Tuesday, 25 January 2011

What must be included in an internal mobility policy

Internal mobility nowadays definitely represents an important part of organisations staffing strategy and consequently of the overall business strategy (The four Ws of internal mobility – what, when, why, who (and how)).

Mobility cases can be broadly grouped into two main categories:

Horizontal Mobility – in which case mobility does not entail the employee moving up the career ladder,

Vertical Mobility - when as a consequence of its implementation, employees are moved to a superior role and assume a higher degree of responsibility.

The benefits that an effective and consistent internal mobility policy can bring to an organisation are different and of different nature. Internal mobility can enable businesses to promptly replace dismissed and retired employees but, more importantly, the introduction of internal mobility practices can effectively help employers to attract and retain quality employees, boost staff engagement and ease succession planning.

Internal mobility can actually also be used to address workforce organisational-related issues. Enabling organisations to implement individuals’ transfer as a consequence of unnecessary or useless positions removal and job redesign, internal mobility can help to achieve the goals typical of the lean approach, value chain analysis and of all the approaches in general inspired by the TQM philosophy.

Internal mobility, helping to shape a multi-skilled workforce within an organisation, can also effectively help businesses to promptly adapt its workforce features, skills, abilities and expertise to the external changing environment. Not least, it has recently contributed to help many organisations to emerge from the last downturn and to give birth to a new employee generation, the so called Generation R (RECESSION GIVES BIRTH TO A NEW GENERATION (RECESSION GIVES BIRTH TO A NEW GENERATION).

Employers who want to introduce and develop internal mobility practices are strongly suggested to formulate a written, official policy. Findings of a Taleo investigation revealed that 80 percent of large and global organisations have introduced a written internal mobility policy in order to clearly explain how the process unfolds and identify the rules governing the procedure. Yet, the study revealed that organisations having a written internal mobility policy attain a retention rate 4 percent higher than that recorded by the corporations not having a formal policy.

Since the policies are habitually formulated according to each organisation’s recruitment and overall business strategy, the one-size-fits-all method is not clearly expected to work. However, when formulating an internal mobility policy, there are some common areas and aspects which need to be duly considered and addressed by every employer.

Policy’s introduction
It would definitely be appropriate that an internal mobility policy starts with an introductory declaration stating the organisation commitment to foster its staff personal and professional growth.

The introduction might also mention that the employer is keen to contribute to its staff development and to put in place what it takes to provide individuals opportunities for training, learning new skills, gain new experience and expand their capabilities.

In this introductory session it should also be included a short description of the internal mobility scheme and an overview of the objectives the organisation is expected to achieve by the execution of the scheme.
Eligibility criteria
One of the most important aspects an internal mobility policy needs to clearly address concerns the identification of the eligibility criteria.

Once again, the findings of the Taleo investigation are likely to provide HR useful tips for the formulation of the policy. The study revealed to this extent that the eligibility criteria most widely used amongst the businesses surveyed are: “Satisfactory performance reviews” (89%) and “Minimum time in a position” (80%). The latter requirement is indeed particularly important to avoid the disruptions usually associated with staff changing role too quickly. A time-in-position approach is hence strongly recommended in order to ensure work team stability and allow employees to stay in a position at least as long as the effects of their contribution could produce the desired results.

Eligibility criteria usually represent a list of minimum requirements that applicants need to meet in order to apply for a position, in this case for an internal mobility opportunity. The final decision, however, will clearly be taken according to the personal abilities, qualities, skills and personal specifications of the candidates.

People in charge of the process should never forget that, although the programme is intended to provide opportunities for growth to those whom deserve it and have the required attitudes, personal specifications and skills, the ultimate aim of the scheme remains to putt the right person in the right position.

Nonetheless, a clear definition of the requisites needed by the candidates for the opportunity these intend to apply for is important in order to avoid later disappointment and undesired claims. The list could be also followed by a description of the kind of commitment the organisation is expected to be showed and expressed by applicants.

The policy should also state whether the programme is open to fulltime and part-time staff or to fulltime employees only. It should also clarify whether the individuals hired on a fixed term contract basis are eligible to apply and, if yes, whether this circumstance can lead to their contract of employment to be extended or automatically transformed into a permanent contract.

The suggestion is to adapt the duration of the contract of employment of the selected candidate to that related to the post this has been deemed qualified to fill. In the case of a fixed-term mobility opportunity or of an employment exchange, for instance, the contract of employment of the individual selected, whether employed on a fixed term contract, could be extended till the conclusion of the internal assignment. The viability of this option should, nonetheless, duly be investigated and assessed on the basis of the local employment law provisions.

Employers should have crystal clear ideas of how to manage these types of circumstances from the outset. It would be in fact pointless offer such opportunities to individuals who are shortly going to leave the organisation, irrespective of the circumstance that this will happen by reason of the employee or of the employer decision.

