HR Management & Compliance, Recruiting, Talent

How Internal Mobility Can Improve Retention, Experience, and Leadership

Companies talk a big game about diversity and inclusion, often with an intense focus on increasing diversity representation at the highest levels of leadership. Yet many of these same companies struggle to hire, retain, and promote diverse employees. In light of the “Great Resignation” taking place, in which employees who weren’t happy in their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic are leaving the workforce in droves to find better opportunities, higher salaries, and stronger culture fits, it’s more important than ever to highlight retention and internal opportunities in your hiring conversations.

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Internal mobility isn’t just access to promotions. While that’s certainly important, when we talk about internal mobility, we mean opportunities for employees to expand laterally and take on new responsibilities and challenges, chances to take on important work, and creating a culture of learning and skill development in the company as a whole. Statistics have shown that the likelihood of employees staying with their company decreases as the years pass.

LinkedIn data found that employees who are promoted within 3 years of hiring have a 70% chance of staying onboard, and those who make a lateral move have a 62% chance of staying, as opposed to a 45% chance for those who did not make any moves. Employees who see opportunities to learn and grow will have more commitment to their company and a better understanding of their work and are less likely to be lured by other companies. Here are our top tips for hiring and retention strategies to help your company survive the Great Resignation.

  1. Start with Leadership

Fostering a culture of learning and internal mobility starts at the top. If your leadership team consists entirely of external hires, your employees won’t see a reason to stick around to reach higher levels of management. Having a dynamic, diverse leadership team that emulates the attributes you hope to see in your employees is key. This goes beyond your C-suite; if you’re looking for a new, midlevel manager, do a thorough check of your employees first. Even if it would be a “stretch” for someone, see if it’s an option to give a current, high-performing employee the ability to rise to the occasion.

  1. Create a Culture of Learning

Internal mobility is built on having a culture of learning. If employees remain in the same jobs with the same responsibilities, then they won’t grow into new roles. If you hire people who love to learn, as many companies say they do, then they need to see opportunities to grow in their jobs. Hire people who have the potential to excel not just in the role you’re hiring for but also beyond it. Give them opportunities to try new things in their jobs. Employees should have a chance to expand laterally and to the same levels in different functions and departments, as well as a chance to work with leadership.

Internal mobility improves retention, new hire productivity, and the hiring process overall. Research by the Conference Board found that internal talent mobility helped develop high performers, and cross-functional rotations specifically were one of the top development activities embraced by CEOs across the globe. The bottom line is, before you hire that new person, see if you already have someone who might like the opportunity to try something new. A great way to start is to require at least one internal candidate for the final slate in every open role.

  1. Ensure All Employees Have a Seat at the Table

Lastly, one of the great potential benefits of internal mobility is that it can develop highly trained, diverse talent. Especially for groups whose industry pipeline or function is small, internal mobility is a great chance to develop talent so you can have more diverse representation in leadership down the line. It’s important to understand that internal mobility can be clouded with bias; employees from underrepresented backgrounds may have less access to leadership and new opportunities and receive fewer promotions than their peers. According to McKinsey, for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women were promoted. The disparity is even larger for black and Latina women. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 58 black women and 71 Latinas were promoted. The best way to improve something is to measure it. Create an accountability structure, built on data, in which all employees have a chance to excel in your workforce, try new roles, and take charge of new projects.

Rena Nigam is the Founder and CEO of Meytier.