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Internally Mobile Workforces

Posted by Aaron Green  July 21, 2011 01:00 PM

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Giving employees opportunities to advance their career by moving up or even moving laterally to other jobs in an organization is a good way to maintain employee engagement and retention.



Now is the time

As this recent Boston Globe article points out, nearly two-thirds of workers want to leave their current position. About the same numbers of employers say they'll be hiring this year, according to a quarterly survey of HR professionals conducted by my firm, Professional Staffing Group.

Internal mobility can be a win-win for employers and employees. It gives employees relief from a job they may have grown tired of without forcing them to give up the security of their current workplace. It gives employers a way to place experienced workers, who are already accustomed to the company and may have a shorter learning curve, without the expense of recruiting and training new external workers.


Most Companies Don't Handle Mobility Well

Many organizations do not handle internal mobility well and therefore pay the price in terms of employee turnover. Such organizations cling to the hope that the employee will be satisfied in his or her current job or they let company politics come in to play and allow managers to block transfers.


Best Practice Recommendations

Have realistic expectations - It is important not to hold internal job candidates to unreasonable standards, expecting them to be the perfect fit. Companies risk doing damage to their culture when they reject an internal candidate then turn around and hire someone from the outside who is not any more qualified for the job. Sometimes knowing too much about internal candidates can get in the way; you know more about internal candidate's flaws as compared to external candidates who don't try to show you their shortcomings in the interview process. Unless the flaws are critical and impact the employee's ability to do the new job, don't let minor shortcomings stop you from making the transfer.

Ensure company culture and senior management support the initiative - Senior management's visible support is necessary to develop and maintain a culture that allows for and even encourages internal mobility. Without high level senior management commitment to mobility, internal politics can take over and managers can block transfers or even discussions of transfers. Senior management should reinforce the long term benefits (retention and job satisfaction) of maintaining a culture that encourages internal mobility.


Make it easy - Most barriers that companies construct around internal hiring are well-intentioned; they are designed to prevent inter-departmental poaching and to promote transparency. But they can also make it restrictive for employees to take advantage of internal mobility and in some cases make it seem easier to look for a job outside the organization. Employers can make internal mobility as easy as possible by eliminating the need for applications, or for updated resumes, or permission from managers when applying to internal job postings. 


Market your internal mobility policy -Management should consistently support and promote internal mobility at meetings, through email communications, signage in common areas and any other internal communication opportunities.


Pay internal candidates the same as you would pay an external candidate - Compensation should be in-line with what you would expect to offer an external candidate with similar qualifications. In other words, don't lower the compensation just because your internal transferee is currently making less money; such actions serve to motivate employee to look for external opportunities.


Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

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About HR Columns

Featuring human resources advice and columns from The Boston Globe's On Staffing and Hire Authority writers.

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