How Internal Mobility Drives Employee Retention

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a six-post series on the whitepaper, “Six Factors Influencing the Future of Tech Talent.

Perhaps “The Great Resignation” should be called “The Great Renegotiation.”

Experts have suggested as much over the past several months following the 19 million workers who quit their jobs between the Spring and Fall of 2021. However, contrary to popular tropes, it’s inaccurate to say that people no longer want to work. Broadly, employees across industries and age groups are simply reconceptualizing how they want their work life and careers to look.

And while many employers have immediately jumped to increased compensation and benefits, allowing greater flexibility and implementing novel perks to prevent attrition, internal mobility opportunities are an under-utilized pathway within this discussion.

This omission is puzzling because over 90% of employees have reported that employer investment in their training would compel them to stay with a company longer. In comparison, 92% of employers have reported intentions to place a greater emphasis on employee experience – and a critical part of the experience is internal mobility, growth and development.

But to better understand and tackle retention, we must look at why people leave. Failing to understand the cause of attrition has resulted in well-intentioned but unsuccessful quick fixes such as one-time bonuses or additional perks that left employees feeling unappreciated, unchallenged, or their needs otherwise unmet.

So why have people been leaving their jobs? Research from McKinsey suggests that job leavers can be broadly categorized into three groups.

  • Reshufflers: Employees who left their jobs to go to a different industry. In a sample of data collected from McKinsey, this was almost 50% of job leavers.
  • Reinventors: Employees that left a traditional job for a nontraditional job, such as temporary work, gig work, part-time work, or entrepreneurial pursuits.
  • Reassessers: Employees that quit their jobs to meet external life demands such as caring responsibilities.

This categorization presents a ripe opportunity for employers to meet employees where they are by understanding their motivations and what would drive them to stay or leave. Theoretically, employees from all three categories could be captured, re-engaged and retained through compelling internal mobility pathways – ones that allow them to shift departments or functions, reinvent their roles, or gain more flexibility that would enable them to meet other needs.

The talent search has particularly been arduous over the past year. While in the past, employees might have gone to the highest-paying role in the past, that’s no longer the case in 2023. Across economies, when it’s time to decide where to work, employees are considering areas such as career trajectory, role fit, workload, social connection, social and environmental focus, compensation, and flexibility in their decision-making.

Two of the most significant determining factors for whether employees intend to stay within a company are:

  • The company’s ability to help them meet their career goals.
  • The degree to which the company is aligned with their values.

Of course, tangible rewards are still a factor, but when all other things are considered equal, more than benefits and compensation, what employees are looking for is:

  • The opportunity to explore and fulfill their passions
  • Rapid learning, growth and development
  • Shared values
  • Flexibility and balance
  • Welcoming environments where people feel a sense of belonging and connection

Internal mobility pathways, such as reskilling, provide a holistic solution by offering employees precisely what they’re looking for rapid learning, shared learning environments full of connection and camaraderie, and the chance to explore new passions. Yet few employees report seeing an opportunity for internal mobility in their organization.

This presents a missed opportunity for employers who would otherwise see their talent drained away in this increasingly competitive landscape.

Ultimately and across the board, the data reveals that employees are becoming increasingly restless and reconsidering their career paths at levels not previously seen before. A revolving door of new hires only exacerbates the attrition problem over time. A lack of employee retention is more than inconvenient – it creates a loss of institutional knowledge over time, reduces employee morale and team cohesion, and brings both replacement costs and opportunity costs. This can have a staggering impact on the overall workforce quality if not addressed.

Internal mobility through reskilling is the best way to tackle this problem from a cost and experience perspective.

But the only proper way to offer internal mobility and development at scale is to implement learning at scale – in other words, pair or match a curriculum with critical job skills and then set the reskilling in motion quickly. A few leaders in the movement are setting the standard. Corporations like Disney, Best Buy, Verizon and Home Depot all cite skill development as a critical ingredient in their internal programs to support employees’ mobility.

The key to successful reskilling implementation is to ensure it’s done sustainably. The immediate impact is clear, but at Tech Elevator,  we support individuals and organizations beyond graduation.

  • We help our students acquire new skills and translate them into career opportunities. As of spring 2023, our graduation rate is 93%, and 88% of our students find jobs in tech within six months of graduation.
  • We help our graduates thrive in their new jobs. As of 2022, the average salary of a Tech Elevator graduate increased by 10% year over year.
  • We help our employer partners retain their tech talent. Reskilling programs such as Tech Ready, our partnership with KeyBank, have achieved 100% retention among program participants.

Are you interested in how Tech Elevator can help your company execute scaled learning & development programs to drive workforce retention? Read more about our workforce solutions.

Written by Paul Burani, Tech Elevator’s VP of Enterprise