Navigating the New Era of Work with Internal Mobility

Written By David Edwards
Time lapse photography of fast moving busy businessmen reflecting in glass of building.

The nature of work is changing rapidly. As automation transforms roles and new skills emerge, companies can no longer rely on traditional career ladders to develop talent. Instead, they must embrace internal mobility – the movement of employees between jobs and departments within an organization.

Internal mobility has become critical for engaging employees, retaining top talent, and building an agile workforce. With the “Great Resignation” in full swing, companies are struggling to fill open roles. This talent shortage, along with employees’ increasing desire for career growth, makes internal mobility more important than ever.

Moving employees into new positions internally has many advantages over external hiring. It retains institutional knowledge and reduces the costs of recruiting and onboarding new employees. Transitioning staff into different roles also cross-trains them to take on new challenges and responsibilities. This expands their capabilities and creates a more flexible, future-ready workforce.

Research shows that internal mobility has a significant impact on employee satisfaction and retention. Employees who feel they are advancing in their careers are more motivated and engaged. They are also less likely to leave for new opportunities. A recent study found that 70% of employees who changed roles internally remained with their company three years later.

With rapid changes on the horizon, the ability to quickly reskill employees and move them where needed will be key to an organization’s agility and resilience. Companies that build a culture of internal mobility, invest in training, and provide clear career pathways will gain a competitive edge. They will thrive with an empowered workforce ready to take on new mandates and steer the organization confidently into the future.

Why Internal Mobility is Critical for Organizations

In today’s tight labor market, employees have high expectations for career growth and development opportunities. Lack of mobility is one of the top reasons employees leave their jobs. A recent Gallup poll found that 87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job.

Moving talent into new roles internally has a number of advantages for organizations looking to engage employees and retain top talent. Filling open positions with internal candidates is faster than recruiting externally, ensuring important roles are filled promptly. It also retains organizational knowledge that would otherwise walk out the door. External hires take time to acquire the same level of institutional know-how.

There are also significant cost savings from reduced recruiting and onboarding expenses. Estimates typically peg the cost of replacing an employee at 50-60% of their annual salary. Growing talent internally avoids these replacement costs.

Lateral moves and cross-training further expand the capabilities of the workforce. Rather than siloed skill sets, companies can develop versatile, multidimensional team members ready to take on new challenges. A recent McKinsey study found that employees who took on rotational assignments were 20% more likely to receive a promotion.

The data on the benefits of internal mobility is compelling:

  • 70% higher retention when employees changed roles internally (IBM)
  • Employees are 5x more likely to be high performers if developed internally vs. externally hired (Oracle)
  • 14% higher engagement among employees offered internal mobility (Gallup)
  • 20% higher productivity for internally developed leaders (Centre for High Performance)

For any organization looking to the future, a focus on internal mobility is vital. Developing and empowering your workforce builds the agility and resilience needed to navigate change and come out ahead.

Building a Culture That Powers Internal Mobility

Creating a culture that supports ongoing internal mobility takes intention and investment. However, the effort pays dividends in increased agility, innovation, and retention. Here are some best practices for organizations:

Make Career Pathways Visible

Organizations should map out career pathways across the company to help employees understand mobility options. Career frameworks outline the various roles, responsibilities, and competencies of job families. For example, common progressions for marketers could be:

Marketing Associate > Marketing Manager > Senior Marketing Manager > Marketing Director.

Competency models are another tool to showcase the capabilities needed as employees develop from role to role. Sharing these models openly allows employees to identify skills gaps and work toward bridging them.

Progression frameworks bring the pathways to life. A visualization presents each role, required competencies, sample transitions, and suggested development opportunities. This transparency empowers employees to take ownership of their growth.

Encourage Managers to Develop Talent

Managers sometimes hoard their top talent. Organizations need to incentivize managers to identify high-potential employees and actively develop them for mobility opportunities.

Make internal mobility a part of performance management. Managers should have development discussions, assign stretch projects, provide mentoring, and nominate rising stars for fast-track programs. This builds the next generation of leaders.

Enabling Skill-Building

Companies should create programs to build in-demand skills. Examples include:

  • Job rotation programs that let employees take on short-term assignments in other departments
  • Internal talent pools or benches to reskill employees for priority roles
  • Access to online learning platforms, conferences, training
  • Project opportunities to gain new expertise
  • Sponsorship for continuing education and certifications

These expand employees’ capabilities, deliver fresh perspectives, and smooth transitions between jobs.

Offer Lateral Development Moves

While promotions are great, not every transition needs to be a step up. Lateral moves into new departments or special projects keep employees stimulated and challenged.

Temporary assignments also let employees “test drive” new roles without fully committing. Over 50% of those in Deloitte’s Mass Career Customization program took advantage of lateral moves to expand their experience before progressing upwards.

Support Transition Success

Arm employees with the tools and training to excel in new roles. Mentoring, cohort-based learning experiences, and check-ins ensure they gain the domain knowledge and confidence to get up to speed quickly.

Assign peer buddies as go-to contacts. Welcome feedback on how to improve the transition experience. The more supported employees feel, the faster they become high contributors.

Highlight Success Stories

Nothing sells internal mobility like peers who have thrived through the experience. Leverage their stories across communication channels. Have them share firsthand about the growth, enjoyment, and rewards of changing roles internally.

Seeing examples of others who have succeeded through internal mobility builds trust in the process and inspires more employees to explore new opportunities.

