Building an Internal Mobility team means overhauling the status quo

One major takeaway I learned during my time in HR is that if you want to make big changes that will actually stick, hold an executive accountable for it, and declare that in front of everyone. But if, for some reason, you want to see a big change fail in obscurity, make the goal everyone’s objective and then push accountability down three levels. This is the familiar plight when companies take up internal mobility endeavors, but it doesn’t always have to be this way.

In our ongoing research on internal mobility across Fortune 500 companies, we continue to find that mobility initiatives are languishing because of a lack of ownership. To be clear, there does come a time when mobility should be on everyone’s agenda, and the folks in recruiting, L&D, and every executive would agree. But the ambiguous and cross-functioning nature of internal mobility can make it difficult to determine who to involve and for what reasons. 

Internal mobility projects too easily turn into a platform implementation, or a skills inventory initiative, or live awkwardly, perpetually, and ineffectually in the gray space between L&D and Recruiting. The challenge is that we are tackling 2021 talent problems within a circa 2000 organizational structure. 

But disruptive times call for shaking up the status quo — that includes the org chart, the authority, and indeed the very systems that enable HR teams to deliver on critical business needs. If companies desire to create real mobility, for example, an executive-level sponsor with clear accountability is essential. It’s necessary for their scope to include platforms, skills, talent development, and internal recruiting, but most importantly, cultural overhaul.

It’s also a key moment for the function of Talent Manage to go far beyond the scope of delivering high-performance programs for the select few and a simple 9-Box for the rest. A leader in this VP-level (or higher) role should be elevated to equal importance as executives in Talent Development and Talent Acquisition in the places where that isn’t already so. That person should have a task force of impactful, heavy hitters, which includes a recruiting leader with policy-level influence and a talent development business partner with access to enterprise budget. A designated future of work analyst who is looking at data-based forecasting of future talent needs via tools like Emsi should be involved as well.

Though we are reaching the end of the year, the Great Talent Reshuffle of 2021 is far from over. One of the key levers any HR team has in retaining great talent is giving them the hope of, and process to deliver on, pathways for their future. This has become business-critical, not just a “fun feature” of an employee experience transformation. To carry out such a monumental task, however, HR teams deserve the executive sponsorship, headcount, prioritization, and technology they need to deliver on a key infrastructure and culture change that is essential in every organization. 

Written by Matthew Daniel

Principal, Employer Solutions