How to Create a Future Proof Workforce through Internal Talent Mobility

29 Dec, 2022Ravianne Van Vliet

Looking for ways to futureproof your organization? Then investing in the talent you already have in-house is the way to go. Especially in this tight labor market and fast-paced global economy, internal talent mobility is a smart choice to make an organization healthy, agile, and resilient. In this article, we’ll list the benefits of talent mobility, discuss drivers and trends of talent mobility, and share several practical tips for implementation.


  1. Intro: Talent Sourcing Strategies Are Changing – This is Why
  2. What is Talent Mobility?
  3. What Are the Global Trends Driving Talent Mobility
  4. Why Companies Should Double Down on Talent Mobility
  5. Best Practices and Processes of Internal Mobility

1. Intro: Talent Sourcing Strategies Are Changing – This is Why

Recruiting and retaining top talent has always been a priority for HR leaders. However, the way they approach talent sourcing is changing under the influence of disruptive economic and technological developments and socio-demographic trends, like Gen-Z entering the workforce and The Great Resignation. Today, it’s safe to say that traditional recruitment programs are no longer sufficient to scout the perfect candidate. The external talent pool is drying up, and on top of that, the costs of hiring and onboarding a new employee are often very high. In the face of the fierce competition to attract and hire suitable candidates (also known as The War for Talent), combined with substantial talent shortages and the growing skills gap, internal mobility is gaining popularity. Why?

Because by enabling talent mobility, businesses can benefit from the competencies and knowledge that existing talents bring to the table – while also saving considerable costs and mitigating potential risks that come with the recruitment, acquisition, and onboarding of an external candidate. In addition, a well-knit talent mobility strategy is key for driving employee retention and engagement. An organization that prioritizes talent development by leveraging and mobilizing its own people into new roles or departments creates a workforce that is agile, flexible, and happier. 

Internal mobility

2. What is Talent Mobility?

In nearly all industries, from startups to large enterprises, companies are gravitating towards talent mobility to solve some of the biggest challenges their HR departments are facing – now and in the future. And for good reason: as a result of the pandemic and other global events that destabilized the working space these recent years, many HR leaders realized they had to accelerate out of disruption, and shifted their focus to understanding, engaging, and retaining talents within their organization. 

So what exactly is the definition of talent mobility? The term, also referred to as internal mobility or internal talent mobility, describes the process of employees changing roles within the same organization to explore new career opportunities. This move can happen both vertically and laterally, but it can also be in terms of projects or short-term gigs. Let’s have a closer look at the different types of internal mobility:

Examples of Talent Mobility

  • Vertical mobility: traditionally known as a ‘promotion’, internal upward mobility is about employees moving to the next level in their organization. It involves getting a new title, hierarchical status, and often a higher income (or other benefits)
  • Example: a senior marketing manager taking on the role of Head of Commerce


  • Lateral mobility: a horizontal move to a different position, department, or office within the same company. In most cases, the level of seniority and salary stays the same, but often the employee gets the opportunity to develop new skills, gain new experiences, or follow a different career path 
  • Example: a regional sales manager transferring to corporate headquarters, or a social media manager making a move sideways to the PR-department


  • Project-based mobility: when employees dedicate a part of their time to another project, either next to their regular workflow or by temporarily joining another team 
  • Example: a UX designer from Product Development moving to the Marketing department for a given amount of time, to help them out on a specific project

The concept of mobility talent management is not entirely new. In fact, up until the 1980s most people would take on a ‘job for life’. They joined a company as a young trainee, then slowly but steadily climbed the corporate ladder until decades later, they made it to Vice President of that same company – or another high position for that matter. According to Harvard Business Review, back in those days “US corporations filled roughly 90% of their vacancies through promotions and lateral assignments.” It was pretty rare that people left their jobs and moved to another company or trade, merely to invest in their professional and personal growth. Instead, it was frowned upon.

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Fast forward to today, and the world of work has changed a lot. It has seen seismic shifts as new technologies emerged, the workforce became more inclusive and diverse, and younger generations entered the job market. Spending your entire career at the same company has become a thing of the past, job-hopping and contract working have become the norm – especially among millennials and Gen-Z. They like to explore multiple positions and industries, or even make radical career changes – just as long as their employer supports their values, ambitions, and a healthy work-life balance. But while the whole concept of a ‘job for life’ is done and dusted, companies are looking for new and smart ways to keep talents on board longer. One of the strategies to achieve this goal is implementing an internal mobility policy and setting up processes for talent mobility. But why is it such a big topic right now? Below are five global trends that drive talent mobility today.

1. The Great Resignation

According to a recent article in Business Insider (based on data released by the American Bureau of Labor Statistics), a staggering 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in the spring of 2022. This trend might be contagious, as experts predict that in 2023, regions like EMEA and APAC will also be affected by these mass turnover rates. Adopting an internal mobility strategy might be one of the best defenses against people resigning. Why? Because contrary to what many business leaders might think, the number one reason your best people leave is not the money. Instead, it’s a lack of career development and promotion opportunities. If as a company you’re not willing to take your employees seriously and invest in their careers, chances are the competition will – and you’ll lose them. 

2. The War for Talent 

The War for Talent is far from over. Companies worldwide are still struggling to find external candidates for their open vacancies, and it doesn’t look like the situation will change any time soon. To solve the problem of these talent shortages, HR is shifting its focus inward rather than outward. Smart internal mobility tools like a digital talent marketplace or internal talent platforms easily match employees with in-company career opportunities. It turns out that often the best candidates already work at the company. 

