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For the last two decades, employee engagement has been an important topic. It has been shown to have an impact on organisational performance, productivity and staff morale. More recently, the focus has turned to employee experience, and fostering a culture of internal mobility is becoming an increasingly important factor in creating positive employee experiences that drive and maintain engagement.

Here are four examples from the real world of how leading companies are turning to internal mobility programmes to generate more engaged employees.

Salesforce - letting employees see managers' engagement scores

This is a level of transparency that would terrify some managers (and many employers). Twice a year, Salesforce surveys employees to find out how they feel about their jobs - just like almost all other major organisations.

The next step is a bit more unconventional: they then publish managers' scores to the whole organisation. This isn't done to name and shame low-performing managers; it's to find out what the best managers are doing and help employees identify if they'd rather join another team.

This level of transparency is a brave step, but one that clearly seems to be working. Salesforce has ranked in the top ten of Glassdoor's Best Places to Work for the last five years - topping the list in 2021.

Employees can use the survey results when looking for a new role within the organisation to find a manager that they might like to work with. Since launching their internal mobility programme in 2018, Salesforce reports that employees have been staying at the company for longer.

This is a great example of driving engagement through what has been termed 'job crafting', where employees are given more autonomy to shape the work they do around things that interest them. Other factors that are important in driving engagement and wellbeing in the workplace include undertaking work where the employee can learn something new or is challenged with work that adds to their skills and knowledge.

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Google - workers use the bungee programme to cover a leave of absence

When someone announces a leave of absence, such as maternity leave, the challenge is often figuring out who will cover their work. Hiring externally takes time and can be risky; dividing the work between team-mates can be a recipe for disaster.

Google's Bungee programme is a great internal mobility solution. Another full-time employee can take a different role for several months to cover the leave, and will then return to their previous role when the bungee is complete.

The programme provides a wealth of opportunities for Google employees to take on new assignments in other business areas - building new skills and internal network connections - and is a huge relief for the departing employee, knowing their role will be well covered.

The person taking leave can play a role in choosing who covers, so they feel confident that the incoming employee will fit with the team and do the job well.

This is an important factor in employee engagement for both the absent and the covering employee. Research from SHL shows that employees who are a good fit for a certain challenge are four times more likely to perform at a high level than low-fit candidates.

We know employee engagement is driven by people having interesting work that motivates them to put in discretionary effort. Google's use of internal hires to fill extended leave is a creative way of facilitating more internal mobility that's a win for both the company and the employees involved. It also gets managers used to team members moving for a period of time, which fosters more engagement from them in internal mobility efforts.

Udemy - lets employees sit in on other team meetings

It's no surprise that an online learning company like Udemy would use its own resources to support employee engagement and help their people reskill and upskill. What's unusual is the lengths they will go to in support of an employee's career ambitions.

Udemy has intentionally made internal mobility a healthy part of their culture. They make internal hiring guidelines explicit - such as the transfer process, including eligibility, and how to apply. This means employees aren't scared to raise their hand if they want a job switch and managers know how to manage it.

Udemy encourages managers to be open to informational interviews with employees from beyond their own team, and also lets employees sit in on some meetings outside their own team to see if a certain role or department is going to be a good fit. When an employee finds the right role, but doesn't have all the right skills, they can access Udemy's own platform to fill any upskilling need.

You might think being so generous would risk employees leaving or being poached. But this open and fluid culture is paying dividends. Udemy has an enviable Glassdoor rating of 4.6, which puts them at the very top of employee approval ratings (the average company rating on Glassdoor is 3.5).

This is in stark contrast to the findings of The Harris Poll that reported 77 percent of employees felt "on their own" when it came to developing their careers at their company. A lack of career growth was one of the biggest reasons why workers leave.

The culture Udemy has created is a great example of the model that Gallup originally developed for employee engagement. Highly engaged teams are 21 percent more productive. The key to fostering engaged employees is to help them learn and grow, offer meaningful work and create the kind of environment where they are comfortable voicing their opinions.

UBS - internal mobility improves employee engagement scores

When the UBS employee engagement survey revealed that only 57 percent of employees responded favourably to questions about learning and career opportunities at the bank, the CEO made internal mobility and talent development a priority.

The HR team responded with an internal mobility solution that increased those engagement scores by 10 percentage points in two years.

UBS built their own talent marketplace - Career Navigator - as part of their strategy to outperform their competitors by bringing the 'whole bank' to their clients. Increasing internal mobility helps employees grow their internal networks and their understanding of what the bank can do for clients.

UBS wanted to go beyond just enabling cross-functional moves by becoming an organisation that thrives on cross-functional moves. To do this required a culture change, and they focused on line manager effectiveness to achieve it.

The bank knew that employees who rated their line managers positively were more likely to stay, so they focused on whether managers were creating positive feedback cultures and supporting development.

The HR team also transformed how learning was provided at the bank - by moving every offering to a single digital platform and curating learning around the time employees had available, and what they needed to learn for their current and future roles.

In two months Career Navigator was used 40,000 times and 120 employees had applied for new roles through it.

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the future of internal mobility programmes

These examples are proof of what HR practitioners recognise as one of the keys to engagement and high performance - creating a culture of internal mobility. An IBM survey into the future of internal talent mobility found that 90 percent of respondents believe internal mobility enhances employee career satisfaction, and 80 to 83 percent believe it improves retention and culture fit to a moderate or great extent. 

Helping people find the right kind of work to fulfil their potential at your company is vital to creating organisational value and ensuring wellbeing. A study from LinkedIn asked people, 'In your current job, what is the number one thing that inspires you and makes you happy and want to work harder?' The most popular answer (26%) was 'The nature of the work itself', followed by (19%) 'Opportunity to learn and grow'.

Many organisations are now eagerly pursuing internal mobility solutions. What is clear, is that it's not simply a case of choosing which platform; it's a matter of changing the culture.

As career and talent mobility experts, with over 14 years' experience in this field, Randstad RiseSmart's career development services offer a unique blend of consulting expertise, award-winning technology and professional career coaching to help you embed a culture of internal mobility.

To find out more, or to request a demo or free trial, please contact us.

chris perkins.

head of marketing, UK

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