Incentivize Managers

Since managers are gatekeepers to mobility, organizations should tie incentives to developing and moving employees. For example, make a portion of managers’ bonuses based on the number of direct reports promoted internally each year. This motivates the desired behavior.

Give Internal Candidates Priority

When openings arise, review whether current employees are ready to take on the role before posting externally. Even if they lack some requirements, assess their transferable skills and willingness to learn.

Internal candidates have inherent advantages. Prioritizing them reinforces that there are opportunities to progress within the company.

Track and Celebrate Metrics

Measure internal mobility rates to identify successes and areas for improvement. Recognize teams and managers who lead the way. Make metrics transparent to demonstrate career growth is a priority and bring the numbers to life. Marketing campaigns with employee stories are excellent here.

A culture of internal mobility empowers employees and builds competitive advantage. Planning, investment, and intention make career pathways a win-win for both talent and the organization.

Overcoming Roadblocks to Internal Mobility

While internal mobility has many benefits, making it a reality within an organization presents some common challenges. Being aware of these barriers allows companies to proactively address them.

Manager Reluctance

Managers often resist losing their best team members to other departments. The key is getting them to see mobility as a development opportunity, not merely lost productivity. Providing incentives for developing talent can shift mindsets. Managers also need to have visibility into their high-potential pipeline to plan for backfilling roles.

Perceptions Favoring External Hires

There can be an assumption that external hires possess more relevant experience than internal candidates. However, studies show that high-potential internal candidates actually become high performers more quickly than external hires. Shift perceptions through data, marketing successful mobility transitions, and positioning mobility as a competitive advantage.

Lack of Transition Support

Employees need adequate training, mentoring, and resources to get up to speed in new roles. Insufficient support leads to weak transitions and discourages future mobility. Budget adequately for learning and development related to internal moves. Assign peer mentors and manager check-ins to set up transitional employees for success.

Low Visibility into Opportunities

Internal mobility depends on employees knowing what opportunities exist. Lack of visibility hinders mobility. Maintain open access to role descriptions, requirements, and competency models. Offer matching tools that suggest potential fit based on employee profiles. Widely advertise all open positions, not just external openings.

Employees Don’t Speak Up

Employees may be unaware of potential new directions or be hesitant to express interest. Create frameworks for managers to regularly discuss career aspirations. Train employees to articulate transferable skills from past roles. Develop tools like internal profile sharing to match employees to hidden opportunities.

Weak Mobility Frameworks

The absence of clear processes, guidelines, and tracking methods impedes effective mobility. Outline end-to-end mobility procedures. Define measures of success. Automate hand-offs between managers. Build programs for transitional support. Report on mobility metrics to expose gaps.

Minimal Incentives

Managers and employees need motivation to make mobility happen. Consider small bonuses for developing talent that moves internally. Enhance the profile of mobility graduates. Make it a positive factor in promotion reviews. Enable “passports” that let employees take additional paid time off for training related to internal moves.

With purposeful planning, organizations can tackle these barriers. The reward is an energized workforce equipped to propel the business forward.

Technology to Power Seamless Internal Mobility

Technology provides invaluable support for building effective talent mobility. Platforms that provide data insights, automate workflows, and facilitate connections empower organizations to remove mobility friction.

Talent Intelligence Platforms

These tools create a skills inventory across the workforce. Using AI and machine learning, they map capabilities to open positions and identify matches. This allows targeted development plans to reskill employees for transition.

Internal Talent Marketplaces

Intuitive career portal interfaces enable employees to browse open roles, take assessments, and directly apply for internal opportunities that match their capabilities and interests. This opens career paths that employees can own and pursue.

People Analytics

Powerful analytics guide strategic workforce planning by identifying high-potential employees, forecasting critical skill needs, and predicting retention risk. This enables proactive management of talent pipelines and succession plans.


Assessments evaluate employee strengths, employee development areas, and preferences. They generate personalized recommendations for lateral moves, special projects, mentors, and learning opportunities that benefit employees and realize company benefits.


Mobility automation eliminates manual workflows that often delay transitions and create friction. Automating hand-offs, coordinating training, updating systems, and more streamlined moves.

Transition Support Tools

Digital learning platforms, mentoring software, and collaborative team sites provide transitioning employees with on-demand access to the training and connections they need to come up to speed quickly in new roles.

These technologies amplify the impact of a career mobility program by connecting people to opportunities. They optimize transitions and provide data-driven insights so that talent transformation aligns tightly with business objectives.

Unlocking Potential Through Internal Mobility

In today’s business landscape, organizations must leverage internal talent mobility to remain competitive. Nurturing employees’ growth and enabling smooth transitions between roles is critical for driving agility, innovation, and performance.

As this article has covered, internal mobility positively impacts employee retention, engagement, skills development, and overall workforce resilience. Employees feel invested when they have options for career advancement and are able to continuously expand their capabilities.

Organizations must take concrete steps to enable job mobility. This includes increasing transparency into career pathways, actively training and rotating internal talent, automating transition processes, and incentivizing managers to nurture development.

Most importantly, the leadership team must cultivate a company culture that celebrates job hopping and mobility. Employees should feel empowered to express career interests, try new job roles, and know their career development is a priority. The cultural shift requires intention, investment, and persistence.

The reward is a thriving workforce ready to propel the organization confidently into the future. The competitive advantage will go to those companies that embed talent mobility into the cultural DNA and develop people-centric, responsive, and progressive workforce strategies. The time is now for organizations to unleash their internal talent potential through career mobility.