Internal Mobility – benefits and challenges for HR and Talent Managers

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The modern workforce is rapidly changing, and it’s vital for companies to adapt to remain competitive. One strategy HR and Talent teams can effectively leverage is internal mobility. And with Linkedin Learning reporting that effective employee development can increase performance up to 25%, understanding the benefits and challenges of internal mobility as a human resource or talent manager is critical to the success of your organisation.

In this article, we’ll explore how you could improve internal mobility in your organisation and what blockers you might encounter in the process.


What is internal mobility?

What do we mean by internal mobility? Internal mobility is the movement of employees within an organisation, like changing roles, moving departments, even relocating! People can move vertically or laterally; vertical internal mobility happens when people move up the hierarchy eg. are promoted to a new level, whilst lateral mobility refers to employees moving from one department to another. Other types of internal mobility include mentorships, extra projects, job shadowing and job swaps.


Why internal mobility matters so much in 2023?

In January 2023, there were almost two job openings for every unemployed person in the US. And, the UK market, although slowing down, shows similar results with vacancies at an all time high.

In an employee-led market like this, organisations need to provide internal opportunities to find the perfect job for their existing employees. Otherwise people leave. Successful HR and Talent Managers understand this and are refocusing on internal mobility as a way to improve retention, increase employee engagement and avoid recruitment costs.

Movements in the labour market are also a sign of the current skills crisis, one where organisations need people to learn new skills and build capability rapidly. According to the World Economic Forum, half of the global workforce will need to reskill by 2025. With ‘Upskilling / Reskilling’ being heralded as a top priority in the Global Learning Sentiment Survey and 4 out of 5 employers in 2023 reporting difficulty in finding skilled talent, it remains a crucial development strategy.

On top of this, a recent rise in AI innovation and application (think ChatGPT and Bard) has left organisations scrambling. HR and Talent Managers need to plan not only for the skills missing today, but also for the future skills of tomorrow and their internal mobility strategies need to be built with these in mind.

The pressure is on! And with budgets down, HR and Talent Managers are expected to do more with less. While technology is certainly not the panacea for all challenges associated with internal mobility, it is critical in delivering the scale needed and, if used effectively, can certainly help move the needle.

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Benefits of internal mobility for HR and Talent Managers

The benefits of internal mobility are vast and support a range of business goals: from talent acquisition and recruitment to employee retention and performance. It’s paramount to have a comprehensive internal mobility strategy in place. When used alongside internal mobility best practice and the right technology to enable you to scale your internal mobility program, these benefits are multiplied.

The benefits of internal mobility can be divided into three groups of impact:

      • Impact on recruitment
      • Impact on retention
      • Impact on engagement


Impact on recruitment

When it comes to internal mobility’s impact on recruitment the benefits are twofold:

Lower recruitment costs

It’s simple, higher retention means HR and Talent Managers aren’t stuck in a ‘hire, train, replace’ cycle. If more employees stay because they can see viable development and career opportunities within the organisation, they don’t need to spend money on recruiting.

Better talent acquisition

Internal mobility aids Talent Managers and HR professionals in attracting top talent in the first place. By showcasing your internal mobility programs, you’re highlighting the opportunities to grow and develop which is an appealing prospect to many potential candidates. Plus, internal mobility is also one of the most effective ways to recruit for leadership positions (which we discuss below).


Impact on retention

According to Linkedin Learning, employees who move internally have a 64% chance of remaining with an organisation after three years, vs only 45% of those who don’t move internally.

By providing employees with viable opportunities to develop themselves and their career, internal mobility helps increase employee retention which also strengthens their commitment to your organisation. Without internal mobility in place, those not engaged are more likely to look for a new job outside the organisation.

Source: Linkedin Global Talent Trends via Venture Beat


The positive impact on retention is also beneficial when it comes to leadership development. Internal mobility supports ‘succession’ planning by identifying internal talent reserves required for future leadership positions. HR and Talent Managers can then develop a pipeline of individuals with the right potential who already understand the company culture and expectations. This fills leadership roles efficiently and naturally, reducing recruitment resources.


