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Why internal mobility is a crucial lever right now

The pandemic appears to have heightened the importance of internal mobility with 11% of employees looking to move roles within their current company
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The current European recruitment market is awash with contradictions, triggered and exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic.  For example, according to French recruitment agency Cadremploi, more than 7 in 10 executives have considered job offers during and after the lockdown, yet the same research also shows that despite this strong desire for change, there are grave concerns within some groups as more than 1 in 2 managers now want to stay in their company.

Faced with this uncertainty, many businesses are now revisiting – and investing in – internal mobility. Internal mobility simply refers to the movement of employees to new opportunities within the same company. These new opportunities may well be the heavy artillery in winning a post-COVID war for talent.

Our own recent research found that the pandemic appears to have heightened the importance of internal mobility with 11% of employees looking to move roles within their current company, compared for example to the 12% of workers now demanding long term flexible working, even once the restrictions have been lifted.

As a tool for improving business performance, internal mobility predates the current pandemic.  This is because the last few years have seen the market for business skills evolve aggressively and rapidly. Technological developments have sounded the death knell for technical skills, which are now obsolete after 12 to 18 months, forcing a perpetual evolution of the professions.  As a result, recruiters have had to capitalize on soft skills to find the right talents and the one of the easiest ways to do this has been to focus on internal mobility.

3 (non-COVID) reasons to invest in internal mobility

Firstly, internal mobility motivates entire teams. Employees face new challenges and experience the reinvigoration of new intellectual stimulation – which in turn creates better performance. An Oxford University study has shown happy employees are 13% more productive – and internal mobility can deliver this increased happiness at an in credibly low cost to the company.

Secondly, internal mobility promotes innovation. It provokes curiosity and promotes the cross-fertilisation of ideas and practices. Internally mobile employees often report that they contemplate new working environments and projects with a different perspective to that of their legacy role.  At scale, this becomes a disruptive cocktail that will drive the company to develop its agility and adopt new practices. In short: difference begets innovation.

Finally, internal mobility is one of the best levers for retaining talent. Employees move around the company instead of moving away from it. For the company, this means less turnover, reduced costs and recruiting times, and faster integration into the company. Internal mobility makes it possible to use fewer resources (both financial and human) to recruit.

In the face of these benefits, there is an undeniable shift towards internal mobility. A recent Payfit study on current HR challenges (July 2020) found that 42% of managers plan to favour internal mobility for their recruitment.

So, the question quickly becomes can a business approach internal mobility to get the most from it?

Securing internal mobility excellence

There are 3 major levers to promote internal mobility excellence. The first is to establish collaborative management. Internal mobility demands that the business understands that it is working WITH employees, rather than the traditional view that employees work FOR the business. The watchword here is accountability. Business leaders must trust employees and open the space to make mistakes and recognise them without blame.  This is the essential condition for taking risks – and will give employees the freedom to better identify their potential for growth.

The second lever is to nurture a culture of results. For some businesses, this can be contrary to an established culture, but businesses need to recognise that it often doesn’t matter which path is taken to achieve an objective. Regardless of the employee’s profile, or background: it’s the results that they deliver that truly count. A project manager can become a salesperson. A community manager passionate about numbers can become a Data Analyst. A culture of results, coupled with collaborative management, shows employees that there are no limits and that the business can give them the opportunity to evolve.

Finally access to training is essential to support employees and teams with this change. Creative bootcamps, e-learning and immersive training not only fuel the curiosity of employees to develop their desire to learn and to grow into new jobs, but can, in the right context, lead to employees defining their own role and position.

New working methods are developing rapidly to help companies adapt to the new paradigm of human resources in a post-COVID world. Companies are rethinking the way they work to adapt to the needs of their employees and provide a work environment that is conducive to change and agility.  As a result, the tools these businesses use must evolve to support change.

Whilst internal mobility is nothing new, it is becoming more important to companies looking for a competitive advantage. Since 2006, an average of one in five executives has experienced internal mobility in the private sector. But the context of the start of 2020 and the consequent disruption and transformation of the job market, will breathe new life into this recruitment method for years to come.

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