Creating Opportunity Within: How Employers Are Boosting Internal Mobility

BY Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | November 15, 2023

Many think of promotions as a retention tool, but a new study by ADP suggests this strategy is not as sticky as imagined. The company looked at data from 1.2 million workers from 2019 to 2022 and found that within a month of their first promotion, 29% of people left their employer. At six months, those who had been recently promoted were just as likely to leave as their peers who hadn’t climbed the ladder.

In fact, ADP’s data indicates that a promotion increases the risk that someone will leave their employer, especially within the first six months of that promotion – that new job title makes them more confident, and more marketable. Simply bumping someone up a pay grade or giving them a higher-ranking job isn’t enough to keep them around.

The solution may be internal mobility. The notion of a “career ladder” that goes only up or down is losing its appeal, and workers are instead hopping across organizations. Someone may move laterally before they move up, said Gary Blith, head of executive search at insurance firm Humana. “As we try to guide the careers of others, it’s important to let them know that moving within the organization doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be two or three steps up. It could be two or three steps to the side. What you’re gaining as you move laterally, that’s going to equip you to move up.”

Blinth joined From Day One’s September virtual conference on building a work environment to persevere through multiple challenges for a panel discussion titled “Creating Opportunity Within: How Employers Are Boosting Internal Mobility.” I moderated the panel in which the group talked about fruitful, low-cost ways to get workers moving around, growing their skills, and growing the company in the process.

Who Gets to Move Internally?

Internal mobility often requires upskilling and training opportunities, and panelists were keen to discuss their strategies. When planning to let workers start moving about, the first question to be answered is, Who gets to do so?

The panelists spoke about "Creating Opportunity Within: How Employers Are Boosting Internal Mobility" during From Day One's virtual conference (photo by From Day One)

At global marketing tech company Epsilon, those who get upskilling opportunities are initiative-takers, says Michael Dixon, the company’s global SVP of learning and organizational development.

They’ve demonstrated their desire in two ways: The first is that they’ve taken it upon themselves to start learning on their own, perhaps by earning a new certification or a coding language, for instance. “We see folks make the demand without doing the homework. If you’re looking for that new role in data science, but yet you haven’t consumed any of our wonderful AI-driven data science training or networked with somebody inside the company who’s got a Ph.D. in data science, we’re a little curious how you think you’re gonna pull that off.”

The second is that they’ve asked their manager for more responsibility, to work on a new project, sit in new meetings, or take on extra client work. “As a leader, I want to see that you’re willing to take on more before we ask you to, or especially before you ask to be given formal scope,” he said.

Training requires resources, of course, and sometimes they’re just not available at the moment. If you have to choose, then choose managers, said Meredith Haberfeld, founder and CEO of business training and development platform ThinkHuman. “If they’re trained and supported, they become a cascading force where they’re identifying growth areas, coaching people, and having developmental one-on-ones.”

Insurance provider VSP Vision is investing in making its workforce leadership-ready, so they’re poised to move whenever it’s time. “No matter where you sit, we’re looking at providing opportunities to upskill in business acumen, team development, and self-development so that at every layer in the organization, you’re ready to go,” said Jennifer Malena, the company’s VP of employee enablement. “We had several workshops on developing leadership skills, even if you’re not in leadership right now.”

What Skills Get Added to the Organization?

Savina Perez, co-founder of upskilling and training platform Hone, recommended first conducting an internal skill-gap analysis to identify what your current workforce needs to meet your future business goals. In tandem, stay abreast of trends in your industry – regulatory, tech-related, and otherwise. “Another opportunity to identify skills is doing industry analysis, understanding current market trends, staying updated with current research and reports, attending industry events, conferences, and workshops to hear what others in the field are saying.”

When picking what skills to instill in your newly mobile employees, prioritize efficiency, said Haberfeld. Ask, “What are the one or two behaviors that would have the biggest impact?” Potency matters too. She likes an 80/20 rule: “What 20% shift could have 80% of the impact?”

