Career Mobility Investments: Why Employers should Embrace an Optimistic Approach

Organizations around the world are beginning to understand why it is so important to play an enabler’s role in career mobility of individuals. From reinvigorating the disengaged employees to retaining the best ones, a lot can be achieved if career mobility models are employed with the right intentions. HR leaders are increasingly advocating the need to exemplify best career mobility practices. In the current era of high speed talent war and the Great Resignation, employers should play the role of an enabler in career mobility goals of their best employees. And, giving employees an opportunity to go beyond their usual job roles and responsibilities is definitely seen as a positive career mobility enabler. Losing employees is a hidden cost that most business owners are unable to measure, until they find it hard to replace these ex-employees. The cost of employee acquisition and then training them in their current roles is just too high.

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In this article, we have highlighted the importance of career mobility and why employers should double their efforts and investments, backed by optimism.

What is Career Mobility?

Career mobility, if defined from a traditional point of view, could mean following a corporate ladder and earning a lucrative salary. But in 2022, this would be obsolete. Today, the basis of career mobility has shifted to “career ownership.” Employees are more informed today, thanks to easy access to internet resources. They are no longer going to stick to a single job role for a very long time, knowing this could mean restricting chances of growth and skills enhancement. So, to understand career mobility of individuals, employers have to get rid of the restrictive career paths.

So, let’s try and understand the concept of career mobility.

The Transformation from Occupational Mobility to Agile Mobility

Career mobility could mean career development, but not vice-versa. Why?

Career mobility is mostly a well-planned, voluntary decision on part of the employee to seek more opportunities. but, it could also be forced upon– for instance, being asked to take on functions as secondment of a missing staff for a temporary period of time.

People leave jobs to seek newer opportunities– something that would allow them to showcase skills and in return, earn them good recognition and salaries. However, internet era has made this “seeking journey” volatile– with many individuals with almost similar skills and competencies applying for the same types of roles, resulting in talent war and The Great Resignation. Agility mobility is what individuals are adopting to fuel their newer ambitions.

Back in 1990, Nachum Sicherman and Oded Galor had published a research paper on career mobility. It used the terminology “occupational mobility” to identify the various factors and their significance on an individual’s career. “The Theory of Career Mobility” identified the direct correlation between employee turnover and the chances of promotions, performance appraisals, and wage differences between individuals. Highly ambitious employees adopt career mobility model to upskill and grow out to seek newer opportunities within and outside the organization. C&T Training and Development Committee had introduced the Career Mobility Model. The Career Mobility Model assists individuals who seek guidance on career path through upskilling, and personality development.

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It consists of two main approaches:

  • Career Planning: Skills assessment, learning path development, and upskilling.
  • Fulfillment: Skill applications in the current job or in a new job, followed by performance appraisal or feedback.
The Career Mobility Model,
The Career Mobility Model, by the C&T Training and Development Committee (2018)


Now, to achieve this, an employee will seek opportunities within the organization in the same department, or in another department, or outside in a new organization. By planning career mobility, individuals can gain a lot from their organizations. For example, an employee could gain exposure in one or more job roles and functions, helping  the organization scale all types of opportunities and challenges. By doing this, the employee could become an indispensable part of the team.

But, it’s seldom this easy.

For example, let’s evaluate the personal and professional reasons individuals quote for moving out of an organization.

Personal reasons
  • Marriage
  • Relocation to a new city or country
  • Health problems
  • Maternity or paternity
  • Legal issues
Professional reasons
  • Stagnation at work
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Conflicts with manager and peer
  • Fatigue and mental anxiety due to work pressure
  • Lack of learning opportunities
  • Biases and performance review

In new-age workplace, employees could be sometimes forced to define a new role, with digital transformation and rising technology intervention. With increasing role redundancies, on the other hand, career mobility considered to be the best option towards long term growth and sustenance.

Based on our research, career mobility could be classified into five categories. These are:

  • Hierarchical mobility
  • Functional mobility
  • Geographical mobility
  • Ad-hoc or temporary mobility
  • Hybrid mobility

Post-pandemic, we are witnessing the rise of hybrid mobility which we will discuss in detail very soon.

Why is career mobility planning so important for employee retention?

Businesses could lose up to one-fifth of the base salary of the employee that left the organization, and the cost of replacement with a new employee is often higher. If you can’t help your employee advance with career mobility plans, they will seek that with another employer elsewhere — and this mood is common with the 50% of the employees at any given time within the organization. People like to learn and they would like to do at places where their efforts are recognized. Internal mobility’s success is hinged on this belief. Teach and train employees so that they can do the same to others in the company.

A big reason why employees would be interested about mobility investments as part of their career progression includes lack of proper induction into a comprehensive and flexible work environment. On the contrary, most of the serious one would like to learn about budget, work based planning, good work culture and a systematically induced continuous process of learning. With emerging markets and changing business requirements, organizations all over the world are learning about potential hazards of high turnover and positive outcomes of enforcing employee professionalism, managing attrition, besides communication management etc.

Therefore, it is not about the price that the convergence of business-to-business program or business to consumer programs aim at.

