Problem-Solving With Internal Mobility

Promoting top-performers may be the best way to fill difficult vacancies.

By Josh Tolan

“I’ve accepted a position with another company.”

Those are the words that no one wants to hear from a top performer, but if it happens, managers wish the employee well, tell them they will be missed, and reupload their job description online.

Next comes weeks of reading faceless applicants’ resumes and meeting the best candidates for interviews. Eventually, a replacement surfaces, and as they begin their onboarding process, one can only hope that they’ll catch on quickly and fit in with the rest of the staff. Only time will tell if this outsider will work out, but what other options are there?

A better choice might have been overlooked: a current employee. Although existing employees have proven track records with their company, most hiring managers look outside of their organization when trying to fill a position. A 2015 Gallup survey found that when moving into a new role, 93 percent of employees had to also change employers.

Why is the first instinct to search for a candidate outside of the company instead of embracing internal mobility? Especially when current employees have the following to offer:

Guaranteed cultural fit. Companies take many steps to build and maintain a culture that is true to the organization. They want to create an image that represents what they stand for and, most importantly, they want employees who thrive in the environments they create. In fact, a 2016 report from Deloitte University Press found that 82 percent of business leaders believe a strong culture gives a company a competitive advantage.

Hiring someone from outside the company means taking a chance that they might not have the best cultural fit. Internal mobility, however, provides a pool of candidates who have already proven that they work well within the organization. The employer knows how well they represent the company’s values and that they’re motivated by what it stands for.

Less training. The first few weeks at a new job can be very overwhelming for a new employee. They need to process information about their role as well as the company, while putting names to a sea of new faces. In order to make this transition easier, organizations invest a lot of time and resources into their onboarding process.

When an employee is already familiar with the company and how it works, however, things run a lot more smoothly. They need less training and guidance on protocols because they’ve already worked for the company, and since there’s less material to sift through, employees can focus on fitting into their new role faster.

Higher engagement. Monotony is one of employee engagement’s fiercest enemies. The more time an individual spends in one position, the greater the chance that they’ll get bored with the day-to-day tasks. No matter how much they love their job, eventually tedium chips away at their engagement.

That’s why, in a 2016 survey by Future Workplace, 49 percent of respondents said that internal mobility helped to increase overall employee engagement. By offering employees new challenging roles, their connection to their work and their productivity is renewed.

Although there are many advantages to internal mobility, the hiring process shouldn’t be taken for granted. There still needs to be an established system for assessing how well current employees would do in another role. There are a few best practices to follow in order to create a foundation for effective internal hiring:

  1. Keep track of employees’ career goals. The majority of employees set individual goals for their future. They want to be able to develop and advance professionally. So if they’re given internal mobility options, they’ll appreciate it. But managers also need to be proactive and find out what other roles they aspire to.

Instead of waiting until a position opens up, have a discussion about individual goals regularly. This exercise provides a short list of great candidates before the role is vacant and creates the opportunity to effectively train people for the opening.

For example, if a manager sits down and discusses an entry-level employee’s professional goals, they’ll be able to offer the training and experience the employee will need to succeed. If an employee would like to become a manager one day, give them the chance to act as a team leader on a project to provide them with a taste of a leadership role. Then have a conversation about how they did and how they can improve so they’ll be ready for their desired position when it opens up.

  1. Offer job shadowing. When organizations prioritize internal mobility, it creates a unique opportunity to give a candidate a trial run. Possible replacements can spend time with the departing employee during their final weeks to see how they’d fit in the role and with their co-workers. The employee who is leaving can offer firsthand advice about what it takes to succeed in the position. Direct supervisors and peers can also provide feedback about how each candidate did and instill more confidence in the final choice.
  2. Conduct interviews. One of the most difficult parts of hiring from within is not allowing personal bias to influence the decision. Depending on the size of the company, the hiring manager might already have a strong relationship with certain candidates. That might unconsciously sway who they choose, even if it’s not the best choice.

One way to minimize this risk is by conducting interviews with the applicants. Current employees can record their responses to provide more consistency. It also makes it simple for multiple people to review candidates’ responses. Both people who are familiar with the employee and those that aren’t can give their opinion, painting a more balanced picture of whether or not they’re right for the role.

When an employee leaves their organization, it’s easy to think there are more fish in the sea—just don’t forget that the perfect fish might be closer than you think. Focusing on internal mobility taps into a candidate source that’s already proven to boast great employees.

Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire.

Posted April 4, 2017 in Performance Management & Rewards

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