Low-Cost Training and Mobility Opportunities

There are opportunities already in your workplace waiting to be tapped. ThinkHuman uses bungee assignments: The chance to step out of one’s current role and briefly dip into another. That could be in the same team or business function, or in a new one altogether. “The person gets new connections, new perspectives, and new skills, enhancing what they have to offer and what they receive from the company,” said Haberfeld.

“Bungee assignments are high impact, but they’re also high effort,” she added, so enter only with appropriate support for employees and their managers to get it done productively.

Internal Mobility Is a Talent Magnet

Mobility is the stuff of growth, said Perez. “You’re not only able to hit business goals more efficiently and more quickly, but you’re also diversifying talent and breeding innovation. And, of course, you’re going to reduce turnover.”

Cutting back on training and opportunities for growth and development might save money for now, Dixon noted, but employees will notice, and they’ll notice what companies are providing what you’re not. “They’re going to go where they see that they have development and internal mobility. We see [talent development] as non-negotiable. We have to spend money to keep these folks here.”

Internal mobility can retain workers, and, just as well, it can attract new ones. “One of the distinct advantages of retaining your employees is that they’re great culture carriers,” said Blinth. “The longer someone has been at the organization, the more they’re embedded in the culture—you could use them on interview panels, and you could use them to help sell the organization.”

Creating movement is a means of cultivating belonging, he pointed out, and that feeling is contagious to those outside the organization. The more you give people to build their skills and move throughout the company, the more they understand the company is invested in their success. “We all want to work for an organization that has a strong culture, right? The more you upskill, the more you provide those opportunities. You’re equipping those folks to help you to sell the organization. They’re the talent magnet.”

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz at Work, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.


How Hybrid Work Has Changed the Ways We Attract, Retain, and Engage Workers

According to a recent Upwork survey, one out of every 10 Americans will be working remotely by 2025. That’s an 87% increase from 2019! While the urgency of the early days of Covid has passed, remote work is clearly here to stay. How can HR professionals rise to the challenge to attract, retain, and engage top talent in this changing working world?In a short time, innovative new strategies have emerged along the whole employee life cycle, including virtual team building, self-paced learning, and asynchronous communication tools. The goal: ensuring workers are both happy and productive in their roles. In a fireside chat at From Day One’s October Virtual Conference, Sadie Bell, the VP of innovation and deployment, people systems and digital experience at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), discussed how companies can embrace new technologies to make their workplaces more attractive.Embracing Digital Transformation Within HROrganizations are embracing the concept of digital transformation in the workplace, incorporating the latest technologies to make work faster, more efficient, comfortable, and sometimes even safer. “I like to talk about digitization not as moving something from paper to a digital format, but uplifting a process. That’s really where innovation is,” Bell said. “How do I take a process, whether it’s in a chemical plant or an HR onboarding, and give it as many digital touch points, considering the human in the process, and make it more efficient and productive?” One example of digital transformation is the optimization of virtual job applications and the entire HR onboarding process.The overlap of consumer technology and HR technology is already here Bell says, and companies are still developing how best to professionalize its use. “We’re now texting people to apply for a job,” she said. “The differentiating factor now will be compliance and regulation for how we share, store, and secure data.”Matt