What is Talent Mobility? Types, Benefits, & More

In today’s competitive business landscape, retaining top talent remains a challenge for many organizations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 3.8 million people quit their jobs in April 2023 alone, with similar numbers quitting monthly since the start of this year.

While a simple but costly solution would be to fill up these open positions with new hires, many companies are shifting instead to a strategy called talent mobility, which empowers internal employees to explore alternative career paths within the business. In this way, organizations can optimize their workforce, nurture employee development, enhance overall business outcomes, and keep employee turnover at bay.

Let’s explore what talent mobility is, why it matters, and how it can benefit your business from the inside out.

What is talent mobility?

Talent mobility is a management strategy that involves moving employees within an organization to other roles and responsibilities as internal needs shift. It goes beyond traditional notions of career progression, enabling employees to explore and build novel skill sets by taking on new positions and working with different teams.

Why it’s important

Talent mobility creates an environment where employees can continuously learn, grow, and remain engaged with their work. By providing them with the opportunities to do so, organizations can retain valuable employees wanting to expand their skills and experiences. For employees, this demonstrates an organization’s commitment to fostering individual growth, enhancing their reputation as employers and reducing turnover rates (and the associated costs of hiring).

Additionally, talent mobility supports internal flexibility and adaptiveness, allowing businesses to respond effectively to rapidly evolving market demands and technological advancements. Plus, unlike external hires who have to learn about the company and its operational processes from the ground up, internal hires have a much smaller learning curve to tackle, making the transition more seamless.

Talent mobility vs. internal mobility

While they sound like two different strategies, talent mobility and internal mobility mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. Both terms refer to the concept of leveraging internal talent to meet organizational objectives by moving employees to open positions within the company.

Talent mobility vs. succession planning

The difference between talent mobility and succession planning is that the former provides more room for immediate adaptability, whereas the latter focuses solely on the future of management. While traditional succession planning focuses on long-term goals and identifying potential leaders within an organization, it can be limited in its effectiveness if talent retention is low. Talent mobility complements succession planning by not only helping organizations retain individuals with leadership potential but also expanding the pool of employees capable of filling critical positions. By embracing talent mobility, companies can ensure a more agile and robust succession planning process.

Types of talent mobility

Employees can move in a variety of directions within an organization. Here are a few of the common types of internal mobility and how they can benefit both employees and businesses.

Upward mobility

Upward mobility involves the vertical movement of employees within the organizational hierarchy — in other words, a promotion. For example, an employee may progress from an entry-level role to a managerial position, which comes with new pay, new responsibilities, and a higher level of accountability.

Lateral mobility

Lateral mobility emphasizes horizontal movement within an organization, allowing employees to explore different departments or functional areas within their current pay grade and expertise level. For example, a content strategist who assumes the role of a social media specialist will have new tasks to fulfill, but the position will have the same level of seniority as the previous role. This type of mobility encourages cross-functional collaboration.

Project-based mobility

Project-based mobility involves assigning employees to specific projects or initiatives outside their regular roles. For instance, let’s say a retail store has a special promotional campaign coming up for the launch of a new product. To ensure that all goes smoothly, the company may require all associates and managers to help brainstorm in-store activities, giveaways, work schedules, and other crucial ideas together to help contribute to a successful launch. Project-based mobility allows individuals to develop new skills, build networks, and contribute to the organization’s overall success by getting a peek into how all moving parts work together.

Benefits of strong talent mobility

Excellent talent mobility management helps keep employees happy and motivated, reaping several notable benefits for organizations as a whole, including:

Deeper employee engagement

Talent mobility fosters a sense of purpose and improves engagement among employees. When individuals are provided with opportunities to grow and develop within the organization, they feel valued, motivated, and invested in the company’s success. This helps drive more favorable business outcomes by aligning employees’ passions and talents with organizational goals. Map out ways each employee can bring more to the table and match those areas with individual career goals to make each journey and role more fruitful and fulfilling.

Better performance & productivity

By leveraging talent mobility, organizations can access the untapped potential of their workforce. When employees are exposed to new challenges and responsibilities, they become more skilled, confident, and capable of delivering high-quality results, enabling companies to have a multifaceted workforce that can bring diverse perspectives and experiences to each role. Invest in professional development resources to encourage your employees to learn new aspects of the business and find their place within it.

Enhanced organizational agility

Talent mobility equips organizations with the flexibility to adapt to changing business environments. By embracing a talent pool with a mosaic of experiences and expertise, companies can quickly respond to market shifts and seize new opportunities. So don’t be afraid of change — it can end up changing your organization for the better.

Lower turnover & onboarding costs

According to a recent report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a lack of career advancement opportunities is a top reason for turnover across companies. Committing to talent mobility initiatives demonstrates that you’re dedicated to helping employees achieve growth and new potential within your organization. In turn, this helps attract and retain top performers, while minimizing costs associated with recruiting and onboarding new employees. Take the time to conduct regular evaluations and surveys to keep in touch with your employees, learn what they expect from your company, and how you can best support their career paths.

Stronger succession planning

As mentioned earlier, talent mobility is a great supplement to succession planning strategies. By actively developing employees through mobility opportunities, companies develop a robust pipeline of well-rounded talent capable of assuming key leadership positions in the future. 

Develop from entry-level to leadership with Keystone Partners

In order to implement a successful talent mobility framework and unleash the full potential of your workforce, partnering with industry experts is crucial. That’s where Keystone Partners comes in. With over 40 years of extensive experience in leadership development, career management, and more, Keystone Partners provides comprehensive solutions to help organizations create and implement effective talent mobility programs.
From personalized leadership coaching to targeted training programs, we’ll help your team and business achieve sustainable success not only in today’s dynamic landscape, but in the challenges to come. Get in touch today!

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