“There ain’t no way you can hold onto something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it.” — Kate DiCamillo
I often find myself reflecting upon the first time I had the opportunity to manage a team of people. With most of North America celebrating Labor Day this past weekend, I found myself reflecting on that time.
Back then, I naively viewed the act of keeping people on my team as my primary managerial function. It was an indictment of my management ability if someone wanted to leave or, worst case, actually left my team. It wasn’t until after a few painful years and some noble advice from a cherished mentor that I finally realized I had it all wrong. I was an internal talent blocker. It wasn’t until later in my career when I had the chance to work with other leaders that I realized I wasn’t the only one who struggled with being able to grow and then let talent go.
With global unemployment for advanced economies dipping to 5% in 2019 — the lowest rate in over three decades — it is important that we attract the best talent. With almost 50% of millennials saying they would leave their jobs within the next two years if given the opportunity, it’s even more important we keep our best talent. The main reasons for attrition across all employees is not surprising. The top reason? Future opportunities.This problem screams for a formalized program. The solution sounds obvious: focus on developing high-quality, well-rounded leaders, building skills that are transferable and offering growth opportunities within the organization. But we are failing our existing talent. In fact, only 21% of employees believe it is easy for them to change positions internally.
The pace at which new skills are needed is overwhelming, and the practice of self-learning modules can’t keep up. As a result, our internal talent pool is falling behind either because of doing nothing or developing the wrong skills and so we readily look to the outside.
More often than not — and this has been a personal experience as well as one backed up by research — our internal labor markets tend to be informal and lack oversight. This makes it difficult for even the most motivated employees to navigate. Gartner research has shown, no matter how accessible organizations make their jobs for employees, the effort required to find the most relevant and interesting internal jobs is greater than it is in the external job market. In other words, it’s easier for our employees to find a job outside our organization than it is within.
It’s not easy, but developing an effective internal labor market works. Gartner research shows a 33% increase in intent to stay from employees. Filling critical and hard-to-fill roles with internals leads to faster productivity rates and internal candidates accept in 16% less time than externals.
Some suggestions from Gartner’s HR practice:
- Instead of relying on making all jobs more accessible, the best organizations treat their employees like candidates and proactively push the most relevant roles to them.
- For employees who have managers like I was early in my career, give them an opportunity to “raise their hand” and signal interest in roles in a low-risk way, regardless of their availability.
- Actively guide employees toward the most important skills for jobs of the future and broker the experiences they undertake to develop those skills.
Next time you celebrate Labor Day, reflect on what enabled you to advance in your career and identify areas in your organization that can be improved to help your existing talent pool advance before automatically reaching outside.
Michael Uskert, Chief of Research, Gartner Supply Chain