Charney of interviewed Sadie Bell of HPE in the virtual fireside chat session (photo by From Day One)Hybrid and remote work options are another clear sign of “HR embracing this age that we live in,” said moderator Matt Charney, talent acquisition practice leader at  And it has had a tremendous impact on talent acquisition and retention. “There is a high talent market that is unwilling to work without a hybrid work environment. It’s now more of a workers’ market than an employers’ market,” Bell said. Employees are often juggling multiple competitive offers and are able to be more selective about a company’s values and culture. “They’re starting to look at the grain of the company, and make choices about where they want to work because they’re no longer confined by a physical space,” Bell said.Changing the Employee Value PropositionSince employees are no longer limited in their work options by physical location, organizations need to encourage the recruitment and retention of top talent in other ways, making the whole package more attractive. “It’s about community, it's about beliefs. People are looking for a company that has high integrity, that participates in the community on things that they believe in,” Bell said.HPE focuses on its employees as its most important element, Bell says. “We focus on making the employee value proposition something that people can testify about,” Bell said. That includes involving employees in decisions around corporate social responsibility causes, as well as input into creating customized individual benefits packages surrounding mental health, family care, and other key issues. Companies can also consider unique employee appreciation strategies like virtual game days or meal delivery via local services that allow a team to share a meal or coffee together over Zoom.Flexible Work OptionsIt’s also important that companies emphasize flexible working options and allow employees to “design their day, in their way,” whether through a hybrid schedule or one adjusted to account for other personal responsibilities and priorities like childcare.There are still some employees who would prefer to be on site some or even all of the time, but even that environment is shifting. “When people are on site, we’ve found that we have to make things a little more exciting,” Bell said.“I had some team members ask me at some point, ‘If we’re going to come back to the office every day, what are you going to give me?’” Covid proved that in many organizations, full-time in-person work is not necessary. So, companies must pivot their approach to make it attractive and even fun if they’re going to expect employees to return.“The expectation is that when I’m there, it has to be something more valuable than when I'm sitting on my couch, where I can do other things like get to my children faster, or wash my laundry, or just not get dressed when I wake up in the morning,” Bell said. This value can come through setting strong intentions for in-person meetings and making sure it’s always the right people, at the right time, for the right purpose.Retention Through Training and EngagementHPE has a particularly strong track record with employee retention, Charney notes, thanks to the company’s in-house initiatives for growth and engagement. It provides in-house mentorship programs, relying on networking and team building to pass on knowledge. “We think about upskilling and reskilling our teams as technology changes,” Bell said, ensuring that more seasoned workers are up on the latest technology while simultaneously training the newer employees to eventually step into leadership roles.Engagement is no longer about a pinball table in the conference room, Charney says, especially with employees working virtually around the world. Instead, Bell says, there needs to be a focus on frequent smaller team engagement, communities that come together for a purpose, with larger groups coming together more occasionally and usually in a virtual format. Company culture is generally becoming more localized. By embracing virtual working environments, focusing on engagement, and amping up CSR initiatives, HR professionals can attract and retain top talent in a changing working world.Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost, Honeysuckle Magazine, and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.

