Big Idea 2023: Improve Internal Mobility to Elevate Your Organization’s Employee Experience

As this year comes to a close, the promise of a New Year will soon come into view. New years, as we know, bring a sense of hope, renewed promises, and resolutions. And one of the most common resolutions is that of a new job—one that offers something that is better than the last.

Throughout 2022, exaqueo has led numerous, large workforce research studies. A key objective is to help clients better understand what’s inside the hearts and minds of people. To map out the candidate and employee experiences, and gain insights into the employment relationship. To see old processes through a new lens with an intention to learn and improve.

Time and again, from hospitality to technology and from Gen X to Gen Z, our research shows career potential is a top attractor for candidates seeking employment opportunities. 

In exaqueo’s 2021 research study of career preferences of 18 to 24-year-olds in the United States, the number one employment attribute sought by Gen Z is career potential. In an October 2022 external U.S. candidate survey (across generations), career growth opportunity was among the top reasons people accepted their most current jobs, only after pay and benefits.

Career potential is often a top reason people accept job offers. And, it’s often cited as a reason employees stay, may leave, or have left their most current employers. In many exit surveys that we analyzed, “career opportunities” is a top reason employees voluntarily leave, accompanied by better pay, better benefits, and personal reasons.

When individuals believe they can grow their careers but are unable to see a path to do so, that source of frustration becomes a trigger to look outside the organization. Internal career mobility is therefore both a driver of retention and turnover.

Internal mobility is a moment that matters in your organization’s employment relationship.

In our proprietary employee experience model, internal career mobility is part of the Consideration phase. It’s when someone is considering job options either inside or outside of an organization. One of the biggest obstacles during this phase is that employees simply do not know where to learn about internal career opportunities. In one study, we found that nearly 50% of new hires (defined as less than 12 months of tenure with the company) did not know where to look for internal jobs.

What does internal mobility look and feel like inside your workplace?

Start by understanding your organization’s internal mobility goal and the why behind the goal. Some organizations may have a goal of 10, 20, or 25 percent internal hires per year. We recommend gathering quantitative and qualitative data to understand the current state across the employment lifecycle, including:

  1. Candidate surveys (what attracts people to the organization);
  2. New hire surveys (why did they accept their job offers);
  3. Engagement surveys (what do employees say about their career opportunities);
  4. Stay interviews (why do employees stay and what do they enjoy most);
  5. Internal hire data (how many applicants and hires are from current employees); and
  6. Exit surveys (what makes people leave).

Data inputs are the dots you need to connect to understand your organization’s internal mobility story. 

  • What is the data telling you about career potential and internal mobility?
  • Is your assessment that the organization is subpar—not meeting people’s expectations? 
  • Is it satisfying basic expectations? 
  • Is it engaging and well above expectations?

Share the data and insights with members of your Talent/HR/People teams. 

  • Is the team okay with what the data says? 
  • Do you have enough information or do you need to supplement it with focus groups, a survey, or employee interviews? 
  • Or can the team see clear evidence that internal mobility needs improvement? 

Share the insights with your executive team. 

  • Are they okay with how the company delivers to employees?
  • Are they ready to make a commitment and investment to improve?

Chances are even the most well-oiled internal career mobility programs can be improved. Here are several no-cost things you can do to improve internal mobility and positively influence the employee experience.

  1. Talent Management: Set an internal mobility goal that is specific and measurable. Measure it quarter over quarter and year over year; look for improvements and correlations to attrition and retention.
  2. Requirements: Many organizations have a “you must be here for one year before you can post for an internal position” requirement. And some organizations also suffer from high first-year attrition. Consider a pilot program to reduce the requirement to nine or 10 months, especially for high-volume, entry-level roles.
  3. Onboarding: Add information about internal career mobility—requirements, where to find internal jobs, how to apply, and expectations—to new hire onboarding materials.
  4. Communications Campaign: Promote open roles (or newly posted ones) at a regular cadence across existing, high-visibility employee communication channels such as the intranet, Slack or Teams channels, and/or email newsletters.
  5. Leadership: Encourage managers and business unit leaders to keep apprised of and share open roles with their teams.
  6. Prioritize Internally: Identify positions that will only be posted internally or that will post internally first for two weeks (or other duration) and will then be available/visible to external candidates. This shows that you prioritize giving internal talent first dibs.
  7. White Glove: Review and follow through with all employee applications to show the organization respects their interest in wanting to stay and grow their careers. If someone isn’t currently a fit, provide meaningful feedback so they know what they need to work on for the future to coach the employee and create a positive internal candidate experience.
  8. Employee Stories: Share “people on the move” stories to recognize promotions, geographic moves, and career growth stories internally to inspire other employees and end with a call to action to review internal opportunities. Creating a content calendar with ongoing stories will help keep internal mobility top of mind.
  9. Results: Publish and communicate your results on a quarterly or annual basis. Sharing the percentage of positions filled creates accountability and sends a signal to other employees and external stakeholders that employee growth is real.

When it comes to nurturing and sustaining the employment relationship, employees need to know there is a future for them at the organization. In a recent focus group, we heard, “If the growth path is there, there is no reason to go.” People say “yes” to job offers because they believe there’s career potential. 

They leave when that promise seems broken. By focusing on internal career mobility, employers can keep good people. And good people can achieve their potential.

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