Why the Best Companies Let Employees Try Other Roles

Note: This post originally appeared on Inc.com, where Hireology co-founder and CEO Adam Robinson is a regular contributor.
When it comes to building a productive, profitable team, hiring top talent is only part of the battle. Once you have team members on board, it’s critical to keep them engaged and excited to do great work every day. But unfortunately, according to a recent report from Gallup, up to 85 percent of U.S. employees consider themselves to be disengaged.

A top reason many employees are disengaged is that they’re simply in the wrong roles. But this doesn’t mean they’re a poor fit for your team as a whole. If you have quality employees who appear disengaged or seems like they’re itching to try something new, one way to increase engagement is by suggesting transitioning roles or teams. This term is known across many companies as “internal mobility.” And while 87 percent of companies believe that internal mobility programs would definitely help with retention, only one-third have these programs, according to a study by FutureStep.

Companies With Strong Internal Mobility Strategies

It likely comes as no surprise that many of the world’s most successful tech companies not only embrace internal mobility but have strategies in place to encourage it. Google has long touted its “20 percent time” policy (it might no longer be in place, but was for many years). With this policy, employees dedicate 20 percent of their time to side projects or testing the waters with different roles.

Gmail, Google Maps and other key developments have been the result of Google’s 20 percent time policy. And not only has this policy benefited Google with many critical innovations, but it helps employees better understand whether a different role or team might be a fit.

At Spotify, not only are employees encouraged to take part in internal mobility, but it’s the norm across many roles. Many employees complete “missions,” meaning they often don’t stay in a given role for any longer than two years. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek attributed this strategy to the fact that millennials in the tech sector switch jobs an average of once every 1.8 years, in large part due to their jobs growing stagnant. Spotify’s internal mobility strategy keeps employees engaged and excited to continue evolving with the company.

How You Can Encourage Internal Mobility

To support internal mobility on your team, you truly need a company culture that encourages this practice. Some employees might be interested in a new role, but hesitant to reach out or apply for fear or it being frowned upon or offending their managers.

One step you can take to support employees interested in new roles is by opening positions internally before sharing them externally. Let employees know they’re welcome to apply, as long as they first touch base with their managers about their interest in the role and career goals. If they don’t end up getting the new role, managers can work with employees on an individual basis to ensure the company is supporting their overall career growth.

On my team of nearly 200 at Hireology, we’re opening several new roles to set ourselves up for success over the next year – and beyond. We recently hosted a lunch and learn for the whole company, in which the new roles were shared and employees were encouraged to apply if interested. We’ve had many employees who have switched teams – in some cases, multiple times – and it often works out for the better, both for the employee and company.

One Hireology employee has been on our sales, customer success, customer support and business operations team. Another started out on the sales side and is now a product manager. We openly encourage internal mobility on my team, because we want to keep our best employees for the long run and ensure they’re satisfied and continuing to grow in their roles.

At the end of the day, encouraging internal mobility will help you keep employees engaged and stick with your team as a whole. As a result, this will increase overall productivity and boost your company’s long-term success.



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