People are now getting more choices than ever and what counts for is loyalty and personalized experience about a certain product. According to one of the recent reports published by LinkedIn, jobs and promotions are on the rise, especially in the US when learning and development go hand in hand, for any particular employee within any business organization. As per the report, due to L & D aspects, around 15% employees experienced growth and promotion in their career. Also, around the months of July-September 2021, there was a huge demand of 94% for all those employees who underwent learning and development modules in the office or organization. In short, diversity and learning objectives help both individuals and companies to sustain themselves in the long run.

Organizations that focus on career mobility as part of performance management strategies are found to be more effective in retention. Internal mobility, in particular, gives a sense of satisfaction to employees. This also improves retention and breeds companionship with a larger group of employees.

Moreover, the employees who stay back in the company bring in more people. Also, employees, embracing career mobility plans, are more likely to get promoted internally to more strategic roles, taking them closer to the decision makers in the organization. But, this is a time-consuming process.

Based on our analytics of various microblogging sites and the conversations posted there, we found a majority of participants recommend sticking to a company for at least 2 years, and doing so for 4 different companies on the trot is an ideal career mobility plan (for them). If an employer is able to hold on to a top performer for more than 2 years and plans a career mobility for the individual, it’s a solid opportunity for both to grow together.

By providing a career mobility opportunity to the employee, employer is able to do these for the individual:

  • Expand the world of opportunities within and outside the organization
  • Learn new skills and competencies in newer roles and responsibilities
  • Gain an opportunity to work with a new manager and new team members who could bring in totally fresh set of ideas, attitudes and personalities
  • Build marketability for the employee, which could be used to expand into fresh grounds like Sales, customer interaction and networking (on LinkedIn, Influencer marketing, etc.), and so on.

The opportunities are endless and when an employer is serious about career mobility of the individuals, it becomes a very personalized relationship– a one without bias and favoritism. Of course, HR leaders have to play an active role here. With every new digital transformation there is initiation of change management coupled with flexibility in the business policies. At this juncture, every business organization encourage new talent acquisition and goal convergence, and this is done keeping in mind futuristic business requirements.

Individuals who earned the benefits of career mobility within the organization bring about a positive change– of course, this also requires a consistent skills and personality management to skim complacency and biases out of eccentric relationships.

How can employers create meaningful job roles to retain employees?

Employers in the modern context are advised to work on active strategic plans in order to retain employees.As GitLab puts it, to succeed with career mobility, team members should not feel the pressure to climb the “proverbial ladder.”

According to a report, 49% of the HR leaders and HR managers believe career mobility planning programs enhance employee engagement rate at the workplace, increase productivity (39%), improves team work (39%), and as such, have a very positive impact on the company’s reputation (67%).

Setting a well-defined career path for the employees, can help them to think forward and contribute meaningfully. But what actually triggers unplanned resignations from employees for that matter of fact? Mostly, it is a mundane work role defined by the employer that strikes monotony.

Glassdoor, a HR tech platform for recruitment reveals that, the time stipulated within a pre-defined job role, can bring in monotony, while absence of timely revision of pay packages can add on to the number of employees leaving the organization.

When can organizations be aware of role stagnation?

HR experts from the US, reveal that every 10 months employees feel suffocated within defined job roles, especially when there is no flexibility in operations. Supervisory roles, on the other hand, keep people better engaged, while a planned incentivization can break the monotony depending on other relative factors.  Looking for defined learning outcomes, organizational growth factors need to percolate the bottom lines, in order to enable the employees to remain motivated. The need for career mobility should be a controlled option for the employee, while the organization should work towards creating belonging-ness while giving constant support to employees for a holistic well-being.

career progression plan in six steps
Source: Personio

So, what can employers actually do to retain top talent and still help with career mobility of their best employees?

The first thing business owners can do is to understand why employees switch from their present jobs. In most cases, employers just don’t ask questions, or even if they do, the questions are not pointed enough to evaluate the real reasons behind employees jumping ship. Employers, more than the employees, are actually more in control of staff turnover, and thankfully, today, we have an easy access to reliable HR technology solutions that can help with employee retention.

How can organizations identify role redundancies?

Role redundancies are often created, in the context of stagnation. Stagnation can happen at any part of the career, especially when despite having a basic role fitment and the role is not expanded regularly. Monotony creeps in when target achievements are not directly linked with incentives and employees continue to perform without improvisation. This is exactly when, the employees can no longer relate to career progression. Therefore, creating and encouraging a clear-cut career path along with career growth can be the best remedy to address career stagnation issues.

Based on the above, HR experts clarify that employees should be clearly communicated on what is expected from them. Simultaneously, people process management should be in place to minimize work related deviations from standard practices.

This is how Harvard advocates its career mobility roadmap.

Activating your career mobility investments for employees

Investments don’t just happen by putting monies into fat lucrative training and development programs. They also happen by spending time and effort on building companionship at workplace. From getting employees to sign up for a new training or professional courses, to assigning them with new projects, career mobility is as much latent as it’s mighty visible on top of the waves.

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