On the other hand of it, it should not be neglected the circumstance that internal mobility could also provide employers precious opportunities to test the abilities of the individuals recruited on a term contract basis and give them the chance to more broadly show their capabilities and skills, before eventually deciding to offer them a permanent position.

It could be possible that an organisation employing an individual on a term contract basis for a given position, by means of offering to this an internal mobility opportunity, may find out that this person is able to perform better and even more than satisfactorily in another role and decide hence to offer this a permanent contract. A craftily devised internal mobility policy puts firms in the position to potentially carry out such a test.

Businesses should have clear and comprehensive policies in place in order to avoid suspects of bias, impartiality and unfairness.

Policies should also state whether the employees involved in ongoing disciplinary proceedings could be, or otherwise, considered entitled to apply. It is indeed strongly suggested not allowing individuals facing disciplinary investigations to apply for an internal mobility programme. This would in fact result in open contrast with the main objective of the scheme itself, which is aiming at providing employees opportunities for growth. This is even truer in the case individuals are undergoing disciplinary proceedings on alleged unsatisfactory performance, at least as long as the investigations have been concluded and employees cleared.

Business might also consider whether enabling to apply personnel who have been subject in the past to disciplinary proceedings for minor misbehaviour and have been given a first written warning or an improvement note.

All of these cases have to be clearly outlined in the policy. Businesses could, for instance, decide to allow staff to whom a written warning has been given to apply whether this circumstance has not occurred during the last two or three years. Whatever the employer decision on this subject, it is strongly suggested that these rules have to be invariably clearly stated in the policy.

Benefits for staff and the organisation
In order to provide individuals a better understanding of the programme aim and of the objectives the organisation intends to pursue by its introduction, a good internal mobility policy should also include a summary of the benefits these opportunities can provide both for the employees and the employer.

The summary containing the benefits for staff should not miss to mention the opportunities provided by the scheme in order to:

- Broaden current abilities and learn new skills,

- Add new challenges to the job,

- Gain a wider knowledge of the organisation and of its functioning,

- Provide opportunity for exploring different areas without necessarily making a permanent change.


Benefits for the organisation should include:

- Develop a flexible adaptable workforce,

- Favour communications and the relationships between the different function and units of the business,

- Enhance staffing flexibility,

- Retain and engage individuals,
- Broadening the working knowledge of the organisation’s employees.

Identify the positions to be filled with internal mobility
The policy needs also to identify the range of positions which could be filled by means of internal mobility: all of the positions arising within the organisation or just part of them? Is it possible to classify them?

The programme is, in general, intended to enable organisations to fill the permanent and temporary positions available within the organisation, but also to fill higher grade and management positions.

The managers who have a need contact the person in charge of the mobility policy implementation programme, as the need arises, in order to discuss the role requirements and start the internal search.

Roles definition
The HR Mobility Officer
A good policy should also identify the programme main actors’ roles and responsibilities.

Large corporations usually appoint a HR Mobility Officer.

The person in charge of managing the programme for the organisation should in general act as a focal point for managers, collect and understand their needs and formulate the internal mobility postings.

The HR Mobility Officer should also promote and increase awareness of job opportunities within the organisation.

The most important and delicate activity a Mobility Officer has to carry out concerns the support s/he has to provide to the releasing and receiving managers in order to ensure that everything goes smoothly both in the first phase, that is to say when individuals are moved in the new roles, and when employees go back to their previous position at the end of the assignment.

The HR Mobility Officer obviously also represents the person who can most properly assist the releasing manager to fill the position temporarily or permanently made vacant by the transferred employee. This will therefore be in charge of doing what it takes to fill the new arisen vacancy too. This activity should indeed steadily be part of the overall process in that the substitute for the person leaving the internal position should be identified beforehand in order the two identified people to be moved simultaneously. All of that, unless the position in question is no longer considered important by the organisation and can be as such abolished.

The Mobility Officer will also provide all the necessary support to managers and employees in case any problems should arise during the programme implementation.

The crucial role of managers
The role played by managers is clearly particularly important. Managers should first and foremost avoid being victims of the “silo thinking” and show interest and concern for the best of the whole organisation and of their staff as well.

The issue, easy to cope with in theory, is not so easy to overcome in practice. Taleo study shows that 53 percent of organisations make it a formal requirement internal mobility applicants to receive the consent of their current manager to be released. The remaining 47 percent, by contrast, do not even inform the releasing manager and let alone require his/her consent before the release of the internal mobility candidate. Employers in this case clearly consider the general interest of the organisation prevailing over the single unit interest. This definitely represents an energetic and direct way to overcome the silo thinking barrier.

