By Twine on

The traditional attitude toward career development focuses on upward mobility. An employee starts in an entry-level position, then transitions to a more senior role, and then finally on to middle management. A select few may progress further to become a senior executive, or even join the C-suite.

While there’s nothing wrong with this model, which may accurately reflect the goals of some employees, a shift towards more collaborative, interdepartmental work practices (and the resultant need for employees who can develop new skills and move laterally through the organization) have made the upward mobility model inadequate for modern human resources practices. As a result, hiring managers must take a new approach, and that means exploring internal mobility.

Internal Mobility Is the New Upward Mobility

The way companies do business has changed. Instead of organizations being strictly hierarchical and top-down in their operations, new models of business favor collaboration and interdepartmental projects in order to provide the creativity and synergy necessary to succeed in an increasingly competitive, volatile business landscape. The days of an employee who has one specific set of skills and does just one type of job are over; such singularity of skills is no longer sufficient, especially as the war for top talent grows fiercer.

Because of this, linear upward mobility is no longer the only way for HR professionals to think about employee career development.

Of course, some high-potential employees do aspire to climb directly up the corporate ladder, aiming to develop their skills to take over their boss’s job, and then their boss’s boss job. But for many other employees -- even high performers --, moving straight up to the top of their department (or the company) is neither a desirable nor realistic goal. And this aspirational diversity is of great value to your organization; after all, great companies are not built of managers alone. Therefore, a career development model that holds upward mobility as the ultimate, or only, goal fails not only employees but also the company as a whole.

This isn’t to say that the desire for upward mobility is completely gone -- employees who do have the right qualities and inclinations for management should receive appropriate guidance and mentorship from HR. But you should also create programs that enable internal mobility, which is also known as lateral mobility, due to its emphasis on movement of employees to different departments or new roles at the same level of seniority.

So what does this all look like in practice? In essence, a small amount of planning to develop an internal mobility program at your company can encourage employees to make lateral moves at your company, resulting in increased retention and reduced talent acquisition costs.

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5 Steps to Create an Internal Mobility Program at Your Company

Creating an internal mobility program requires a shift in the way you think about employee career growth and development. And, with the right approach, it can make a big difference in your employee engagement and retention.

Here are the five steps you should take to start an internal mobility program at your company:

1. Determine Your Goals

We’ve already outlined the importance of internal mobility in the modern workplace, but you must decide for your firm what your specific goals will be for your internal mobility program.

Possible reasons include:

Of course, your firm’s reasons may differ from those listed; that’s ok. The bottom line is that you need to be clear about why this program is valuable and what it will accomplish, in order to earn the buy in of your company’s leadership.

2. Collaborate With Internal Talent

You shouldn’t just create an internal mobility program from scratch and then unveil it to employees with the expectation that it will help them accomplish their career goals. Rather, creating the program should be a collaborative process. You should survey employees and meet with them individually to find out what their long-term career goals are, and how you as an HR professional can help them achieve them.

Only once you have collected this insight should you work on the internal mobility program itself. An internal mobility program will only be successful if it is designed, first and foremost, with employees in mind.

3. Make Internal Mobility a Part of Your Culture

You can’t just create an internal mobility program once and then expect employees to adopt it. To make internal mobility work, you need to weave it into your company culture. Even during the recruiting stages, prospective employees should see that your company encourages and enables mobility - both upward and lateral - for its employees. This way, employees will come in with the right expectations and have no problems bringing up the possibility of internal moves when it makes sense to do so.

4. Adjust and Test Along the Way

Creating an internal mobility program will be an evolving process, which should respond to the changing needs of your employees.

You may find that some employees have no interest in internal moves. Instead of feeling frustrated, you should view this an opportunity to find out why they are resistant and see if you can make any changes to your program that will make these moves easier.

You’ll also learn how to identify when internal mobility isn’t the right approach to take with a particular employee. In some cases, moving up is the logical next career move for an employee, and you don’t want your internal mobility program to get in the way.

5. Promote the Program to Your Company

Developing employee buy in for your internal mobility program means that you need to promote it properly. Even if you think employees know about your program, the data show that they likely don’t. A report from LinkedIn revealed that, based on exit surveys, only 25% of employees surveyed were aware that their employers offered internal mobility programs.

So what can you do to boost employee awareness of your internal mobility programs? At Twine Labs, this is our specialty. We’ll work with you to create an in-house network that connects employees with open positions and new opportunities, both lateral and vertical. With our product, you can retain top talent and improve employee retention by as much as 30%. Schedule a demo today to learn more.