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Chris Phillips


VP, International Marketing

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The future is mobile: Time to give employees a fresh challenge


Chris Phillips explains why now is the time to take talent and internal mobility seriously and gives advice on how organisations can get their own strategy up and running.

The economic outlook might be looking brighter now than at any point in the last 12 months, but this is no time for HR to rest on its laurels. Just as businesses are looking to move on from the downturn, individuals are also thinking about their futures. Many people, having stuck with their employer while the going was tough, will feel it is now time to move on.

The biggest factor in employees deciding to leave their job is not reward; it is a lack of development opportunities, or fresh challenges. This is especially true for Generation Y workers, who place a high value on career opportunities that give them the chance to learn new skills and develop personally.  

Therefore, if they want to keep hold of their best talent, organisations need to be working hard to ensure staff have opportunities for both career and personal progression, and to make sure that these opportunities are clearly visible within the business. By having an effective internal mobility strategy in place, HR departments can give employees the chance to move to a new role within the organisation, thereby boosting retention rates and improving engagement levels.

Internal mobility will give staff the chance to learn new skills and widen their experience without leaving the organisation. This provides fresh opportunities and allows them to enhance their CV with the dual benefits of increasing retention rates whilst enhancing individuals’ all-round abilities, something which can only improve their value to the business. In Japan for instance, a manager is not considered to be fully qualified if he or she has not worked overseas. This breadth of experience is quickly becoming more attractive to both employers and candidates here in the UK.

A key part of any talent mobility strategy is succession planning. This will involve identifying top performers and preparing them – through mentoring, management training and job rotation schemes – so they are able to fill specific senior roles when they become available. Not only is this an excellent way of demonstrating the development opportunities available within the business, but succession planning ensures organisations have sufficient ‘bench strength’ to cope with unforeseen circumstances.

Crucially however, internal mobility does not mean simply promoting from within. The best internal mobility strategies will also give talented employees the chance to move laterally within the business, giving them the chance to develop and use other skills, allowing HR to ensure talent is optimally distributed throughout the organisation.

The key to a truly successful internal mobility strategy is simple: information.  HR needs to have a thorough and up-to-date profile on each individual within the business.  This does not just mean a list of their skills and experiences but a thorough understanding of each person’s preferences, aspirations, even their interests outside of work. Without this comprehensive knowledge of every employee, implementing internal mobility becomes a far more complicated and haphazard process.

Previously, gathering and updating this much information would have been a huge drain on resources. However, with the latest unified talent management systems it becomes far quicker and easier to gather information on each employee, and keep these details updated.  By using the technology available to them, HR departments can identify the relevant skills, experiences and preferences of employees and use this information to automatically match individuals with vacancies within the organisation.  It is also possible to use the system to connect employees who share an interest in a particular area of the business, or who want to develop a specific set of skills.

Although I have so far discussed internal mobility as a way of keeping talent onboard, a well-implemented mobility strategy offers a return on investment beyond boosting retention. Once internal mobility processes have been established within the business, it is possible to shift resources around the organisation to where they are most needed, depending on demand and changes in the market. This can lead to significant savings by filling vacancies without incurring the costs and delays that are inevitable with external hiring processes. It will also reduce the ‘down-time’ that happens  when someone is new to the role. Research has found that filling a vacancy with an individual who was already employed with the organisation helps shorten the time to full productivity by 50%. Hiring from within also reduces costs by eliminating the need for expenditure on sourcing and advertising.

Although it is now possible to carry out internal mobility and succession planning quickly and cost-effectively by using a talent management system to manage ongoing these processes, research has found that 53% of organisations are still carrying out these processes manually. Businesses not making use of the technology available are bound to struggle in terms of both accuracy and efficiency. But they are better placed than those who do not understand the importance of these issues.

With so much attention being paid to the high levels of unemployment and continuing unpredictability in the economy, it is important for HR professionals to bear in mind that the best talent will never be short of options. Businesses who do not actively work to demonstrate the opportunities for development that exist within the organisation should not be surprised if their top performers decide to look for themselves elsewhere.

Chris Phillips is vice-president of international marketing at talent management solutions provider Taleo.

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Chris Phillips

VP, International Marketing

Read more from Chris Phillips

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