Impact on engagement

There’s no doubt the cost of disengaged employees is high. Gallup reports that disengaged employees cost an organisation the equivalent of 18% of their annual salary. Other sources put this figure even higher at 34%.

But internal mobility offers a choice to those who become disengaged. Even the prospect of moving to a different role or switching departments often remotivates employees. Showing clear career paths to demonstrate vertical AND lateral progression will likely keep employees engaged, steering them away from looking for another job.


Challenges in implementing internal mobility

Implementing internal mobility programs is not without challenges. In the Global Human Capital Trends, Deloitte outlines four major challenges to overcome in internal mobility programs, and we’ve added three more we often see when speaking to new customers:


      • Lack of processes to identify and move employees
      • Lack of availability of internal employees to fill roles
      • Lack of information for employees on available roles
      • Current managers’ resistance to internal moves
      • Inability to respond quickly to the skills crisis
      • Lower budgets, higher pressure
      • Lack of employee engagement

Lack of processes to identify and move employees

Without clear systems in place to track employee skills, interests, and career aspirations, it’s difficult for organisations to match people with suitable opportunities for growth and development. Additionally, knowledge silos make it hard for managers to look for talent outside their departments, as well as preventing employees from understanding what’s available within the organisation.


Lack of availability of internal employees to fill roles

The skills and experience required for a particular role may be difficult to find within the organisation. This makes hiring internally an impossible option and so companies turn to external recruitment.


Lack of information for employees on available roles

Without clear communication around positions available, job requirements and opportunities for career growth, employees can’t see potential internal career paths, leading them to seek outside opportunities.


Current managers resistance to internal moves

According to the CIPD, 80% L&D professionals feel the traditional views of line managers are a blocker to implementing better ways to improve performance. But managers are your ‘secret skill-building weapon’. Get them onside and they’re in the perfect place to not only influence your internal mobility program but also improve team development, performance and engagement.

This is what some of our customers are doing. They’re enabling line managers to share their own experiences, lessons learned and stories on video which builds good practice and helps get line managers onboard with their internal mobility strategy.

Afterall, if managers aren’t encouraged or rewarded for hiring internally, employees seeking opportunities for growth and development could be overlooked.


Lower budgets, higher pressure

Economic uncertainty means low budgets, less resource and more pressure, leaving HR and Talent Managers facing a mountain to climb. Whilst doing more with less is achievable, it requires working smarter rather than harder.

When it comes to internal mobility, you don’t need to do it all yourself. Your biggest resource is your people and getting them involved in your internal mobility programs is key. It will save time and resources.

One simple way to include them is by asking people to share their expertise and experience in a way that supports or promotes your internal mobility program. Many of our customers share real career video stories from real employees highlighting a squiggly but successful career journey. Watching a coworker share a story this way is worth its weight in gold!

Here are a few story ideas to make your internal mobility program more effective:

1. A day in the life

Ask your colleagues to share a behind-the-scenes glimpse of their role. This could include what it’s like working in department XYZ, what a typical day looks like and advice for someone considering an internal move.

2. How learning shaped my career

Ask your top learners or people who have grown their careers to share the benefits of prioritising their own professional development and how this supports them and their teams.

3. My squiggly career story

Support your internal mobility plans with non-linear career stories. Capture your people’s journey, pivots, what’s inspired a change in direction, skills and tips.

This is your most influential tactic! People trust and learn best from other people. And sharing these stories on video is an engaging way to communicate the opportunities available whilst showing your company culture. It also means people aren’t spending valuable hours writing potentially dry articles. You’ll inspire your employees to prioritise their development and career, keep them engaged whilst saving time and resources.

And with the right technology, filming impactful employee video stories to support your internal mobility plans is simple.

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Inability to respond quickly to the skills crisis

We previously mentioned how the ever-changing skills landscape has led to a deficit in the skills organisations need. The lightning-quick pace of these changes means HR and Talent teams are faced with a bigger and bigger skills gap to plug.

