What is internal mobility and why do you need it?

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What is Internal Mobility?

Internal Mobility is the movement of people within an organisation.  It gives your talent the ability to pursue a broader range of opportunities whether it’s a promotion, a lateral move or a transfer to another location.

Offering employees the opportunity to change roles for career transitions or development is beneficial to both the employee and the organisation.  In fact, according to research from LinkedIn, employees stay with their company 41% longer when their company hires from within.

Why do you need internal mobility?

It is a common complaint that access to information about future career paths, and immediate opportunities, are more easily found outside an organisation rather than within it. A recent report from Randstad RiseSmart found that employee sentiment towards internal mobility is at its lowest level. Over 43% of staff say they don’t have enough opportunity for internal mobility and 60% say it’s easier to find a new role outside their company than change their role internally.

With growing skill shortages and low unemployment rates, acquisition alone isn’t enough for many organisations to access the talent they need to fuel growth. Exacerbated by existing challenges with internal mobility; a finite pool of talent, small numbers making it hard to match opportunities and managers worrying about the impact on their teams, organisations need to effectively tap their current workforce to identify people with the required skills.  (Read our blog on ‘Why should talent teams turn to internal mobility).

Encouraging talent and top performers to pursue opportunities within the organisation they will find engaging and be passionate about will help to keep them; a win-win for everyone.

What are the benefits of Internal Mobility?

The benefits of internal mobility are far-reaching, and smart organisations today are leveraging the different types as part of their People Management strategy.  But it doesn’t stop at the organisation, employees can also enjoy the benefits of internal mobility setting themselves up for long-term career success.  

Attract and retain top performers – One of the top reasons why employees leave their organisation is lack of career progression.  If you can provide your employees with the opportunity to upskill and take on new challenges, they’ll be a lot more likely to stick around! In fact, according to research by LinkedIn, employees stay with their company 41% longer when their company hires from within.

Improve employee engagement – An IBM survey into the future of internal mobility found that 90% of respondents believed internal mobility enhances career satisfaction.  When your people have the opportunity to develop and grow, they will be inspired to achieve their full potential.  

Save money and resources – Hiring new employees is always going to be expensive and resource-heavy.  There are large costs involved in recruiting and training new hires and research from Gallup suggests replacing an employee can cost up to 2x their salary.  With internal mobility strategies in place, organisations can avoid recruitment, onboarding and training costs and still manage to recruit the talent they need from within.  

Help meet organisational demands – As an organisation evolves and responds to ever-changing market situations and employee needs, internal mobility can provide you with the right talent to mitigate the risk of losing valuable business and spearhead specific projects.

Increased efficiency – Increased efficiency is particularly true for positions that are in high demand or require a great deal of ability and experience.  Internal hires usually outperform external hires in the first two years after promotion.

What are the different types of Internal Mobility?

People leaders use different methods of internal mobility to provide their talent with upskilling and promotional opportunities for either moving between roles or vertically and laterally.

Lateral Mobility 

Lateral Mobility refers to an employee moving from one role to another: usually with little to no change to their salary or their level of seniority.  Although this isn’t a traditional promotion or career move, it will provide employees with a chance to apply their skills elsewhere and reignite their passion for the organisation by taking on new challenges.  Lateral mobility promotes knowledge sharing and cross-collaboration as well as benefiting recruitment teams when sourcing for roles that are suited for internal candidates.

Upward Mobility

Upward Mobility refers to promotion, whether this is a move to a brand-new role, another department or an advancement in seniority.  Upward mobility should always be a part of an internal mobility strategy to reward existing employees for their performance and hard work and It should come with a change in salary and title.  Upward mobility helps to increase employee engagement, satisfaction and productivity while facilitating diversity amongst your leadership teams.


Transfer mobility is when an employee relocates to a new location or office and keeps similar responsibilities and compensation packages.  In general, transfers take place to either meet the needs of the business or the employee has requested a relocation or seen an opportunity they would like to pursue.  Transfers can be permanent, temporary or ad-hoc.

Project-based Mobility

Project-based mobility enables cross-functional teams to come together to achieve a common business objective or a specific one-off project.  By allowing employees to dedicate themselves to projects beyond their usual job and department, organisations can benefit from a diverse range of expertise.  Project-based mobility is a strategy used by Talent Acquisition leaders so they can hire fewer people while tracking employee skills.

Implementing an Internal Mobility Strategy

To implement an impactful internal mobility strategy, leaders must take steps to cultivate a culture of talent sharing and empower employees to take ownership of their professional development. 

