HR Insights
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October 17, 2023

Internal mobility best practices: Up isn’t the only way to grow

Ceridian’s 2023 Executive Survey reveals that leaders largely have a narrow definition of internal mobility. Here’s why and how they should adopt internal mobility best practices.

Table of Contents

When you think of internal mobility best practices, do you think of the upward movement of employees? You do if you’re like nearly half of the 2,000 global leaders Ceridian surveyed for our 2023 Executive Survey.

When respondents were asked which internal career opportunities their organisation offers to employees, the top answer – at 47% – was promotions. Promoting from within allows an employee to grow in their career without finding a new employer and it benefits businesses by helping them to retain invaluable organisational knowledge and experience.

But to have an effective internal mobility program that gives organisations the flexibility needed in today’s uncertain and rapidly changing business climate, employers must move their employees in all directions internally. And yet, our survey data shows that fewer than half of all respondents are moving people around the organisation or giving them opportunities to try out new roles.

Let’s look at why employers should expand their definition of internal mobility and the types of opportunities you need to create a comprehensive internal mobility program.

The benefits of comprehensive internal mobility

According to July 2023 stats reported by SHRM, the average time-to-hire is 44 days. Imagine your organisation’s most critical positions being open for that long and the negative impact it could have on productivity, performance, and employee morale.

Executive Survey data further reveals that 66% of the leaders surveyed said their organisation has experienced a labour shortage in the past year and 88% said these shortages are at least slightly likely in the year ahead. This suggests that filling critical roles is difficult and poised to become even harder.

But you can work to minimise the influence the external labor market has on your organisation by looking inward. Moving people around is easier when you have a complete understanding of the skills available within your organisation and look at talent more in terms of these skills rather than the roles they hold or have held. AI-driven talent intelligence technology can make this easier than ever by putting this knowledge into the hands of employees – proactively and transparently allowing them to see how their skills and interests align with open internal roles.

And we know from our 2023 Pulse of Talent data that employees want these opportunities. Looking at the 70% of respondents who are considered a flight-risk, 88% said they would consider staying for internal career opportunities. Half (51%) said they would stay if they could change their career path within the company.

Internal mobility opportunities to consider

While many organisations are focused on upward movement in their internal mobility efforts, they may be surprised to learn that climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t carry the same clout it once did. In Ceridian’s 2023 Pulse of Talent survey, only 17% of our 8,600 worker respondents from around the globe said their highest career aspiration was to be a company executive and just 14% said they wanted to be a people manager.

And yet we know from earlier in this post that workers are interested in internal career development opportunities. Here’s how to deliver with internal mobility best practices by looking across the organisation rather than just up the corporate ladder.

Trying out new roles

Internal mobility doesn’t have to mean role moves. Giving employees opportunities to explore what a different role might be like or to work with a different team is essential to having a well-rounded internal mobility program. This is a potential way for employers to build talent pipelines, uncover employee skills and strengths, create a more flexible workforce, and increase employee satisfaction by providing new and different work experiences.

But our Executive Survey data shows these types of internal opportunities are underutilized. Less than half (44%) allow their employees to work on specialized projects, and the numbers get lower from there. Only one-third (32%) of respondents offer job shadowing, job rotations, or the opportunity to split time between roles.

Moving to new roles

In 2022 research from McKinsey, more than 80% of the observed role moves involved workers moving to a new employer. But in today’s ever-changing business climate, employers must consider the benefits of moving people around rather than always seeking outside candidates.

Yet internal role moves beyond promotions are less common than they should be, according to the global leaders we surveyed. Employees changing departments or moving to newly created roles were both reported by 44% of Executive Survey respondents, while 39% said employees change teams within their own department.

Today’s organisations need to pivot more often than in the past. It’s up to employers to think and act beyond the traditional linear career path by using internal mobility best practices to create a flexible workforce that can quickly and effectively respond to today’s changes and the ones that lie ahead.

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