To keep up with demand, organisations need scalable solutions that allow them to engage their employees in a meaningful way whilst also enabling them to take control of their own learning.

HR, Talent and Learning teams are turning to employee video storytelling as an effective way to upskill employees. It means organisations can generate compelling career content to support and promote internal mobility. But crucially, the act of sharing stories, experiences and expertise becomes an active learning strategy. It helps develop skills like critical thinking, storytelling, emotional intelligence and more.

Some of the most successful internal mobility programs use these stories to inspire employees to take ownership of their development career growth. The three stories below give an idea of the valuable knowledge and experiences your people should be sharing to level up your internal mobility programs:

1. My mentee story – benefits of having a mentor

Launch or reboot your mentoring or coaching schemes by asking mentors and mentees to share the benefits of being involved.

2. Learner testimonials

Ask people participating in your learning and development programmes to share feedback and the impact it’s had on both their performance and career progress.

3. Sharing work experiences

Get people to job swap or shadow for a day then reflect on their experience.

Lack of employee engagement

While increased employee engagement is one of the biggest benefits of internal mobility programs, it also poses a challenge for Talent and HR Managers when trying to implement them to their full potential.

Deloitte’s latest Human Capital report discusses harnessing “worker agency”, where workers have more say over their working conditions (more meaningful work, flexible working, personalised career paths etc). This is something organisations need to consider. With more possibilities than ever, HR and Talent Managers need to work with this sense of agency to keep people engaged. If they fight against it, they could lose talent in the process.

Another challenge of internal mobility is the lack of information and process, as already mentioned by Deloitte. But there is also a lack of effective outreach. Even when plenty of information is available, the medium it’s presented in may not inspire action.

Organisations need to step away from dry content that merely sits on your system until someone stumbles across it. With 94% employees saying they would stay at a company if they invested in their career, it’s time to shine the spotlight on learning and career development more effectively.

Show your employees that continuous learning and career development is central to your company culture. Use video storytelling to take people on a journey, inspire them to get involved, develop skills or change behaviour.

1. Line managers: Prioritising your own professional development

Bring line managers onboard with your internal mobility plans by asking them to share the benefits of prioritising their own professional development and how this supports them and their team.

2. Advice to future participants

If you’ve got a development program, capture sound bites from previous participants to help future cohorts get the most out of it.

3. Aligning your personal and company values

Help people visit their personal values to develop self awareness and connect more deeply with your company purpose.

How to get people sharing stories for internal mobility

Tapping into the power of your people has the potential to drive more impact with less resource and cost across your organisation. It also boosts learning culture and helps everyone become more invested in their own development. So how do you get your people to share the stories you need to support internal mobility?

One impactful way is through user-generated video and structured storytelling. This is how StoryTagger helps people transform their experiences into ready-to-share videos that engage, teach and inspire coworkers.

In-built frameworks guide creators to share on-point stories by helping them to reflect on their experiences. It’s the skills developed in the planning and recording process that help people adapt, change and organisations be agile.

Our guide to transforming experts into inspiring content creators offers practical tips on how you can optimise engagement.

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Final thoughts

There is no doubt that internal mobility is one of the key strategies you should be employing in 2023. Internal mobility improves retention and engagement while at the same time lowers recruitment costs. This coupled with the pressures of today’s employee market, is reason enough to reflect on your current strategies to make sure they’re as effective as possible.

In today’s rapidly evolving job market, it’s more important than ever for organisations to foster a culture of learning and growth. One way to do this is by promoting internal mobility. It not only helps employees develop new skills and gain valuable experience, but it also helps organisations retain top talent and adapt to changing business needs.

While there are also challenges to internal mobility, the benefits of internal mobility far outweigh the risks. By promoting a learning culture, sharing employee stories and leveraging technology, organisations can create a more engaged and motivated workforce.

Talk to us to see how StoryTagger can help your internal mobility plans reach their full potential. Book your demo today.

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