Evaluate your employee skills – For genuine internal mobility you need to be able to keep track of your employees’ capabilities and the skills gaps your business has by auditing each employee which is usually done during the hiring process.  Keep the focus on skills rather than job titles.

Implement development frameworks – Like a roadmap where you can lay out skills and competencies and give employees a clear view of how they can grow and what they need to do to achieve their goals.

Train your Managers – Ensure your managers are equipped to recognise employees with ambitions and are given tools to support their development.  Managers should be aware of their team’s aspirations and should look at ways to help with their personal and career development.

Establish an Internal Mobility Community – Develop a community to provide the time and space to understand the capabilities and aspirations of employees.  Enable connection with future teams and decision-makers as well as existing ones.

Put more control into the hands of your employees – Give your employees the ability to develop a relationship within the organisation, broaden their knowledge, participate in conversations and build personal connections.

Streamline the internal candidate experience – A common complaint from employees is that they aren’t aware of opportunities available internally.  When building your strategy, one of your goals must be to make it easy for internal candidates to find and apply for open positions.  Think about using an internal mobility platform like Hollaroo.

Facilitate human connections – Create a culture that establishes long-term sustainable connections.  These connections will help establish a sense of belonging particularly for those working remotely.  Create opportunities for mentors or buddies to help keep employees engaged long-term.

Make succession planning a priority – Create a succession plan so you know the next steps when an employee leaves.  A clear path from the current employee to the replacement should exist for an internal succession plan to succeed.  A great example of this is a retiring employee spending time mentoring the employee and taking over their responsibilities.

Invest in Internal Mobility Software – You’ll need access to the right tools to help you implement and manage your strategy.  This means investing in an internal mobility solution where you can build and maintain internal networks to engage and retain your internal talent.

Barriers to Internal Mobility

There are frequent barriers to internal mobility and employees are often made to feel unsupported when they decide to pursue a new role.  According to research by Gartner, only 17% of candidates believe their manager facilitates the process of applying for internal jobs and only 20% feel supported by their peers and teams.

Employees can feel uncomfortable having a conversation with their manager about their interest in another role outside of their department, deterring less confident employees from moving around.  Organisations should consider allowing employees to bypass their manager when applying for new roles and shift the conversation until they have applied and been interviewed, protecting them until they know if they are a strong candidate for the role.

Managers are often stuck in a ‘talent-hoarding’ mentality.  While it’s natural to be possessive of top performers, leaders need to encourage managers to embrace internal mobility to broaden their own talent pools and to stop employees seeking work outside of the organisation for fear of remaining stagnant.  People leaders need to equip managers to share knowledge and internal opportunities with their teams.  Managers need to understand the aspirations of their teams and the potential career paths available to them.  They should be able to advise on how their skills can transfer to a new role and what they need to do to be considered.  In turn, Managers will have access to even more qualified talent capable of handling a greater variety of tasks.

Follow some of our handy hints for encouraging internal mobility and how to overcome the barriers:

  • Reward Managers for retaining people within their organisation rather than just on their teams.
  • Be transparent – Candidates need to know their application won’t cause bad feelings with their current manager or team.
  • Provide Managers with support to champion moves and receive the necessary support once the employee transitions.
  • Ensure internal mobility opportunities are visible.  Job boards or talent communities should be built and connected on digital channels where employees spend time.  Read about the Hollaroo Internal Mobility platform.
  • Showcase employee stories who have successfully moved to other roles.
  • Build a culture that supports internal mobility by providing clarity so everyone understands the value and benefits, carry out skills mapping and career development conversations, and give internal applicants the same if not more credence as external ones.
  • Provide networking opportunities and expose employees to different groups or teams across the workplace.

The Hollaroo Approach to Internal Mobility

The standard recruitment process is still almost entirely vacancy-driven. Marketing tends to focus on active jobs and the only option for candidates is to enter into a selection process. This process is even less suitable for internal candidates, where the pool of talent is smaller and the impact on existing teams needs to be considered.

The Hollaroo platform is different and provides a more holistic approach to succession planning that not only considers the future requirements of the organisation but blends together the differing requirements for internal and external talent. Internal talent is given the tools, information and feedback to enable them to explore their next move without relying on timing. It’s a truly collaborative process that connects future and existing teams as well as decision-makers.

In Summary

Internal mobility is so much more than just hiring employees from within the organisation.  A well-designed and implemented internal mobility program will improve the quality of hire, talent development, skills sharing and employee retention.

It will develop and strengthen relationships as well as build high levels of trust and commitment to your organisation.  By giving your employees the chance to succeed in their careers and developing a workplace that supports an inclusive company culture, your employees are destined to stick around for a long time!

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