When I was starting my first job, over a decade ago, career mobility literally meant having to move to another location in order to fill either the same position or a different one. So when I came across a headline that stated that career mobility is a must in today’s business world I was baffled.

I was of the opinion that with all the technological advancement s one will soon not need to leave the flat in the morning in order to go to work, simply click a couple of icons and have at it while still wearing pajama bottoms and slippers. As it turns out my notion about what a mobile employee meant was wrong and indeed this ability both on the part of the people and of the organisations (as they need to encourage and manage it) is crucial to remaining competitive and profitable.


Read more: The mobile employee and workplace learning


Career mobility – the HR perspective

Career mobility is about the movement of employees across grades or positions, mostly upward but also downward or horizontally. It can also mean a change in occupation altogether.

It sometimes is a personal decision, other times it’s the company that requires the shift – with the employee always having the alternative of refusing (and probably leaving). People usually go for career mobility when this holds potential for growth and better pay. Companies opt for this whenever there are mergers, restructuring or something changes radically within the industry. Sometimes mobility may also present the geographical aspect when some offices are opened, closed or when part of the activity is outsourced.

Regardless of who calls for it, career mobility is directly connected to job advancement and personal satisfaction. It’s a good way to make sure that employees can move to roles that match their skills and their goals.

Changing jobs is the present-day norm

Frowned upon a while back, job-hopping has become normality these days and it is those who stay in the same role for years that are seen as unambitious and uninclined to grow. This is due to the shift in generations and to the numerous opportunities that are easily accessible via a multitude of channels.

People no longer stay in organisations where they don’t see a clear (and shiny) future. The modern worker is constantly exposed to job vacancies, thus becoming a constant, though passive, job hunter. Really talented people looking for challenges are also actively pursuing this, updating their resumes, building external reputation and becoming part of modern-day occupational guilds.

Few companies manage to offer true career mobility, assisting employees in making the transition between very different departments – from marketing to customer service for example. Although that might not be such a bad idea.


Read more: Why companies should consider the gamification of work


Managers hold a very important role

Cultivating career mobility within an organisation may start out as a company goal but it is managers who need to step up to the plate and design coherent, sensible career paths for the people forming their teams.

A recent study carried out by Gallup found that 50 percent of employees left their job “to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.” That doesn’t mean most managers are bad leaders or not that good at their job; the issue is that they don’t necessarily realize that drawing up career trajectories for their subordinates pertains to them. At a first glance it is seems to be more in the HR area of expertise. However, career mobility has a lot to do with being encouraged and inspired.


Read more: Why each employee needs a learning path


Another conclusion of the study was that engagement ran highest among employees who have some sort (face to face, vocal or digital) of daily communication with their managers.

Career mobility as part of organizational culture

In order to ensure a natural flow of job mobility within an organisation, regular assessments of employees should be conducted. Re-hiring is a lot more costly than moving an existing employee to a position he is suited for. Yet in order to know who is better at what, the above mentioned evaluations need to be both thorough and relevant.

Furthermore, a good LMS is needed to ease the creation of personalized learning and development paths. Talent needs training and matching people with the right courses is paramount in preparing them for a new role.

What works best in this instance is a singular, cloud-based data model set up to extract data from staff assessments and correlate that with training. It should be aimed at identifying skill and competency gaps while at the same time giving employees access to the resources they need to move forward. Needless to say that this implies having a rich e-learning library as well as subscriptions to online publications that are relevant to the industry.

Closing thoughts

Ironically, in a world where you can have departments on different continents, all working together in spite of distance and across time zones, career mobility does not mean having to move. It requires, however, the ability to radically switch between frames of mind and to learn something new all the time.

It’s a brave, new, challenging business world.

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