Using AI to Improve Internal Mobility

Sheri Feinzig, Ph.D., IBM Smarter Workforce InstituteScience Tech2018 05 14
Using AI to Improve Internal Mobility
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Three-quarters of high-potential employees say they could be tempted to leave for better career development or to better use their existing skills (IBM, Should I stay or should I go?). The secret to holding on to them: Offer those same wealth of choices inside your organization.

The IBM Smarter Workforce Institute and UNLEASH teamed up to research the potential benefits of greater internal mobility and explore how AI could help optimize that process and unleash the power of the people you already have on your team.

We surveyed HR professionals in more than 32 countries about talent mobility in their organizations. Read the full report.

Here are a few of the things we learned.

The Promise — and Ongoing Struggle — of Internal Mobility

Many organizations are struggling to find talent for their open positions. Facilitating movement of employees across different jobs can help fill skill gaps in a cost-effective way while satisfying employees’ desire for career progression and new experiences.

However, our study found that many HR professionals are not satisfied with their organization’s ability to meet their internal mobility goals.

Among our findings:

  • Over one-third of HR professionals surveyed (35 percent) say their organizations very often or always have difficulty filling open positions.
  • Most (over 80 percent) believe increasing internal mobility would yield significant benefits: lower recruitment costs, faster times to fill open positions, faster time to productivity for new hires, higher retention, improved career satisfaction and better culture fit.
  • A majority (79 percent) believe internal mobility is important to their talent-management strategy, but only 30 percent are satisfied with their ability to meet goals in this area.

Running into Common Challenges

Internal hiring plays an important role in addressing organizations’ hiring challenges. Our survey found that nearly half of new positions (45 percent) are filled internally — either by promotion (26 percent) or lateral move (19 percent). Just over half (55 percent) of open positions are filled externally.

In order to improve internal mobility, it’s helpful to understand what challenges organizations face. Our survey revealed three common types of challenges:

  • Manager challenges: One of the top challenges mentioned by HR professionals is managers’ unwillingness to put people forward for new opportunities (mentioned by 59 percent of respondents). Furthermore, 44 percent of HR professionals say that managers believe external candidates will turn out to be better hires than internal candidates. However, previous research has indicated that this is a managerial misconception, and such “grass is always greener” thinking could be restricting career opportunities for existing employees.
  • Employee challenges: Challenges to internal mobility also relate to employees’ lack of career information, with more than half of HR professionals (51 percent) saying that employees don’t have visibility of potential career or role opportunities. Furthermore, 43 percent of our respondents say that employees are not encouraged to look internally for new career opportunities. Without visibility of opportunities and encouragement to pursue them, employees may not be as engaged in their work and may be tempted to look elsewhere (outside the organization).
  • Strategic alignment: More than half (58 percent) of HR professionals say that talent mobility is not aligned to business strategy. Without strategic alignment, it’s unlikely that there will be sufficient leadership support to make talent mobility a reality in the organization.

Could AI Help?

HR professionals in our study certainly believe that emerging AI technologies could help with the challenges that are holding back better internal mobility. In fact, about 90 percent of respondents in our survey say that AI-enabled technology can help by facilitating better skills matches, tapping a larger internal talent pool, improving employee visibility of opportunities, highlighting critical skills and enhancing employee experience.

However, adoption of AI technologies is not yet universal, and technology alone is unlikely to solve the internal talent mobility challenges. The greatest benefits will only come with alignment of wider organizational culture and processes to support better talent mobility.

To find out more about how AI technologies can combine with other organizational practices to enhance talent mobility in your organization, read our full report: Making Moves: Internal Career Mobility and the Role of AI

This content was provided by one of our UNLEASH sponsors.

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