Invest in Your Employees Internal Mobility

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CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people & then they leave us?”
CEO: ‘What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

As competition for top talent intensifies, many companies are investing in their current employees as a central recruiting strategy. Studies show that it can take external hires two years to “get up to speed” in their new role to build relationships and learn how to be effective in their new organization. During the recession training dollars were slashed and learning departments were scaled back. People are the foundation of a company and investing in them and structuring development to respond to the needs of the organization will reap high returns.

“Develop Our People”- a Catch Phrase or a True Commitment?

We’ve heard it over and over- “Our employees are our most valuable assets. We are committed to developing our people.” But, what does it really mean? I know of countless companies that provide e-learning systems, classes or other forms of “development” but don’t provide the opportunity to apply the knowledge in their work or a path to take on additional responsibility. One company provided enterprise-wide training on a change management methodology, but then did not require leaders to deploy it on projects. Huh? What a waste of hundreds of thousands of dollars!

To me, “develop our people,” means a true commitment, a partnership, a higher level of engagement and respect. It means that, “we care about you as an employee and will invest in developing you. We plan on capturing your talents and ambitions to build a stronger, more profitable company.” It’s offering structured classes, mentorships, stretch opportunities, pay bumps for attaining global certifications, and opportunities for face-time with executive that can lead to sponsorship. It’s a commitment to re-designing the way employees seek out new career opportunities within a company vs. just directing them to review internal job postings.

Developing a Business Culture that Supports Internal Mobility

Does your company host formal talent reviews? Top companies conduct talent review/succession planning on a bi-annual basis, but typically focus on the top 10% of the company. This leaves the majority of positions needing to be filled via a self-service approach. This tactic is outdated and leaves those not classified as “top talent” discouraged, disengaged and at risk for leaving.

Strategic HR business partners are driving change by implementing a series of initiatives to promote a culture of internal mobility, including:

  • Encouraging employees to proactively manage their own careers by developing internal profiles on the enterprise social network to showcase their current responsibilities, skills, ambitions, connections, mentors, etc. (It’s like an internal Linked In!)
  • Incentivizing corporate recruiters to set up informational interviews with employees, develop a pipeline of internal candidates and proactively move underused employees
  • Educating managers and leaders on the benefits of sharing talent across department lines and reward managers for cross-functional hiring
  • Requiring that hiring slates include a mix of internal as well as external candidates.
  • Setting goals for internal hires and publishing metrics
  • Expanding your employee referral program to include internal employee recommendations for hard to fill positions. Building a culture where every employee is a talent scout could yield surprising talent discoveries!

Investing in Employees Enhances Your Brand

An added benefit of investing in internal mobility is that it will increase your brand capital. Your company brand is what employees say to their colleagues, neighbors and friends, in face-to-face conversations or online posts. Social media sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, Linked In, Facebook, etc. provide a platform for positive or negative comments about your work environment. Employees posting about their internal promotion will enhance your brand and influence job seekers.

Internal Mobility is the future in recruiting

A 2012 study showed that external hires made 18% more than those promoting internally in the same jobs. This savings multiplied across tens, or hundred of internal hires can translate to significant bump to your bottom line. When employees feel valued and respected, they’ll see a bright future, embrace corporate training and seek out ways to grow within your company vs. leaving.

Does your company culture support internal mobility? What are you doing to invest in internal mobility? What metrics do you track? How do you communicate this commitment to your employees and keep the conversation going?

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Lisa Bonner

Lisa Bonner is an experienced change agent and Senior Vice President with Roberts Golden Consulting. She helps global Fortune 500 companies solve organizational issues and manage major changes to drive achievement of bold business objectives. Lisa is passionate about football, fitness, decorating and raising twin boys. Connect with Lisa.

Reader Interactions


  1. Shannon says

    Thanks, Lisa. This is really great insight. I just sent your article to one of management development team. – Shannon

    • Lisa Bonner says

      Thanks Shannon! I appreciate your sharing this with your team. Let me know if you’d like to brainstorm on ways to improve your internal recruiting.




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