Notwithstanding, sooner or later managers have to be informed so that policies should also address the aspect of determining at what point, during the process, the releasing manager should be informed of the involvement of one of his/her reports in an internal mobility process. Policies should also clearly state at which stage the receiving manager will be allowed to meet the applicant.

It is of paramount importance do not overlooking the need of the releasing manager to receive the information from the organisation, namely by the Mobility Officer, before hearing it on the grapevine.

Some organisations require application forms to be endorsed by the current candidates’ managers. This requires that before applying the interested candidates should necessarily discuss with their managers their motivation and the benefits they are expected to receive from the process.

During the meeting held by the applicants with their current managers, these should also receive indications about the manager availability to release them.

The role and the practical activity played by managers will be different according to the circumstance that these will be acting as releasing or receiving managers.

Releasing managers
The most important element of goodwill of the releasing managers should be showed by their truly encouragement and support to their staff growth and development.
These should effectively and actively cooperate with the Mobility Officer and agree with him/her the best release time of their employees. The releasing manager also supports the Mobility Officer in making the necessary arrangements to backfill the vacant position.
Receiving managers
Receiving managers should cooperate with the Mobility Officer, avoid putting pressure on him/her and allow this the necessary time to perform the different phases of the procedure.

Receiving managers should also agree the release time with the releasing manager and make the necessary arrangements for the induction and training of the transferee. They also have to set the performance expectations for the placement and be committed to provide honest and clear feedback throughout the placement period.

Programme timescale and application
The internal mobility policy, as it actually happens for the recruitment process in general, needs also to address all the aspects linked to the development and implementation of the scheme.

To this extent the first point to address relates to the application procedure, which provides details about how to apply to the programme.

The Mobility Officer is habitually in charge of drafting the application form. Ideally, organisations should make the necessary arrangements in order to enable applicants to apply via an online tool: employee self service, HR website, corporate intranet and website and online recruitment tools definitely represent the most effective ways to collect applications. All of them will in fact enable the Mobility Officer to appropriately, effectively and rapidly process the applications collected.

The policy should also define whether the applications gathered are maintained in a database for a specific period of time and eventually considered for the future opportunities arising within the organisation within that period or otherwise.

The selection process
Being part of a staffing procedure, the policy should also clearly describe how the selection process is carried out: interviews, assessment centres, tests, etc.

The policy should also provide a clear timescale of the different phases of the procedure.

It is worth reminding that this process is even more important in those cases in which internal mobility is aimed at providing opportunities for permanent positions and higher grades. Assessing candidates to find out whether these have what it takes to properly fill a given position is clearly crucial as usual.

Employment new terms and conditions
For obvious it might seem, the policy should also state that, for each position sought internally, details of the new employment terms and conditions will always be clearly and thoroughly provided, including change in salary, grade/level, holidays/leave entitlement, etc.

In case of term positions, applicants also receive full, accurate information concerning the exact length of the assignment. The policy should also clearly state that at the end of the placement the individuals concerned have to come back to their previous role, at the previous employment terms and conditions. This aspect, nevertheless, has to be carefully regulated according to the different provisions of the local legislations.

Placement conclusion
When the process has been implemented in the form of the employment exchange or of the fixed term mobility programme, organisations might find it useful to ask filling, both to the employee and to the managers concerned, a questionnaire in order to find out how these deem the experience and to hopefully gather useful hints to improve the scheme.

What internal mobility is not
Finally, it could be worth highlighting what internal mobility is not, or rather, what it should not be. Internal mobility is not about offering opportunities to average or under- performing staff, it would actually be openly in contrast with the objectives an internal mobility policy is intended and expected to achieve.

In all of those cases in which average and under-performing individuals express the desire to leave a specific unit, especially whether these are performing at unsatisfactory level, they should not be provided any such opportunity.

Such situations might be the cause of an inaccurate recruitment process and have to be managed in some ways, but obviously not by openly, albeit intrinsically, rewarding individuals.

The most suitable candidates for internal mobility are and have to be identified amongst the organisation’s best performers and amongst those people who have showed to have what it takes to grow and contribute to the organisation development and who are keen and able to help the organisation to achieve competitive advantage.

As emerged by the Taleo investigation, although having a formal internal mobility policy is important, the effective and constant communication of the policy is of paramount importance, too. Communication is particularly useful not only to make aware staff and managers of the opportunities offered by the programme, but also in order to the internal mobility programme being trusted by managers and considered by them as an effective and valuable means to achieve the objectives they are expected to meet.

A clear and frequent communication process also plays a crucial role in order to internal mobility being fully considered as part of the organisational culture; opportunity for personal and professional growth, learning and development will be in this way considered and become integral part of the organisation values and shared beliefs.
Longo, R., (2011), What must be included in an internal mobility policy, HR Professionals, [online].

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