Over the last few years, resignation rates have soared to record highs, and employee engagement levels have dropped to record lows. To flourish in such a challenging environment, organizations must implement proactive strategies that help them identify, develop, and retain the best talent in their ranks. One of the best strategies is to build an internal mobility program. Giving employees the chance to explore new roles also provides them with opportunities to learn new skills and take on new challenges. A strong culture of internal mobility signals an organization’s willingness to invest in its people—something both job seekers and current employees value.
What is internal mobility? This is the movement of employees within an organization. This movement can occur vertically or laterally: internal mobility is less about the direction of the change than about the change itself.
What are the types of internal mobility? It most often takes the form of promotions, lateral moves, transfers, and projects.
- Promotions demonstrate their benefits to both employees and employers and incentivize good performance, provide opportunities for growth, and increase retention.
- Lateral moves involve little to no change in salary or rank. An employee who wants to learn new skills may seek an opportunity on a different team or in a new department.
- Sometimes employees transfer to new locations but keep their titles, responsibilities, and pay.
- Some workplaces create cross-functional teams to accomplish specific project-based goals.
What are the business advantages of internal mobility? By recruiting from current employees, organizations spend less time and money on recruitment procedures. Hiring existing employees also improves retention—a significant cost-saving measure considering that “the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.” Internal mobility also affects employee engagement: when employees know that their employers value them enough to consider them for new (and potentially more lucrative) opportunities, they’re more motivated to dig into their current work.
Does internal mobility have any disadvantages? It creates one problem that recruiters can’t ignore: recruiting an existing employee for an open role leaves a vacancy that must be filled. There is a silver lining, though: because a robust internal mobility program creates upward movement for experienced, familiar current employees to move into more advanced roles, it leaves lower-level positions—which are easier and less expensive to fill—open to external candidates.
How does internal mobility benefit employees? It often offers them opportunities for growth. Whether a worker gets promoted or moves to a new department, the change may require them to take on their first direct reports, for example, or learn a new coding language or improve their public speaking skills. Workers crave such opportunities: when LinkedIn asked workers if they “would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development,” 94 percent of those surveyed said yes.
How does internal mobility affect DEI goals? External recruitment plays a major part in a company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Hiring managers must ensure, for example, that they interview a diverse slate of candidates and that their recruitment practices are free from unintentional bias. Internal mobility programs don’t conflict with DEI goals but can actually advance them. To create a culture of internal mobility, organizations must identify and develop talent, and to this end they often use mentorship or sponsorship programs—which are tools commonly used in DEI initiatives to advance the careers of employees from underrepresented or marginalized groups.
How does internal recruitment affect external recruitment? Internal recruitment strengthens external recruitment. Candidates strongly desire workplaces that invest in their workers, and job seekers will be attracted to organizations that showcase their internal mobility opportunities.
What external recruitment practices apply to internal recruitment? The biggest difference between the two types of recruitment lies in the candidate pool: instead of sourcing outside candidates, internal recruiters look inside the organization. Aside from that key difference, the two types of recruitment align quite closely with each other, which means organizations can take several cues from external recruitment when setting up an internal mobility program. (For example, just as external recruiters use certain practices to create a recruitment process free of discrimination, internal recruiters should post job opportunities in a place and manner that are accessible to all employees.)
What tools can help a company establish a culture of internal mobility? Using applicant tracking tools to track workers’ skills and interests, HR can compile a database that helps them and hiring managers know who may be interested in specific internal roles and opportunities. When working with internal candidates, it’s important to use the same tools used with external recruits. This strategy improves the effectiveness of internal recruitment by ensuring that internal candidates have formal candidate experiences—just like those enjoyed by external candidates.
How can a company get started on building an internal mobility program? First, the organization must create an internal career page where it can post opportunities in a transparent, accessible manner. Next, it should use HR software and applicant tracking tools to track employees’ skills and interests. Once these two procedures are in place, the company can rely on workflows established for external recruitment to engage and communicate with internal candidates.
Employers won’t see the benefits of internal mobility without putting in the work. But implementing an internal recruitment program doesn’t have to be a headache. With the right tools, organizations can proactively scope out existing talent for new and upcoming opportunities and strengthen retention and engagement at the same time.
 Shane McFeely and Ben Wigert. 2019. “This Fixable Problem Costs U.S. Businesses $1 Trillion.” Gallup website, March 13, www.gallup.com/workplace/247391/fixable-problem-costs-businesses-trillion.aspx.
 LinkedIn Learning. 2019. “2019 Workplace Learning Report.” LinkedIn website, learning.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/business/en-us/amp/learning-solutions/images/workplace-learning-report-2019/pdf/workplace-learning-report-2019.pdf.