Fundamentally, talent marketplaces help employees access opportunities both inside their current hierarchies, as well as outside of them. They’re a win-win for employer and employee alike: businesses get to retain talent in which they’ve already invested and have them work where they can add the most value, and people can find new skills, pursue new projects, and potentially change the trajectory of their careers.

Josh Bersin, Global HR Industry Analyst

3. New Generations, Great Expectations 

Millennials, who are said to make up to 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, have high expectations from their jobs. They want to work for companies “that support equity, transparency, flexibility and purpose”, according to the 2022 Fortune Best Workplaces for Millennials survey. In another study by Deloitte, both Gen-Z and millennials state that learning and development are critical for their work happiness. Offering a great workplace experience by giving them the freedom to unlock their talent will make them more engaged, and less likely to jump ship.

4. The Reskilling Revolution 

As jobs transform by emerging technologies like AI and the digitization of work, The World Economic Forum predicts that over 1 billion people will need to be reskilled globally by 2030. Due to this Reskilling Revolution, learning and development inevitably become strategic priorities for organizations. To close the growing skills gap (the mismatch between available and required skills within an organization), companies are increasingly training and coaching their employees for new roles and skill sets instead of recruiting new hires. Reskilling and redeploying in-house talent is far less expensive and less disruptive than ‘firing and hiring’, which can drive up costs associated with severance, lost productivity, and new talent recruitment. 

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5. Reorganizing for Business Agility

Major talent shortages, the rise of hybrid and remote work models, and changing business and market needs due to a looming economic crisis: so much has changed in a relatively short time. This forces businesses to explore new ways to become more agile – it’s essential for survival. That’s why today’s visionary companies tap into the talent they already have onboard. It helps them to quickly adapt to the changing world of work, unlock talent potential and futureproof their workforce. 

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4. Why Companies Should Double Down on Talent Mobility 

Embracing internal mobility programs is a must to keep talented employees on board and build an agile workforce. In addition, there are several other, long-term advantages, highlighted below:

Top internal mobility benefits

  • It saves time: filling open positions with qualified internal candidates can save a lot of time, as these employees are already familiar with the company culture, internal processes, and ways of working
  • It’s cost-effective: think of all the costs saved in terms of recruitment expenses, hours of productivity lost during onboarding new hires, turnover rates, etc. In fact, Gallup estimates that the cost of replacing a highly skilled employee can range from one-half to two times their annual salary
  • It does wonders for employee engagement: a new set of tasks, more responsibility or a completely new role can feel like a breath of fresh air. It gives people the chance to thrive, resulting in more job satisfaction and employee happiness – which in turn is tied in with multiple dimensions of business performance, including higher engagement, lower turnover and absenteeism, and higher productivity
  • It creates a powerful employer value proposition: internal mobility programs strongly relate to employer branding. It demonstrates an organization’s commitment to supporting their employees’ career goals and empowering them both personally and professionally – and they’re likely to talk about that with others

Companies are realizing that the key to unlocking real speed, adaptability and agility lies in utilizing the talent they already have to the fullest potential for projects, full-time roles, mentorships, and other types of work and development opportunities. Increasingly, we see companies bringing reskilling out of the classroom and into the flow of work, to develop employee skills on the job, when and where the business needs them.

Ruslan Tovbulatov, VP of Global Marketing at leading talent marketplace platform Gloat

Statistics about internal mobility

If the above benefits of internal mobility are not enough, here are some statistics to back them up: 

5. Best Practices of Internal Mobility

The benefits of internal mobility are clear; the numbers speak for themselves. But where do you start when you want to implement processes for talent mobility? Here are some workable tips:

Guidelines for internal mobility 

  • Step 1: Build a culture that fosters internal mobility: cultivate a company culture of continuous learning and skill building. Communicate openly about the opportunities people have to move to another position or department, and show how you actively stimulate professional growth. Welcome the fact that people can pursue their ambitions within the organization
  • Step 2: Make a skills analysis: for internal mobility to work, it’s essential to know what competencies people currently have, and which skills are lacking. There are multiple HR tools and methods to use, like the 9-Box Talent Review Grid that helps to measure employee performance and identify leadership potential
  • Step 3: Match employees with internal opportunities: the next step is to put processes in place to ensure that talents are matched with the right internal opportunities. Here’s where technology comes in, like People Analytics Tools and internal Talent Marketplace platforms that instantly suggest suitable growth opportunities to employees, based on their skills, potential and ambitions
  • Step 4: Empower managers: ensuring a culture of internal mobility often falls on managers’ shoulders. They have to learn how to recognize ambitious employees, and how to encourage these people to develop their skills or apply for an internal job opportunity. Partner them with your L&D leaders so they can make strategic internal moves, and develop personal growth plans with their teams
  • Step 5: Roll out a structured internal recruitment strategy: based on the previous steps, outline a talent mobility strategy and ensure everyone in HR, L&D and the management team is on the same page. To get the C-suite on board, it helps to show them the positive effects of investing in internal mobility – like savings on external recruitment, higher productivity and lower turnover rates. Also, carefully think about how the internal recruitment process will differ from the external one. For example, you may decide to skip a culture fit assessment because it’s already clear that there’s a match
  • Final tip: train your recruiters to become internal headhunters: HR industry analyst Josh Bersin states that “companies are telling me that they’ve trained their recruiters to become internal headhunters. So they’re searching around inside the company getting to know people, looking for highly-skilled individuals that are ready to move. Almost like talent scouts, which given the state of the job market, is a good thing to do.”

At Lepaya, we help organizations create a culture of continuous learning and build stronger teams by offering innovative learning experiences through our Power Skills training.