Katie Chambers | December 06, 2023

How Equitable Technology Can Boost Diversity

Almost three-quarters of Americans oppose the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in hiring decisions, according to a 2023 survey by Pew Research Center, yet almost 25% of companies surveyed by SHRM report using AI for HR-related tasks.In order to make advanced tech a useful, ethical, and legal part of people operations, employers may proceed with enthusiasm, as long as it’s tempered with caution. This was discussed in an executive panel titled “How Equitable Technology Can Boost Diversity,” which I moderated during From Day One’s November virtual conference.Given the panelists’ expertise in talent acquisition, the way tech is used in hiring decisions (specifically how AI and bias-limiting tools are used) was at the center.When Tech Makes Decisions, and When People Make DecisionsTech has proven itself to outperform recruiters on many hiring tasks, like making connections across vast amounts of information to solve problems faster, says Rebecca Warren, who leads customer success at talent intelligence platform Eightfold.There’s a difference between new AI-powered tools and the more familiar ones that use data analytics and machine learning. Warren considers AI to be largely proactive, while the latter is reactive.“AI are systems or machines that are replicating human intelligence,” she said. “Data analytics uses the insights, patterns, and trends from data to help make decisions. If you were to think about providing actionable information to improve operations, that would come from your data analytics, as opposed to using AI, which helps to either eliminate extra work or make connections faster. They should be used in conjunction, but they have different purposes.”One signal of a good tech tool is that it streamlines the interview process, said Stacey Olive, VP of talent acquisition and employer branding at Medidata Solutions, which builds software for clinical trials. “Anything that levels the playing field is going to be helpful. Sometimes that’s the luxury of an applicant tracking system that allows you to customize a feedback form or to make sure that hiring can’t take place unless you have a diverse candidate slate.”It appears that a sizable share of workers are comfortable with companies using AI to screen candidates. Pew found that 47% of Americans think AI would be better at evaluating job applicants than humans are. Only 15% believe it would be worse.But there are some parts of the hiring process that even the most sophisticated tech can’t replicate, like networking. “Many people find their jobs through their network and by word of mouth. Some people don’t even like to apply, so you’ve got to always be networking, and that’s constant hard work,” Olive noted.Spotting the Bad Actors, Finding the GoodResist the draw of all things shiny and new, said panelists. Don’t chase technology for technology’s sake and adopt a buzzy tech trend before you’re equipped to do it well. “Like any new technology, people need to think about the problem they’re trying to solve,” said Josh Brenner, CEO of job search platform Hired. Instead of finding a problem to fit the technology, find tech tools that solve problems you already know about.Journalist Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza moderated the panel among Josh Brenner of Hired, Rebecca Warren of Eightfold, Nicholas Mailey of Equinix, and Stacey Olive of Medidata Solutions (photo by From Day One)Larger firms should make sure the tools they’re picking are set up for enterprise-level application, “especially when it comes to compliance,” said Brenner. “There are a lot of challenges within recruiting around privacy, salary transparency, and AI biases. Make sure your vendor can provide a third-party audit.” As of July 5, employers in New York City are required to submit AI tools used in hiring to an annual audit under the US’s first law designed to limit such bias. State and federal laws may be incoming, and some agencies already have recourse to challenge AI tools that cause harm.All employers should look out for AI platforms making big, vague claims. “If your vendor can’t explain how the platform or the process works, that’s a red flag,” said Warren. “You need to make sure that the person who is telling you what you need to buy actually understands how it works.”Not everything billed as AI is truly artificial intelligence. Some might be more accurately labeled as machine learning or data analysis. If you’re unsure of your vetting capabilities, bring in an expert. “Even if you’re a small organization, it’s absolutely worth the money to bring in a consultant to give you an independent view of whether that technology is going to solve your problems,” Warren said. “Even if it’s just five hours or one week, bring in an expert to make sure you’re not causing more harm than good.”Governing Your Company DataTo better govern its data, enterprise network provider Equinix developed a governance board comprising representatives from information security, legal, IT, and HR analytics. The team built a process for reviewing the way data is handled, who has access (and whether they still need it), how it’s used, and who governs it. The group meets at least monthly, sometimes more, to review new data practices and audits.“Then we run water through the pipes,” says the company’s VP of talent acquisition, Nicholas Mailey. “You want to play out the implementation of different solutions or processes, look at the outcome of those processes or practices to ensure that you know, to the extent that you can, that you have control and a sense for whether the outcome is ultimately equitable.”The test-run exercise has worked, prompting the company to correct itself before making privacy-violating mistakes. “We started to implement AI technology in certain areas, then we candidly thought that we were out over our skis,” Mailey said. At the time, Equinix asked job seekers to self-disclose demographic information in the application process. So when Equinix wanted to create diverse talent pipelines for jobs, it was those self-disclosures they thought of first. But at disclosure, applicants had been assured that such data would not be factored into hiring decisions.“Fortunately, we caught it,” he said. “But if we hadn’t had a governing board in place looking at how we were approaching these issues, we would have made the mistake of leveraging that data.” Instead, the company took its time and got it right. “It was another year and a half before we started implementing again.”Recruiters like to move quickly and get things done. But HR isn’t a tech department (at least, not entirely), and it’s best to proceed with caution, Mailey said. “It’s safest for companies to go slow in order to go fast—and ensure you’re doing the right thing.”Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | December 05, 2023

Is Your Company Attractive to a Diverse Workforce?

