesn’t just allow businesses to increase employee retention and reduce the time it takes to hire new staff. She says it also enables firms to build trust inside the organization, show that they genuinely value employees, and help individuals achieve their professional ambitions. 

“As an example of how internal mobility helped our business, we recently had a project that finished earlier than expected. Through Ciklum’s internal mobility program, two-thirds of the specialists on the project were quickly deployed and re-engaged in valuable and exciting new challenges that benefitted both the team and the business,” she continues.

Using technology for internal mobility 

While organizations can use a range of different technologies for internal mobility, there are some essential things to take into account when doing so.

Firstly, Kuraksa says organizations must ensure technology supports strategy and communication. And she points out that the internal mobility solutions used by businesses will depend on their organizational size and potential. 

“You can make a start by devising a simple web form for the employees, asking them to indicate if they want to take part in the internal mobility program. An advanced level would be to not only have a dedicated section of your internal portal but, perhaps, a sophisticated LMS system that helps your colleagues find the most suitable career track, suggesting skills to upgrade and learning materials to study, she says.

“A pleasant bonus to that would be gamification features, such as badges for achievements or interactive career progress bars.”

Olga Kuraksa, vice-president of workforce and delivery operations at Ciklum

However, even if businesses invest heavily in technology to deliver an internal mobility strategy, Kuraksa says it won’t function properly unless employees are aware of these opportunities and are eager to continue their professional journey with an existing employer. 

She continues: “Managers and team leads have to pay special attention to highlighting these opportunities if they want to have the best chance of growing a new generation of leaders for the business from within.”

Kuraksa says one of the common pitfalls organizations might experience with their internal mobility programs is the insufficient visibility of the program itself and the opportunities it presents.

“Just imagine: currently, Ciklum has more than 600 job openings, all over the world. Internal candidates could be the answer to some of these openings but how do you start the internal search?  The answer is simple yet challenging: make those opportunities more visible to your employees,” she says.

She says organizations can easily solve this problem by using internal communication channels, whether it’s sending regular emails containing a list of current openings, posting job opportunities on social media platforms, or asking managers to inform their team members of new vacancies in the company. 

“At Ciklum, not only do we ensure that our specialists know about our Internal Mobility Program, but also we ensure that success stories are shared, along with inspirational videos. We have found that seeing the success of your peers can be more motivating than a simple list of opportunities,” she adds.

Futureproofing the workforce

British banking giant NatWest is one of many businesses adopting technical solutions in a bid to identify areas where it can upskill existing employees and ultimately futureproof the workforce. For example, it partnered with AI-driven analytics platform Faethm to develop a strategic workplace planning program.

Elaine Vaile, group head of leadership, talent, and future of work at NatWest, says: “The program allows us to analyze our existing workforce and identify how certain data-oriented roles we have today, including data engineers and data scientists, will be impacted by augmenting and automating technologies.

“Faethm has already been impactful because it’s given us direct insights into which capabilities and skills will be instrumental for our future growth, and where we have skills gaps that need addressing. What makes it so exciting is that it is fundamentally changing how we view skills and jobs as a business.”

Vaile explains that NatWest is now able to develop learning interventions that help current employees expand their expertise and incorporate skills required in the future. 

Additionally, the bank has made changes to its hiring program and employee value proposition to “retain existing, valued employees while onboarding talent with the additional skills we need to satisfy our ambitions”.

She adds: “Adding that data-driven element to workforce planning and decision-making has been invaluable for us. We can now futureproof our workforce so we’re equipped with the right talent to achieve our goals, and most importantly, deliver day in, day out for our customers, both today and tomorrow.”

Susanna Yallop, chief people officer of Starling Bank, explains how an agile approach is allowing it to improve internal mobility.

She says: “We have multidisciplinary teams and a flat organizational structure which means that there are opportunities for employees to move into new roles as they develop. We’re also lucky to be growing quickly – we have hired over 500 people since March last year and as a result, new opportunities open up all the time.”

Although HR technology offers massive benefits for organizations developing internal mobility initiatives, they must also consider the legal obligations of promoting existing staff.

Alfie Bright, an employment lawyer at full-service firm Memery Crystal, says: “Employers looking to take advantage of the benefits of internal mobility should ensure that any changes to the existing employee’s terms and conditions in connection with any new opportunities are agreed with the employee and documented in writing, even if these changes are temporary/short-term in nature.

“To embed internal mobility in their working culture, employers should consider adopting a transparent approach to available vacancies or opportunities, incentivizing internal referrals, and implementing clear internal recruitment/mobility policies,” says Bright.

“Building and maintaining meaningful channels of communication with employees will be key to the success of an effective internal mobility strategy.”

Alfie Bright, employment lawyer at Memery Crystal

Often, employers assume that the best way to fill existing job vacancies is to look outside the business and hire external talent.

And while that has numerous benefits, companies shouldn’t forget that they can also encourage current employees to learn new skills and take on slightly different roles.

Overall, internal mobility is a unique opportunity for businesses to cut costs involved with external recruitment, boost employee productivity, retain staff for longer, and enjoy many other benefits.

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