Few large companies have cultures of internal mobility that can help meet skill shortages, prepare the next generation of leaders, and fuel a virtuous talent cycle.
Leaders know that if you want strategic execution, you need the right people and teams. Without them, everything is in doubt. Yet finding the right people is an evergreen struggle—and harder still when unemployment in many countries is at record lows and the job market is booming for the most sought-after individuals. No wonder the task of recruiting, promoting, and retaining talent consumes so many C-suite conversations.1
Which raises the question: Why do so many organizations overlook their greatest source of talent—themselves? Large companies employ tens of thousands of people across geographies, industries, and functions. Yet it’s not unusual for recruiters to be completely unaware that the best candidate for a position may already work inside the organization. In fact, the culture at many companies actively discourages managers from “poaching” workers from other functions. Overcoming these hurdles effectively requires specific tactics and HR-based systems. But, more than that, it requires leaders to build and support a culture where people at all levels are encouraged to—and even expected to—look internally for personal growth and new challenges.
The business opportunity is clear-cut. First, you can avoid replacement and recruitment costs incurred when people leave. But even greater is the opportunity to reshape your employment brand and workplace culture. Many of today’s youngest workers are eager to build their careers rapidly and want to work for organizations that challenge them and promote them quickly. Internal mobility—how that happens—is not just a way to retain talent. It also helps to create a powerful magnet for people outside your organization who seek professional growth. The result? The talent market can see your organization as one that champions ambition and performance in everything it does. Think about what kind of talent you’ll attract and keep—whether inside or outside your organization.
Ways organizations get mobility wrong—and why it matters
For all the talk of robotics, artificial intelligence, and other advanced technologies, people are still needed to run organizations. And it’s getting harder to find them, despite the prevalence of social networks including Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and others. A strong global economy, healthy job market, and rising employee expectations mean there’s intense competition for talent—and the price for winning keeps going up (see “Why is finding top talent so difficult?” on page 51). Roughly one-half of all workers may be thinking about leaving their jobs,2 and easily can if they have the right capabilities and skills (see figure 1).3
But here’s the thing: What’s driving workers to leave organizations isn’t always just the promise of more money (though that inevitably plays a role). It’s also the opportunity to grow skills and build a career path. Surveys show that all workers—and especially millennials—expect the opportunity to rise within an organization.4 Without that, they’ll likely look elsewhere. And the reality is that workers will always want more than a job. Most want a career path, and the best ones can either find it from you or someone else.