What is Job Mobility and Why it Matters for Retention

As job hopping is becoming more common, learn how to retain talent by implementing a job mobility program

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The No. 1 reason people give for quitting their jobs is career advancement. Learn how you can create a job mobility program to retain talent.

In today’s economy, competition for top talent is fierce. While the direction of the job market may not be within your control, there are several things you can do to increase your bargaining position for the best employees. One of those things is to focus on career mobility.

What is career mobility?

Career mobility, also known as job mobility, refers to the movement of employees across grades or positions. Sometimes it involves a complete change in occupation. Technically, mobility can be upward or downward, but for our purposes here, we are talking about upward (or sometimes lateral) mobility. In other words, job mobility means promotions and career advancement, or a change in job role that benefits the employee’s career growth.

Why does job mobility matter to employers?

Retention, retention, retention.

When unemployment is low, as it is now, workers have a lot more career options than they did in tougher economic times. Employers must compete for top talent.

Not only do you have to entice stellar workers during your recruitment process, you have to keep them on too. If you are a frequent reader of Workest, you might be able to guess what we’re going to say next. Employee turnover is expensive.

“Internal mobility is a win-win for employers and employees alike.”

Research shows that turnover can cost the employer 20 percent of that position’s annual salary, and those are just the base costs. According to a recent Zenefits survey, the costs to small businesses can be even greater. And it’s difficult to measure the impact of lost productivity, delayed projects, and the impact on company morale. In addition, more than half of all employees are looking for a job at any given time.

What’s more, the No. 1 reason people give for quitting their jobs is career advancement. And it makes perfect sense. The average annual pay raise for employees who stay put is about 3 percent. But when an employee accepts a new job offer, it often comes with a salary bump of 10 to 20 percent. Over the course of a career, adds up to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars lost.

The bottom line: Help your employees advance, or they will advance with another employer.

For employers who want to retain their top talent, the answer to this problem is simple: offer your staff career mobility options. Whenever you have an opening on the management or supervisory level, promote from within. Talk to your employees about their career goals and do your best to help them accomplish those.

Be sure you are using your top talent to the best of their abilities. If they are capable of taking on more independent work, leading projects, or supervising others, let them do it!

The bottom line: Help your employees advance, or they will advance with another employer.

Internal mobility

What if you can’t afford to offer a promotion with a 15 percent pay increase to every one of your stellar employees? You wouldn’t be alone. That’s a tall order for any employer.

The answer might not necessarily be a move upward, but rather a lateral move to another part of the organization. In the HR world, we call this concept “internal mobility.” Internal mobility means moving talent from role to role at every level. The goal is to give your staff experience in different parts of your company so that they can gain new knowledge, skills, and expertise.

“Internal mobility is a win-win for employers and employees alike,” says Anita Bowness, Principal Product Manager, Customer Success in Saba’s Strategic Services group, with more than 20 years’ experience in helping HR leaders recruit, engage, and retain their talent.

“Employees are able to continue to expand and enhance their careers while the organization is able to retain top talent. Work with employees to create a career path that meets the needs and goals of both the organization and the employee.”

Companies who practice internal mobility are seeing great outcomes.

  • Employees stay with the company longer, as they feel like their career is moving forward.
  • Employers get to see their employees’ skills in more than one role, thereby showing them where each employee can most benefit the company.
  • The organization benefits from a flexible team. If most of the team can move around to fulfill roles and responsibilities where necessary, then the employer can focus new recruitment efforts on specialized and difficult to fill positions.
  • The ability to thrive and grow within a company is highly valued by current and prospective employees, which makes both retention and recruitment efforts more successful.
  • The company is able to build a strong leadership pipeline. Therefore, when leadership positions become available, there is a talented employee ready to be promoted from within.

Keep your top talent

Here’s the bottom line: internal job mobility programs are important for any company that doesn’t want to risk losing their top employees to new career opportunities. These programs help keep your staff working within your organization, while still allowing them to branch out and further their careers.

A recent survey of over 2,000 HR leaders and hiring managers found some impressive results:

  • 49% say that career mobility programs increase employee engagement.
  • 39% say these programs increase productivity.
  • 39% say career mobility improves teamwork.
  • 67% say that the programs have a positive impact on their company.

Many employers have come to recognize that succeeding in the workplace and retaining top talent means they must help employees to grow and broaden their skills. Formal learning and tuition reimbursement perks are not enough. Organizations must expose their employees to new jobs and roles within the company if they want to keep them.

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