Unlocking Career Mobility: A Path to Employee Retention and Growth

December 4, 2023
Career Mobility

In today’s competitive labor market, with plenty of opportunities tempting workers, businesses must work harder to retain their good employees. Lack of career mobility is a major reason that employees jump ship. Many employees say they would quit their jobs to work for companies that provide more opportunities for professional development.

Losing top talent can be enormously expensive. Voluntary employee turnover costs U.S. businesses about a trillion dollars per year. A crucial step that business owners can take to retain employees is to provide career mobility opportunities within their organizations. That way, employees won’t feel that the only way to advance their careers is to seek new jobs elsewhere.

What is career mobility?

Career mobility, also known as job mobility, refers to the movement of employees across grades, positions or even occupations. Mobility can refer to upward, downward or lateral movement. Career mobility refers to promotions, career advancement or a new job role that benefits the employee’s career growth. It’s the opposite of being stagnant and stuck in a role that the employee has outgrown.

When career mobility is present, employees can look forward to pay increases and improved company benefits. Providing in-house opportunities for career mobility is crucial for retaining employees. When top employees feel they can no longer advance in your company, they're likely to look elsewhere.

Strategies for career mobility

We’ve acknowledged the importance of offering employees in-house options for career development, but how do you do it?

Take a systematic approach to internal processes, developing and implementing an internal career mobility program to make the needed changes. Specific strategies to consider include increasing in-house promotions and lateral moves.

Whenever you have openings on the management or supervisory levels, make sure that qualified internal candidates are encouraged to apply. Connect with your employees as individuals. Talk with them about their career goals and look for ways to help your employees reach them. Be sure you are using your top talent to the best of their abilities. If they can take on more independent work, lead projects or supervise others, let them do it!

What if you can’t afford to offer promotions to all of your stellar employees? The answer might not necessarily be a move upward, but rather a lateral move to another part of the organization. HR leaders call this concept internal mobility. Internal mobility means moving talent from role to role at every level. The goal is to give your staff experience in different parts of your company. That will help them gain knowledge, skills and expertise that will keep them engaged and help them further their careers.

Offering training and development

The more knowledge and skills employees have, the more value they bring to your business. When staff members stagnate, so does their job performance and engagement, while their desire to leave the company increases. To retain talent, clear career paths are needed. An organization that has a career mobility program built into the equation remains attractive to its workers. If they know there’s growth potential, they can envision having extended careers with your firm. The Work Institute’s 2022 Retention Report found that 21% of employees quit their jobs to seek promotions or go back to school.

Your mobility program should begin with training that addresses skill gaps. Training, including upskilling and reskilling, should be available for the entire time that your employees work at your company. Start when they are new hires and continue throughout the various stages of their careers.

Continuous learning is key to keeping employees engaged and productive, even for those who aren’t seeking immediate advancement. When you encourage employees to add competencies and expand their knowledge base, you show you’re committed to them as team members. That helps foster job satisfaction and loyalty. In addition to helping you retain employees, a robust training program will increase productivity. The more training you provide, the more value your employees will have as individuals and as a part of the team.

It’s important to recognize which employees may be most likely to leave. Find out the most common reasons for turnover in your company and address those issues. Make sure opportunities are equally allocated. The glass ceiling is real; make every effort to break it in your company. And don’t overlook remote workers. Like their in-office peers, remote workers also seek career mobility and will benefit from training.

Don’t just wait for employees to come to you with their career mobility needs. Actively identify staff who have mastered their current roles and are ready for the next challenge. Employee curiosity can open the door to learning. Stretch projects and cross-training offer staff members insight into what goes on in other departments. By expanding their skill sets and working with people outside their team, employees get a better understanding of the organization. They also increase their awareness of options for where they might fit in. They might even become aware of career paths that they hadn’t considered in the past.

Employee development has always been key for businesses to keep a well-informed and productive workforce. As technology changes, companies must keep pace by training their workers in new ways of getting things done. Today’s business leaders understand that training and development are crucial for attracting and retaining top talent.

Identifying high-potential employees

High-potential employees (HiPos) can ultimately rise to their company’s most senior levels. Generally, only about 5% of employees are considered HiPos. The more valuable the employee, the more expensive and time-consuming it is to replace them. HiPos are highly valuable, so it’s critical to identify, develop and retain them.

HiPos know their strengths, but they also know there’s always room for improvement. Therefore, they welcome opportunities to improve their knowledge, skills and abilities. Because they are strongly motivated to achieve, they likely won’t stay with an employer who doesn’t invest in their growth.

The following five skills distinguish HiPos from other employees.

  1. Situation sensing: They are skilled at sensing their bosses’ priorities.
  2. Talent accelerating: They can assess, motivate and guide their teams. They know who to hire, develop, promote, fire and retain.
  3. Career piloting: They quickly adapt to new work-related situations.
  4. Complexity translating: They orchestrate disparate data/information into strategic and useful insights.
  5. Catalytic learning: They learn with a purpose, transforming what they have learned into performance.

Developing and retaining high-potential employees

You can develop your HiPos by identifying and working to enhance key attributes that indicate an employee’s potential:

  • Cognitive quotient (CQ), or how they make use of their intellect.
  • Drive quotient (DQ), or what motivates them and how they use their energy.
  • Emotional quotient (EQ), or how they interact with others.

HR leaders should be trained to identify people with high CQ, DQ and EQ during the talent acquisition phase. They should continue seeking these three attributes when performing evaluations, managing performance and selecting candidates for growth opportunities.

Teach HiPos how to hone their CQ, DQ and EQ skills to speed up their professional growth:

  • Develop their CQ skills by having them shadow organizational leaders and attend industry conferences and events.
  • Develop their DQ skills by providing stretch opportunities. Place them in different areas of the organization or give them larger teams to lead.
  • Develop their EQ skills by helping HiPos master the basics, such as self-awareness and having good relationships with others. They should also develop more advanced skills, such as knowing how to arrive at optimal outcomes when negotiating with stakeholders.

To hold on to your most promising talent:

  • Make retention part of your recruitment strategy.
  • Offer clear growth paths. Let your HiPos know upfront that you would like to help them achieve their career goals.
  • Offer development opportunities based on where they are now and where they need to be.
  • Provide remote work options.
  • Offer competitive compensation packages that make it harder for your competitors to lure your HiPos away.
  • Provide professional development tools that enable your HiPos to keep developing their knowledge, skills and abilities.

Make career mobility work for you

Retaining your employees shouldn’t be left to chance. Providing opportunities for career mobility that are compelling enough to convince top employees to stay is crucial — and sometimes challenging. For best results, reach out to experts for assistance.

TriNet is ready to help with a wealth of experience working with companies to improve their talent retention and growth. Speak with a knowledgeable TriNet representative to learn more about our comprehensive HR solutions, including performance management tools, leadership training and career transition support.

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