A recent study shows that no less than 64% of people in a senior position consider changing jobs or companies within 3 years. Most of them want a different role in order to develop new competencies (61%), to increase their salary (55%), to have other tasks (40%), or to obtain more responsibilities (35%). As a result of the (growing) global talent shortage, internal mobility imposes itself now more than ever as a real challenge for HR professionals to keep their talent in the company. 

It’s true that an employee who doesn’t have any new career and/or development perspectives in sight will eventually end up leaving for greener pastures.

That’s why it’s important to establish a framework that encourages this.

There are several ways to get there. Think of an in-house job fair, identifying people’s mobility aspirations via regular feedback sessions, the good old career guide, etc. If there is one tool that is timeless and crucial in all of this though, it’s the manager!     

Managers and internal mobility: conflicting interests?

Of course, a manager manages people. But above all, they manage teams. Sometimes, however, the needs of an individual employee aren’t aligned with those of the team.

Sending one of your talents away to join a different team immediately creates a lack of certain key competencies in your team. Followed by the start of a fresh recruitment process, the time spent on training the new hire…

In other words, many elements that could potentially slow down the performance of the team. Managers, therefore, have every right to be a little hesitant when it comes to the idea of letting one of their employees leave to join a different team. In that sense, managers are definitely not a driver of internal mobility. Often, they even are the main obstacle.

This is why the internal career development of employees is rarely totally transparent. They often start taking steps without the knowledge of their direct manager only to inform the latter about their project once everything has already been decided…

But are managers really career coaches?

Often, companies haven’t clearly defined the role of the manager in the process of internal mobility. As a result, this becomes a topic of (heated) debate or tensions even.

Just look at, for example, the difficulties that companies encounter during the implementation of an HRIS and the questions this raises:

  • During the performance review, the employee explains his/her career plan: is there room for the manager to give them her/his opinion?
  • When an employee applies for a job internally via the job fair: is the manager being notified of this? 

If the role of the manager in the (skill) development of their employees is undeniable, can we then expect them to play a role in their career plan too? Can we expect them to think together with their team members – and in full transparency – about potential growth opportunities, regardless of whether or not they are in a different team?

In other words, can we expect managers to be proactive in helping their employees leave the team if that’s what’s best for their career progression?

And what if we stopped being hypocrites?

The changes we currently see in the global workforce ask for a radical shift in mentality. So, why don’t we start by considering the move of an employee to a different team as a success for the manager? 

Managers could, for example, organize an internal ‘job fair’ during which they get the opportunity to openly promote the vacancies they have in their teams and recruit internally – a perfect way for everyone to get more information about the open positions, measure their skills for the job, apply, and get a recommendation from their manager. 

Granted, managers may not be career coaches, but they can pick up on signals which HR can then use to guide the careers of their workforce the best way possible.

As such, managers have a lot to offer, being the ones who know the qualities, competencies, and weaknesses of their team better than anyone. On top of that, managers are best placed to know the departments ‘surrounding’ theirs and therefore the needs of the latter.

Let’s take a fresh look at the existing rules and codes and let’s – finally – start considering full transparency when it comes to internal mobility! 

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