The Career Mobility Framework: 3 Foundational Steps to Retain and Promote Internal Talent

In our current upside down labor market, what employees want most is career mobility. They want a path to a brighter economic future for themselves and their families. 

And employers have it within their power to offer that to their workers when they take career mobility seriously.

It’s also in their best interest to hedge against attrition. Last year alone, 63% of employees who left their jobs cited “lack of career advancement” as a key reason for quitting – and new data reveals that high mobility companies consistently outperform low mobility companies in terms of average employee tenure5.4 years to 2.9 years on average

There is a huge opportunity for employers to make career mobility the cornerstone of their talent strategy to not only bolster talent attraction and retention, but also responsibly serve the communities they are a part of.

At Guild, we are committed to helping employers scale career mobility programs to provide opportunity for America’s workforce – so we’ve laid out a foundational career mobility framework for employers starting on their career mobility journey.

The career mobility framework: 3 foundational steps 

Creating a culture of career mobility is an intentional process that requires deeply evaluating your current policies, skilling programs, and employee support capabilities. Executing on these three foundational elements will set your organization up for success.

1. Optimize your hiring practices and roles for career mobility

In order for companies to meet their recruitment goals, it’s time to take a critical look at current hiring processes to identify where some discriminatory practices may linger.

For example, many of today’s talent initiatives overwhelmingly target knowledge workers, neglecting to acknowledge the sheer amount of untapped talent that sits in their front line.

Instead, workforce planning teams must take a critical look at how they can create career pathways at all levels of the organization, from entry-level roles to senior management. In order for frontline talent to move up, career pathways must exist for middle managers to move into, and so kicking off the virtuous cycle of mobility. 

Real-world examples of practices that foster career mobility 

Here are some examples of progressive hiring practices that promote mobility of internal talent:

  • High-Demand Junior Roles: Open new job listings at more junior levels in departments with the highest demand (instead of only hiring senior developers or analysts with five-seven years of experience, reorganize your workforce to build talent from more junior positions)
  • Experience Over Degrees: Consider experience equivalencies instead of mandatory degree requirements 
  • Allow Jumps: Allow employees to skip levels where merited and make the jump from non-exempt to exempt employee easier
  • Stay Competitive: Pay internal employee transfers as much as you would an external employee, including offering relocation packages (which are usually just external) 
  • Nix Managerial Approval: Remove managerial approval for internal job postings
  • Boost Internal Comms: Improve visibility of opportunities to receive upward mobility in your company (keep reading to learn more)

2. Offer fully funded education and skilling programs that mirror your needed talent pipelines – and market them heavily

As the rate of technological development increases, so must the agility of our workforces. 

That means learning new skills – and faster than ever before. 

Employees need both short and long form learning options that allow them to mobilize into high-demand roles as business needs shift. 

While navigating the quantity and quality of skilling programs can feel tricky, employers should focus on a curated catalog of programs that are most likely to serve as a “pathway to promotion” since they’ve been vetted by their workforce planning teams.

Funding and marketing your education programs is key

When employers fully fund credentialed programs, they make their education programs more equitable and – unsurprisingly – more marketable.

But it’s critical to create intentional marketing strategies around your programs and pathways, especially for low-wage workers who have little or no visibility into opportunities to achieve mobility (a recent survey found that 33% of workers said they saw no opportunity to move up).

Instead, innovative employers like Walmart, Chipotle, and Target have trailblazed a new path of fully funded and intentionally marketed programs with Guild – and it’s yielding results. One financial services company saw a 2.7X increase in program adoption when moving to a debt-free model.

Your marketing should be:

  • Convenient: Meet the employees where they are in the flow of their work (should not be passive websites or webpages)
  • Transparent: Be transparent about what steps are needed to obtain each role (including intermediary roles and credentials) and what pay increases might look like
  • Future-Focused: Tie these new roles and associated learning programs with the future of the strategy of the organization 

3. Invest in employee support throughout the process

The last part of the framework is implementing an infrastructure of employee support and coaching to help employees see their destination or new role as a part of what they can become.

According to HBR, 70% of employees say they define their purpose through work. Moving into a new career path is a life-changing decision for many, especially for those in low-income roles who are the primary caretakers of their families. So how can employers support their employees through this process?

Programmatic coaching improves adoption and persistence (particularly for frontline workers)

Employers can provide programmatic coaching to employees throughout their journey to provide clarity and confidence. 

This piece is particularly valuable for frontline employees, who may need assistance navigating the number of programs available, motivating them during challenging times, and even giving them a risk-free environment to interview prep. 

Here’s a quick look at how Guild’s dedicated coaching team helps our employer partners achieve this.

Finally, this last part is crucial: 

Your coaches should also have contextual awareness of the talent needs in your organization to be able to steer employees into high-demand career paths. 

This will give your employees the best chance of achieving an offer for a new role. 

Career mobility on your radar in 2022?

The framework to career mobility is just the beginning – there’s more to this story. Download A Guide to Getting Started With Career Mobility to learn more about how your organization can start shaping the workforce of tomorrow.

Career Mobility E-book



Written by Madi Shove



Director of Product Marketing

Madi works alongside Guild's Solutions and Product teams to build and launch solutions that meet the needs of our stakeholders. Her team is responsible for customer and market intelligence, turning valuable insights into actionable plans to enhance our product roadmap and ultimately better serve our employers and our rapidly growing learner population.

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