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Boosting Talent Mobility as an Employee Retention Strategy

  • 5 Min Read

As companies think about the future, talent mobility plays a key role in their transformation. Maintaining your best employees and their talents can help set your organization up for success.


Career advancement looks different for everyone, but most people have some idea of how they’d like to grow their career, be it horizontally or vertically. Whatever the case individually, it’s important that your company boosts its talent mobility as a way to retain employees. If employees can’t excel within your organization, they’ll turn their attention elsewhere to get their career advancement opportunities.  

As companies think about the future, talent mobility plays a key role in their transformation. Maintaining your best employees and their talents can help set your organization up for success. 

What Is Talent Mobility?

Talent mobility is the ability for an employee to change roles within their organization. That can come in the form of promotions or in the form of lateral moves and even career changes. 

If your company doesn’t insist on making internal hiring a priority, you’re all but ensuring that employees who want to advance will leave. Giving good employees the opportunity to stay benefits them and your organization alike. 

Why Prioritize Talent Mobility?

With so many other competing objectives, why prioritize talent mobility? There are several reasons: 

  1. It’s better for employees. Most people want to advance somehow, whether it’s through vertical advancement via promotions or horizontal advancement through new challenges and projects. Providing an environment where they can grow makes them feel supported and can help them buy into your company culture. 
  1. It’s better for retention. Not only do you keep people who would otherwise leave to advance their careers, you also build a reputation as a workplace that supports its employees’ goals and ambitions. If they don’t feel like they can advance within your organization, they’ll leave to do so. 

    “The more that we put into ensuring that we are keeping employees happy and keeping them engaged, they feel connected, not just to the company or the mission or their day-to-day but to other people,” says Rosanne Holmes, learning and development manager at D2L. 

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  1. It’s better for efficiency. Keeping talent who would otherwise look elsewhere for an advancement opportunity means fewer roles you have to fill from the outside. That means hiring happens faster and costs less than if you had to hire externally. You also get the added benefit of maintaining company knowledge. What’s more, internal hiring can help employees understand different areas of the business, breaking down silos and thus improving innovation. 

With a strong talent mobility program, you can fill internal skill gaps more easily, too. Knowing your team members’ areas of strength and their aptitudes can help you create career pathways for them to advance in areas of need.

3 Ways to Boost Talent Mobility

We’ve covered why it’s important to support internal talent mobility. Here are three ways to go from the theoretical to the practical: 

Measure and Set Internal Hiring Goals

To improve internal talent mobility, you need to understand your baseline. Track how many open roles are filled by internal candidates over a given period. Be mindful of context here, because things like acquisitions, growth and restructuring can all change the numbers drastically. 

Once you’ve measured the current state, set some goals. Internal hiring benchmarks are tough to find, but generally speaking, the more, the better. A joint study by researchers out of Cornell University and the University of Minnesota found that “internal hires not only tend to be high performers, but they are more likely to stay with the organization.” Aim to improve your internal hiring rate by a little and then, if you blow past your target, you can set a more ambitious goal. 

Give Professional Development Opportunities

How do you help people move within your organization? Enable them through professional development (PD). 

Someone moving within a marketing department, say, can likely enhance their skills through short courses or micro-credentials, while someone transferring to another department entirely may need more significant learning opportunities. Either way, ensuring that your team members can access learning on the job can help them take the leap inside your organization instead of outside of it. 

PD opportunities are very helpful for employees to acquire new knowledge, but it’s important to also give your team the chance to apply their knowledge. Giving them these chances is key to setting them up for success, can ensure a smooth transition into their new role and can help cement that team member’s desire to stick around and grow. 

Encourage Employees to Explore

Speaking of interdepartmental shifts, giving employees the ability to explore new opportunities can do wonders for your retention. This can align closely with professional development, especially if you use a platform that enables employees to explore a catalog of courses from different providers. 

You can also offer secondments, job shadows and mentorships as part of a real desire to help employees explore their different interests. 

Another option: Stretch projects outside of an employee’s job scope. Maybe a team member loves working with numbers and currently works in sales, or has a podcast as a passion project and works in human resources. Find opportunities to marry interests and job responsibilities, igniting passion at work that can be transformative for both your organization and the employee in question. Along the way, this explorative mindset can help employees experiment. Even if the projects fail, they can learn a lot if they’re encouraged to take swings, make mistakes and fail fast. 

Become a Case Study on Employee Retention

Transformation offices around the globe are focusing on employee retention. We’ve put together a list of 19 strategies to help you nail employee retention and keep your best employees from leaving for the competition.

Written by:

Chase Banger
Chase Banger

Chase Banger is a Content Marketing Specialist at D2L. An award-winning journalist and former communications specialist, he has a passion for helping people through education.

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Table of Contents
  1. What Is Talent Mobility?
  2. Why Prioritize Talent Mobility?
  3. 3 Ways to Boost Talent Mobility
  4. Become a Case Study on Employee Retention