Three out of four job seekers and employees consider a diverse workforce as an essential factor when evaluating companies and job offers, according to a 2020 Glassdoor survey. “Underrepresented candidates really care about the makeup of your organization and the actual numbers,” said Rena Nigam, founder and CEO of the AI-enabled hiring and talent intelligence platform Meytier, during a recent panel discussion at From Day One’s November virtual conference.Ideally, employers will be able to show candidates that there are people who look like them across all company levels. But what if they aren’t there yet?“If you’re still at the beginning of your journey, then be authentic,” Nigam told journalist Lydia Dishman, panel moderator. “Convey your intention on why you want to improve or why you have a lack of diversity.”Overcoming Biases When HiringTo create a diverse workforce, everyone involved in the hiring process needs education on how to recognize their own biases. Education can help “control some of those thoughts, and ensure that it doesn't allow you to make a decision based solely on those particular biases, but challenge it in the moment,” said DeShaun Wise Porter, global head of diversity and recognition at Hilton.Shenece Johns is the head of inclusion and diversity at JCPenney, which is exploring how to use AI to attract talent. She says this technology is so new that the company is still navigating how to infuse it into the recruiting and hiring process.“There could be bias when using AI, and we want to be mindful when we do decide to go full-steam ahead so that we don't inadvertently put our own unconscious bias into the system and discriminate,” she said. “We want to be intentional and methodical about how we approach it. We don’t want to screen out individuals based on their name, school, neighborhood, or other factors like that.”But companies can employ AI to expand opportunities rather than automate rejection, says Nigam.“We use an AI based ontology there to ensure that we discover things that people may not have stated,” she said. “We look beyond the obvious on people’s journeys.”Skills vs. Traditional MetricsHigher education is becoming more expensive, meaning many individuals can’t afford college. However, that doesn’t mean they lack skills, says Louis Chesney, neurodiversity program manager at RethinkCare.“Even if you were to walk into an interview with a master’s degree, they care less about how many years you were in that environment, and more about if you can do the job,” he said.Lydia Dishman of Fast Company moderated the discussion titled “Is Your Company Attractive to a Diverse Workforce?” during From Day One's recent virtual conference (photo by From Day One)Hilton has eliminated the four-year degree requirement for most of its positions in favor of looking strictly at the skill sets of potential employees, says Wise Porter.“It afforded us an opportunity to truly evaluate and determine what is honestly needed for a particular role,” she said.Monica Parodi, vice president of talent acquisition for The New York Times, said that as a federal contractor, the organization uses a structured, consistent, and inclusive interview process where the questions are all tied back to skills.“The training needs to be there for recruiters to make sure that anything that veers away from skills and might show bias in debriefs returns right back to the skills qualifications for the role,” she said.Leaning into Corporate ValuesMany companies have diversity and inclusion as one of their corporate values. However, those are just words on paper unless an organization truly embraces them.The golden rule, ‘treat others as you want to be treated’ is one of the core values at JCPenney. Johns says it’s a phrase everyone is familiar with, so it’s a good way to connect everyone in the organization as well as job candidates. “We lead with that and we lean into it,” she said.However, people can perceive values differently, which can cause bias, says Porter. She said it’s important to ask “appropriate behavioral-based interview questions to be able to get down to the crux of the matter for a consistent experience.”The best way for an organization to communicate its values is to demonstrate them, says Chesney. That’s why it’s essential to provide a detailed interview agenda to job prospects. “This could level the playing field by giving all candidates the same information and expectations. It’s also important to be transparent about the accommodations process, which can help candidates with different needs to perform their best in the interview,” he said.Connecting with Overlooked Candidate PoolsNigam defined overlooked candidate pools as “people who see constant rejection. They are people who always end up in the job black hole.” These individuals include immigrants, caregivers, veterans, and those with disabilities, she says.The New York Times is working on hiring practices across the board for anyone from historically marginalized groups, including people who are neurodivergent, says Parodi.For example, the organization is moving away from panel interviews. Those interviews were created to reduce biases but have also excluded some groups, says Parodi.Certain individuals might not perform as well during a panel interview because they may struggle with working memory or executive functioning, says Chesney. He said those struggles are amplified “when you’re getting rapid fire questions from multiple people.”One of the most overlooked talent pools are those with criminal backgrounds, says Johns. “We are doing some work in this space to help with giving them a second chance,” she said.Mary Pieper is a freelance reporter based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | November 30, 2023