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Internal talent mobility and the expanding role of assessments

Symphony TalentMay 23, 2023AssessmentsCareer DevelopmentCareer SitesQualificationResourceRetention

Encouraging internal talent mobility is becoming more of a priority for companies than ever before, and talent teams are finding assessments — now used throughout the talent funnel — are key when advancing candidates … even post-hire.

If a recruiter fills a job opening, and it’s open again in three months, is that really filling it?

That’s the question Symphony Talent’s Kara Polk, Program Director, Assessments, asked in a recent Symphony Talent fireside chat on how talent teams can employ assessments with a company’s employee value proposition to better compete for job candidates. She quickly followed it with another question: “And, are we thinking about this in a way that is driving the bottom line, as an organization?”

These are core questions facing talent acquisition teams today. Recruitment of external candidates will always be an important part of talent acquisition. However, as Polk implies, retention can and should have a much greater focus within comprehensive talent recruitment strategies — especially in today’s competitive labor market.

Connection between internal mobility and assessments

Retention goes hand in hand with internal mobility, the practice of moving current employees to different roles in the same company. Successful companies deeply value their talent and prioritize retention and internal talent mobility to drive growth rather than depending on recruiting alone.

At Symphony Talent, we are seeing organizations that demonstrate successful recruitment marketing right now are not relying on hiring alone to acquire in-demand skills. After they’ve gained an accurate understanding of the skills they have in-house and the skills they will soon need, they prioritize ways to acquire those skills for the long run — mainly through retention and upskilling, with the help of targeted assessments.

“Employees want to know how organizations are investing in them,” Polk says. “And, employees want that investment, they want to be developed.” Study after study, she says, shows candidates-turned-employees are looking for genuine internal opportunities for career growth.

“They are asking, ‘Where am I at today, and where do I need to be to get to the next level within my company?’”

Assessments, often underused post-hire, can be a great tool to help answer those questions, Polk says. “You can give employees assessments, go over the results with them, and then the next step in their professional growth. That sets them on a path to grow and also empowers their managers to provide responsible and effective coaching to get employees to the next level.”

HR research shows that it is not only more cost effective overall to develop internal talent to fill new roles, but internal mobility also:

  • Promotes greater employee loyalty and engagement
  • Nurtures diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)
  • Supports a company’s organizational health

Just as critical, a company that is willing to identify skill gaps and then develop and reposition people into emerging roles will become a much stronger talent magnet when it is necessary to hire from the outside.

Internal mobility's role in employee retention

Although it seems counterintuitive, companies that are the most successful at attracting and retaining talent know the value of giving internal candidates priority for job openings.

That’s because job mobility is at an all-time high. Employees are more empowered than ever. This has forced talent teams to identify the journeys and experiences that make employees happy.

Recent research from McKinsey & Company shows that 60% of those who have recently reentered the workforce following the Great Resignation would leave if there were a lack of career opportunities within their company.

“We learned from the pandemic that we can move people around inside the company pretty quickly, and they adapt pretty fast,” HR analyst Josh Bersin has said in a podcast when talking about top trends in the industry. “The workforce is a lot more resilient than we maybe ever thought.”

Understanding this, Bersin says, “really turns companies into internal talent marketplaces. And in a talent marketplace, you as a recruiter are recruiting inside as well as outside.”

Internal talent mobility may be a buzzword right now, but rarely is it discussed alongside the use of assessments.

“My feeling is that recruitment marketing never really connected with assessments, even though, to me, they are very connected,” Polk says. “Connecting them has always been Symphony Talent’s vision.” 

Because of today’s challenging market conditions and the cost to fill skilled jobs, companies are beginning to view their employees and the skills they bring — both known skills and unknown skills unveiled during assessments — in a different light.

Internal mobility career sites

Loren Nelson, Vice President, Solutions Engineer, for Symphony Talent, has seen clients recently “light up” with interest about creating internal mobility career sites, but he still thinks the movement to promote internal mobility within the industry lags. Symphony Talent clients that have focused on internal mobility sites, and have done an exceptional job with them, he says, include Edward Jones, Hilton Grand Vacations, and Moody’s.

“I often say to clients who have beautiful, wonderful career sites for external candidates, ‘Why wouldn't you want to give your own employees the same great experience that you're giving to outside people?’ More clients are really thinking about that,” he says.

Most organizations, of course, do have internal job databases, fed by their applicant tracking systems, and they make use of intranet sites. But often those sites are meager, stark, less attended to and, in general, less than encouraging.

It’s estimated that only one out of three companies actively encourages internal promotion and cross-departmental movement among workers, which means a vast majority are losing out on many of the undisputed benefits that come from promoting within. 

Talent mobility has been proven to have a positive impact on company culture and the fulfillment of career goals — two of the top factors that cause employees to leave.

“We have some clients that have always thought about internal mobility and have made it a part of their brand,” Polk says. “Molson Coors is that way — they really want to promote from within. Union Pacific is that way, too. But I think other companies are slow to promote from within, even though the benefits are well-known.”

Supporting DEI initiatives

A focus on internal mobility not only saves companies thousands of dollars when replacing employees who leave for other opportunities, but it also greatly supports DEI efforts — a major culture focus of more and more organizations.

Candidates from under-represented backgrounds, for example, have much to gain in a company encouraging internal mobility and using assessments to aid in career growth. Historically, Polk says, those in marginalized groups might be slower to raise their hands, thinking they are not ready for that internal move. “But if they are able to go through an assessment and see they did well, they might think, ‘Maybe I am ready. I don’t know why I thought I wasn’t!’”

Sometimes the most-skilled or best-fit candidate for an emerging role is already working at your company. And assessments — in a matter of minutes — help companies find them.

Tips to institute a culture of internal mobility, aided by assessments

Here are some tips for instituting a culture of internal mobility, aided by assessments, within your organization:

  • Communicate your policy on internal mobility throughout the company, encouraging lateral moves and cross-department projects.
  • Give internal applicants the same, if not more, credence as external candidates. 
  • Make sure your internal career website is attractive and accessible. A high-quality internal mobility site demonstrates your commitment to employees and their  growth. 
  • Map the skills of your current employee base for future reference.
  • Use assessments to ensure right-fit for growth post-hire and as a guide to track career growth.
  • Ensure people leaders are having regular career development conversations with their direct reports. 

Above all, if you want your internal mobility programs to thrive, your company has to be transparent and upfront about promoting it. As challenging as it is to find the right talent, it’s even more important to retain and develop them once they’re on the job. 

Symphony Talent offers a complete internal mobility solution that extends your recruiting strategy and efforts to your internal talent pool. With all the tools you use to recruit external talent at your fingertips, we can help make your internal mobility strategy come to life quickly and easily. 

Check out Symphony Talent’s assessments, powered by SkillCheck, and be sure to reach out to an expert for an even deeper dive. 

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