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Internal mobility: benefits, challenges, and the impact of AI

Internal mobility helps organizations adapt to rapidly changing business environments but also aids in meeting the aspirations of employees seeking new challenges and career progression.

Alexandros Pantelakis
Alexandros Pantelakis

HR content specialist at Workable, delivering in-depth, data-driven articles to offer insights into industry and tech trends.


Imagine George, a talented software developer at a fast-growing SaaS company. George has been working in the product development team for over three years, building robust code and gaining deep insights into the technical challenges her company faces. 

While he excels in her current role, George aspires to understand the broader business implications of the software she helps create. Recognizing her potential, her company offers her a temporary role in the product management team. 

This move is not just a change of scenery for George, it’s an opportunity to understand different aspects of the business, enhance his skills, and contribute more significantly to his organization’s goals. 

This is a prime example of internal mobility, a crucial strategy in modern organizational management that benefits both the employee and the company.

What is internal mobility?

Internal mobility refers to the movement of employees across different roles, departments, or geographies within the same organization. 

It is an integral part of human resource strategies aimed at leveraging existing talent by providing opportunities for growth and development while filling internal needs for key skills. 

There are three types of internal mobility

  • Lateral moves: These occur when an employee moves from one role to another at the same level. These moves are often aimed at broadening an individual’s skills and experience.
  • Promotions: Moving an employee to a higher-level position within the organization, which typically involves more responsibilities and a change in job status.
  • Temporary assignments or rotations: These are short-term changes in an employee’s role, often used for project-based work or developmental purposes, much like George’s move to the product management team.

Objectives of internal mobility

The objectives of internal mobility are diverse and impact various aspects of organizational health and employee engagement:

1. Career development

Internal mobility is instrumental in career development, providing employees like George opportunities to learn new skills and gain exposure to different facets of the business. 

This not only helps in building a versatile skill set but also prepares employees for higher responsibilities, making them well-rounded professionals.

2. Organizational agility

Today, organizational agility is more crucial than ever. Internal mobility allows companies to quickly reallocate resources to where they are most needed, adapting swiftly to market changes and business needs without the delays of external hiring processes.

3. Retention and satisfaction

Internal mobility is closely linked to higher rates of employee retention. 

According to data from LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning report, employees who have made an internal move by the end of their second year with a company have a 75% likelihood of staying, compared to a 56% likelihood among those who remained in the same position.

Employees are less likely to seek opportunities outside if they feel their current employer supports their career development and offers them new challenges. 

This is particularly relevant in industries with high turnover rates, like technology and digital services.

The benefits for your organization

We’ve already highlighted the objectives of internal mobility. But what about the additional benefits for the company? From enhanced collaboration to strategic alignment, companies stand to gain significantly from this process.

1. Strategic alignment and succession planning

By allowing employees to traverse various roles and departments, organizations can develop a workforce that understands multiple aspects of the business. This understanding is crucial when identifying potential leaders for succession planning, ensuring the company’s future is in knowledgeable and capable hands.

2. Enhanced collaboration and innovation

When employees move across departments, they bring unique perspectives that can lead to innovative solutions and improve collaboration. This cross-pollination of ideas is crucial for innovation, helping break down silos and fostering a culture of continuous improvement and creative problem-solving.

3. Cultural integration

As employees move within an organization, they spread and reinforce the company culture. This movement helps in building a unified culture that supports the organization’s values across all departments, which is essential for maintaining a cohesive work environment.

There are challenges too

While the benefits of internal mobility are clear, several barriers can impede its successful implementation. 

Common challenges include managerial resistance to losing top talent, lack of a structured internal mobility program, and inadequate HR technologies to track employee skills and match them to internal opportunities. 

Overcoming these barriers requires a proactive approach, beginning with strong leadership support to champion the benefits of mobility.

A Deloitte survey reveals that only 6% of respondents believe their organizations excel at moving people from role to role, and 59% rate their ability as fair or inadequate. The survey also indicated that 49% of respondents see a lack of processes to identify and move employees as a major barrier​.

AI can change the way we think about internal mobility

The advent of artificial intelligence and other new technologies has created new job roles and increased the necessity for internal mobility, ensuring that organizations can quickly fill roles that are newly significant or have never existed before​.

Utilizing AI technology, organizations can now pinpoint skill deficiencies and identify internal candidates primed for career advancement, according to Tom Baker, Head of Talent and Resourcing at M&G. 

This approach ensures that individuals possessing the requisite skills and potential are duly considered for new opportunities within the company.

While encouraging employees to take charge of their career paths is a common discourse in talent management, equipping them with the right tools remains imperative. 

AI-powered tools can be a pivotal solution in this regard. These platforms empower employees to craft personalized learning journeys, pinpoint relevant training programs, and align their career trajectories with individual interests and organizational skill needs. 

Consequently, employees can proactively acquire the skills necessary for future roles, fostering a culture of continuous growth and development.

In addition, AI-driven predictive analytics emerge as invaluable allies, simplifying the complexities of this task. 

By analyzing workforce data and industry trends, these tools forecast forthcoming skill requirements and potential talent shortages. 

Armed with such foresight, talent leaders can devise effective strategies, ensuring the organization maintains a well-equipped workforce ready to tackle future challenges head-on.

Best practices for effective internal mobility programs

To implement a successful internal mobility program, organizations should adopt several best practices:

  • Leadership support: Encourage leaders to endorse and actively participate in the mobility program.
  • Clear policies and procedures: Develop transparent policies that outline the process for internal applications, selection criteria, and career development opportunities.
  • Effective communication: Regularly communicate the availability of internal opportunities and success stories to motivate employees to participate in the program.
  • Robust HR systems: Invest in HR technology that can track employee skills, career aspirations, and internal job openings to facilitate the matching process.

By investing in robust internal mobility practices, companies can retain top talent, adapt to changing market conditions, and ensure a competitive edge in their industry.

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