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With job openings and turnover soaring in the labor market, organizations must prioritize retaining the talent they already have. However, new research from Gartner shows that only 33% of employees seeking a new role looked internally at their own employer first. Three inequities are driving employees out of the internal labor market: awareness, access, and support. The authors share ways to democratize awareness, expand access to opportunities, and build support for mobility
Most employees don’t think of their own organizations when they’re looking for a new opportunity.
Three main barriers that discourage employees from applying internally:
It can be easier to learn about opportunities at a competitor. Gartner analysis reveals only 51% of candidates are aware of available internal job openings, which are often communicated informally. This “tap the shoulder” approach gives the advantage to employees with stronger social connections and can perpetuate DEI challenges.
Even when employees are aware of a job opening, they may not believe they have access to it. The top barrier is the perception that another employee is already favored for the role. Organizations and managers often prioritize opportunities for high-potential talent. Of candidates who focused their search on external jobs, 32% said they did so because it was easier to achieve career growth elsewhere.
Employees don’t feel supported in pursuing internal roles by their managers, peers, or the organization as a whole. According to Gartner research, only 17% of employees feel their manager facilitates the process of applying for internal job openings, and only 20% feel supported by their peers and team. Many employees find it easier to look externally, because they can avoid the awkwardness of expressing their interest in changing jobs and the potential hint at dissatisfaction.
Organizations should start treating employees as they do potential external candidates. In-demand talent receive multiple notices every day from organizations trying to hire for open roles, yet employers don’t do this with their current employees.
While internal job boards are a good start, progressive organizations are going further, guiding employees’ exploration with platforms that match people to jobs based on their skills. The best platforms can help employees build a development plan that prepares them for roles of interest.
Internal job platforms should also allow employees to signal which roles they are interested in, whether or not they’re available at the moment. This can both keep employees from missing opportunities and help HR leaders ascertain interest in and the quality of the internal pipeline for a particular role. Organizations can also use this knowledge to create informational sessions or development opportunities related to roles of interest.
the internal labor market does not work fairly for everyone. Women are 55% more likely than men to say they were not aware of internal job openings, and women from underrepresented backgrounds are three times less likely to be formally identified as high potential.
While most organizations have goal-setting processes to chart in-role growth, progressive organizations work to surface employees’ aspirations beyond their current position or job trajectory. They provide career coaches or mentors who work with employees to uncover their interests, passions, and motivations and explore career opportunities.
For employees, exploring a new career at their current organization may feel less risky than changing employers and roles at the same time.
Applying for an internal job can feel like cheating on a partner. This discomfort is made worse by policies that force employees to tell managers before they apply. External jobs avoid this discomfort entirely.
Managers should normalize conversations with employees about their next role, building discussions of potential career options into goal-setting and performance conversations. HR leaders can facilitate this by putting together potential career paths for each role, including lateral moves with similar skill sets.
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