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October 14, 2021

Internal Mobility: A Solution To The Job Exodus Crisis

4 min read
By Khairunnisa Mohamedali PHD

This week, we’re thinking about…

Recent research from Gallup has found that nearly half (48%) of U.S. workers are actively looking for new jobs or watching for opportunities as a direct result of a COVID-disrupted labour market, leaving many talent functions battling to fill vacancies.

Alongside (or perhaps spurred on by) this mass exodus, employees are placing a higher emphasis on learning and upskilling to remain competitive in the employment market. LinkedIn Learning, for example, reported a three-fold increase in users accessing their learning content from January to April 2020.

What’s more, a rapid pivot to virtual has led to accelerated change in the kind of skills currently in demand: the rate at which we need to learn these new skills for new ways of working and new kinds of work is also speeding up, and it’s only going to get faster. According to Microsoft’s CEO, in 2020 we saw 2 years of transformation happen in just 2 months in the digital space alone. And with nearly 8 in 10 CEOs of global enterprises sharing concerns about the availability of candidates with the skills to match their hiring needs, is it any wonder that skilled applicants are in high demand?

Nearly 8 in 10 CEOs of global enterprises share concerns about the availability of candidates with the skills to match their hiring needs.

The result of these converging factors? People and business are demanding new and more skills and more frequent upskilling. Businesses are searching to hire talent with the right skills are willing to offer more to prospective new joiners. And people are increasingly looking to grow their skills, either on their own time and dime, or preferably by changing employers.

However, this can have a negative impact on the wider industries in which businesses and people operate. The vicious cycle goes as follows: companies compete for job-ready candidates rather than investing in upskilling their own people to bridge their internal skills gap. As a result, people are not growing their skills or growing within a business in order to fill roles that require new or different skills. Those companies that do invest in their people, worry they will move elsewhere for higher pay, which in turn can disincentivise training. The result? The skills within an industry are not growing, which means the industry as a whole risks stagnating or slowing its growth. This is already being flagged as a risk in UX design, cybersecurity and data science, and there are worries of it spreading to the knowledge economy, too.

However, there is a solution to turn this vicious cycle into a virtuous one. Internal mobility programs, properly implemented, may well be the way forward. “Especially now, with change happening so quickly, workers will stick with a company that helps them continuously upgrade their skills” one CEO told Bloomberg.

Currently, training spend per employee remains just a fraction of cost-to-hire (which most estimates place at around £3,000). Yet, 61% of workers surveyed by Gallup in 2021 cited the opportunity to participate in an upskilling program as “extremely” or “very” important when weighing the decision to remain at their current job. Employees are willing and able to learn (and stay) where they are if given the right opportunities to upskill. Over 80% of Talent Acquisition leaders surveyed by LinkedIn last year agreed that internal recruiting improves retention, and studies have shown that people are around 50% more likely to stay for five years if they made an internal move within their organisation, whether a lateral move or a promotion, within three years of starting.

Fiscally, too, the numbers for internal mobility initiatives make sense: One major financial services company reported that it has seen $1.44 in savings for every dollar it had spent on education reimbursement, a rate that nearly doubled for their traditionally poorly-retained call centre employees. Developing and growing your existing talent into a role can cost up to 75% less than hiring externally for that same role.

Forward-thinking organisations are using the ability to upskill their employees as an opportunity to make their workforce more diverse.

In addition to improving retention and cutting costs, forward-thinking organisations are using the ability to upskill their employees as an opportunity to make their workforce more diverse. By helping underrepresented groups develop new skills to fill the roles they need, they are able to directly impact what their leaders of tomorrow will look like.

One example is Adobe, who have adopted a “build” vs. “buy” approach by committing to hiring diverse and underrepresented applicants for roles that require sought-after skills like (UX) design, data science, and software engineering, and providing training and apprenticeships to prepare them for full-time positions. Adobe have even released an open source apprenticeship programme playbook for other companies looking to do the same.

The next time a skills gap calls for a new role in your organisation, consider upskilling your current talent pool. It helps your bottom line, your employees will be happier, and done correctly, you could help your future workforce become more diverse as a result. Win-win.


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