“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
This is such a simple, yet profound question that calls for some pause and reflection. Responses to a question like this can be varied and interesting. It could be the first time on an airplane for someone, or the first-ever rock concert for another. How about learning to ride a bicycle? Or landing your first job?
If we look back at our life’s journey and the path we have traversed, it will probably be marked by several such firsts that have shaped who we are today.
Life, as we know it, is but a collection of experiences. From an evolutionary standpoint, it is the curiosity to learn more and the craving for novel experiences that have given humans a distinct advantage over other species. While this holds true for life in general, its significance when it comes to our careers cannot be stressed nearly enough.
Today, organizations are increasingly realizing the importance of building a truly diverse workforce to achieve strong business results. And when it comes to individuals, this has meant the need to build diverse career experiences to achieve career growth and success.
With the average career today spanning four decades, we owe it to ourselves to seek new and varied experiences throughout our journey. While this might often involve landing a new job, we also have another option – the wealth of internal mobility opportunities that are waiting to be tapped within our own organizations.
Internal talent mobility is not a new concept, but now lies at the heart of how organizations grow and retain their talent. A well-designed internal mobility program fosters a learning culture, enables upskilling of the workforce, and allows for a smooth flow of talent within the organization.
Here’s why internal talent mobility is becoming increasingly important for both the “future of work” and the “future of the workforce”.
Importance of Internal Talent Mobility
- Skill is the new currency: The world of work is ever evolving, and the half-life of skills is continuously on the decline. With the pace of change that surrounds us, it is critical that we always stay abreast of trends and ahead of the curve. The future belongs to professionals who can keep pace with the constantly changing skills landscape.
While new skills can be taught in a classroom, that is only the first step. Employees must be given the opportunity to apply their newly acquired skills through internal job opportunities and gig assignments.
Organizations that create a talent ecosystem that facilitates the acquisition and application of new skills stand a better chance at retaining top talent. Employees must play their part too and seek avenues to grow their skills and utilize the resources made available to them.
- Growth now has a new meaning: Adults are also referred to as grown-ups. This term has an air of finality to it. It suggests that we stop growing after a certain age. While this may be true from a biological standpoint, when it comes to the professional front, growth never stops as long as learning continues.
A commitment to life-long learning will hold the professionals of today in good stead. Internal talent mobility programs are an excellent way to provide employees an opportunity to deepen their expertise, learn, and experiment with their careers, a luxury not afforded to many in a new job in a new organization.
Traditionally, career growth was synonymous with vertical moves or promotions. However, growth, as we have now come to realize, need not always defy gravity and can come in many different forms. Lateral moves are another powerful yet underappreciated tool available to employees to grow their careers. For example, someone wishing to specialize in their craft can make a move to a related functional discipline that offers a wider scope to learn.
The type of lateral move notwithstanding, any new role comes with its own unique skill requirements and an opportunity to further deepen our professional networks within the organization. All of this is growth too, albeit of a different kind, which we must learn to value, to navigate the new world of work.
- It’s not always about the money: When good talent walks out the door, compensation invariably tends to come under the scanner. However, this kind of thinking misses the forest for the trees. The larger problem in most cases is the lack of challenging opportunities within the organization that prompts employees to look outside. It is incumbent on organizations to reward high-performing talent with roles that feed their appetite to learn and grow.
- Managers are the lynchpins to success: Employees are often told that they own their careers. While this signals empowerment, it can quickly turn into disillusionment without adequate support from their managers. Managers play an important dual role that holds the key to the internal talent mobility puzzle. They must lean in and be open to taking risks with internal talent, thus creating a safe environment for talent to thrive. At the same time, they must be equally willing to let members of their own teams go and work in other parts of the organization.
Building a strong mobility culture begins with managers signalling a strong intent to nurture internal talent. For internal talent mobility programs to succeed, managers ought to be perceived as ambassadors and not hoarders of talent.
Organizations where employees demonstrate a willingness to leave the comfort of their current roles and move to different parts of the organization are building agility and resilience in their workforce, not to mention a strong and unique organizational culture that gets created along the way.
While the immediate benefits of internal talent mobility efforts may not be apparent, in the long run, they create the foundation for rewarding and fulfilling careers and stronger organizations. The future of work is filled with possibilities waiting to be explored, and good talent will flock to organizations where opportunities to learn and grow are aplenty. This is the path all organizations focused on nurturing talent, long-term growth, and success should pursue.