You can talk about career mobility all you want. But unless the managers across your organization buy into it too, it’s all just lip service — followed by negative, real-world consequences.
To give your people the development they seek, and to create real business value for your organization, it makes sense to embrace career mobility. This strategy comes to life when you establish an internal marketplace that connects employee skills and skill development to ongoing, real-time internal opportunities for people to explore new types of work.
And for a career mobility program to really fly high, managers need to play a pivotal role, Degreed CLO Kelly Palmer said. “The manager is the role that actually makes or breaks whether this will be successful.”
Culture Through Partnership
Internal opportunities — the lifeblood of any career mobility program — originate with managers. With employees providing demand growth, managers supply the means through stretch projects, gig work, mentorships, and more.
And once those opportunities are defined, “It’s the manager’s role to partner with employees to help them progress on their career journeys,” Palmer said.
The end goal is creating a rich and supported learning culture — one that integrates your skills, technology, and implementation strategies. To get there, research indicates that managers greatly benefit from positive encouragement.
Managers assessed solely on their ability to get work done will hoard talent. And hoarding talent, especially rockstar performers who want to develop, is a surefire way to lose those people to other organizations who will offer those opportunities, Palmer said. “I’ve seen this happen so many times.”
And losing people is costly. A growing body of research suggests that compared to internal hiring, career mobility structures, or upskilling, hiring external candidates requires more compensation, takes longer, and carries more risk.
When managers are evaluated on leadership skills, however, they’re more likely to be flexible about sharing talent with other teams, and they’re more open to letting their people be mentored by other team leaders.
Organizations that are most successful at developing their employees cultivate managers who connect employees to the right people and resources at the right time,” according to a 2019 Gartner study. These managers boost employee performance by up to 26% and more than triple the likelihood that their employees will be high performers.
In that same study, more than 70% of HR executives said that managers should get more involved in coaching employees.
Some companies track career conversations, how many projects are staffed cross-functionally, and how many promotions are internal. When managers are measured by these metrics, Palmer said, “They’re recognized for being amazing leaders for internal talent, and then they’re much more willing to be that kind of manager.”
Three Takeaways for Managers
- First, make your relationship with your workers a partnership, Palmer said. “Have regular career conversations with your employees.” And because those conversations have a different dynamic and purpose than a performance review, do them separately.
- Second, always be thinking about how you can give your people new challenges. Again, these can be special projects and other short-term opportunities. Maybe one of your people wants to be trained or mentored. Or perhaps that person wants a chance to train somebody else. Most of the time, this isn’t about taking on a new, full-time position.
- Third, help create a company culture that rewards managers for supporting career mobility. And If you are a manager, Palmer said, “Model what you want to see.”
Want to take a deeper dive? Enroll in the new Degreed mini email course 5 Days of Career Mobility. You’ll receive expert advice and insights from learning, talent, technology, and HR experts including Palmer.
Each day, you’ll gain access to new videos, articles, and checklists in bite-sized pieces. We know you don’t have time for a formal course (neither do we), so these lessons were designed to be completed in 15 to 20 minutes per day. Ready to get started? Register now.