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Upskilling and Internal Mobility: Must-haves for Retention in 2022

Jen Dewar
Jan 14, 2022 6:00:00 AM

The number of people quitting their jobs has hit another all-time high in the United States. The number one reason for voluntary turnover? Career issues. Almost one in five employees cited opportunities for growth, achievement, and security as the root cause of their decision to leave their organization. 

But 94 percent of employees said they would stay at a company longer if their employer invested in their careers. And 75 percent of employees who receive promotions will stay with their companies for at least three years.

If you want to help your company overcome The Great Resignation, upskilling and internal mobility are going to be key in 2022.

Build career ladders to demonstrate what’s needed to progress

Career ladders show your team members how they can progress to higher levels of responsibility, authority, skill, and pay at your organization. Each “rung” should clearly define the job description, skills, expectations, impact, work experience, education, or other requirements needed for advancement.

Career ladders can be a tremendous management tool to help your team members visualize their futures at your organization, and provide transparency around what it will take to advance. With career ladders, team members know exactly what they need to do to earn a promotion and their managers can see when they’re ready for the next steps in their careers. 

This is also a good opportunity for pay transparency. That is, helping your team members understand their current job levels and why they earn what they do, and how career advancement might increase their pay over time. While some organizations might only share a team member’s current salary with them, others will share each team member’s entire salary range with them—or even share the next salary range up. This level of transparency can be a great retention tool in itself. 

Build development plans and help team members reach their goals

It’s not just up to HR. Leadership and managers must show team members how to climb your career ladders by building individualized development plans. This works best when you can align your team members’ career goals with your organization’s needs to fill both existing and anticipated skill gaps. That way, you can seamlessly move team members into higher job levels within your organization over time.

Most of today’s jobs didn’t exist in 1940, and 85 percent of jobs that will exist 10 years from now haven’t been invented yet. Reskilling your team members to fill those future roles can help ensure your organization has the talent it needs to stay relevant long-term.

There are a variety of development opportunities to suit different learning styles and budgets. These include:

  • Online learning
  • Educational courses
  • Virtual and in-person conferences
  • Bootcamps
  • Mentoring
  • Job shadowing
  • Stretch assignments
  • Special projects
  • Industry certifications
  • Leadership and career coaching services
  • Office lunch and learns

Offer recognition, promotions, and raises as your team members gain new skills and more experience. This demonstrates the value your organization places on professional development and helps your team members feel appreciated. Even a lateral move can increase retention. Changing up employee roles or responsibilities, even without a raise or change in title, increases the likelihood of retaining high potential workers and top performers by over 20 percent.

Measure your impact, improve your program, and keep it going

Employee development and internal mobility can impact everything from retention and engagement to productivity and profitability. Decide what you will measure so you can quantify the value of your investment. For instance, quantify how hiring internal candidates has decreased cost-per-hire, time-to-fill, and time-to-productivity, and how that impacts your top and bottom lines. This can help you increase buy-in and budget over time.

It’s also important to use your data to find opportunities for improvement. For instance, track your overall time-to-promotion, and break it down by gender, race, tenure, and remote status to determine whether specific groups are being left behind. Lean In found that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 58 Black women are promoted, despite the fact that Black women ask for promotions at the same rate as men. Running these calculations will help you spot these inequities so you can address them.

Gather feedback from your team members so you can continually improve your employee development programs and increase internal mobility. 

Final thoughts on upskilling and internal mobility for retention

Three in four CEOs say the labor and skills shortage is the most likely external issue to disrupt their businesses this year. That makes it crucial for employers to retain the talent they have, help their employees develop new skills, and utilize internal mobility to fill their most specialized roles. 

It will always be easier to fill entry-level roles, particularly with the promise of skill development and career progression. So focus your external recruiting efforts there, while prioritizing building the skillsets you need for more senior or specialized roles among your existing team. And don’t forget to measure how your team is progressing in addition to your retention data. There are many benefits to internal mobility, and it's important to ensure it doesn't fall by the wayside as your organization's challenges and priorities change.


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