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Internal Mobility Programs—a Tool for Recruiting and Retention

Pay closer attention to the people under your own roof. Job-hopping serves no one and yet in 2023, employees still find themselves forced to leave their company when they want to get ahead. The sad reality is that it’s often easier to find a more attractive job opportunity with another employer than find a new role with your current one. Rather than lose good people, why not pay closer attention to their needs so you can keep them and attract more like them.

Historically, companies have tended to recruit people from the outside when new jobs or roles open up. Today’s highly competitive job market and increasing skills shortages are motivating employers to look inward for the talent they need, and it’s a good choice.

Companies are realizing that the employees under their own roofs often have the capabilities, motivation, and cultural fit to make their business grow faster and more effectively than external hires can. Internal mobility, the ability to move around rather than out, is one of your best tools for recruiting and retaining the right people.

Internal Hires Outperform External Ones—and Other Benefits


An internal mobility program helps you attract top talent, develop more diverse pipelines, and fill open roles and critical skill gaps with people you already know are a fit with your culture.


Better retention is considered the primary benefit of internal hiring programs. When employees are matched more precisely to their roles, skills, and interests, they are more satisfied and stay longer. You boost morale, create a more positive employee experience, preserve institutional knowledge, and save the costs of turnover as well as recruiting and training external hires.


Internal mobility helps maximize the potential of your people and business by fostering a more diverse and inclusive workplace, enabling innovation, and boosting overall performance. Equally important, it builds your reputation as a company that supports growth and development, which helps you attract top talent and with them, new skills.


However, if for no other reason, you should create a formal internal recruiting program because internal hires routinely outperform external hires. And, further, research finds that internal candidates hired through postings as part of a formal program outperformed those sponsored individually by managers or others “on nearly every conceivable dimension of quality.”


What Stands in the Way of Internal Mobility

HR leaders tell Deloitte that not only are employees leaving for new opportunities, but they often find it easier to quit and be rehired than change positions within their own organizations. There are a number of factors that contribute to this unhealthy situation, primarily the absence of processes to promote and facilitate internal recruitment and mobility. In most companies, employees must find the courage to ask for a change or find their own path to opportunity through serendipity.

Cultural barriers are another big factor impeding the ability to move and grow. Internal recruiting can be limited by managers who are unwilling to lose their top performers when their own performance is based, at least in part, on the success of their team. They are not incentivized to develop their people’s skills or support their growth. Ironically, these fearful managers make employees feel stuck and much more likely to leave the company altogether.

Most companies operate within hierarchical structures where people are expected to work their way up the pyramid rather than move laterally or even in reverse in order to gain skills or experience new challenges. Internal movement is often restricted to the management level. What’s needed are more vibrant cultures built on easy-to-navigate systems that encourage mobility across entire organizations.


How to Design an Effective Internal Mobility Program


As with any critical business objective, an internal mobility program is not a project. It’s an investment in the future of your company and should become an integral part of your organization’s culture. Internal mobility programs are not simply about promotions and transfers. They should facilitate lateral moves, temporary job rotations, swaps, and shadowing, as well as mentoring opportunities. Design your program so that it supports employees with a process for moving easily within your organization to meet their personal and career goals instead of moving out to meet them at a competitor’s.


Follow these best practices:


  • Create a team to take responsibility for internal talent acquisition. Structure it to ensure collaboration between recruitment and learning and development (L&D) functions. 
  • Communicate your strategy at launch and ensure everyone understands the opportunities offered, how the process works, and where to go with questions.
  • Use technology to build an internal talent marketplace. AI solutions like planning and talent analytics help you anticipate new and changing roles and determine which current employees might be a good fit for them. They help map out individual employee career paths and make recommendations based on data. AI can help determine who is ready for promotion as well as predict who is most likely to quit. 
  • Offer regular training, cross-training, and certification programs to reskill or upskill internal candidates based on their goals, interests, and skills.
  • Educate managers on the importance of the program in recruitment, retention, and employee experience and make internal hiring an important part of their supervisory role. Manager support and participation are key to integrating mobility into your culture.
  • When employees become candidates, provide a good experience for them, even if not selected this time.

Today’s challenging job market is changing traditional thinking about recruitment to a new focus on internal mobility. This is a long overdue shift. Current employees have proved they fit into our culture and can do the job. It costs less to recruit and train them than candidates from the outside and they’ve earned the chance to grow with us. It’s time we support them in moving in any direction they desire, up, down, or sideways.

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