Speeding Up Rotations and Internal Movement For Development, Retention and Profit (Part II)
Last week, Part 1 of this series  introduced a number of pain points that render most corporate approaches to managing internal movement for development, retention , and talent ROI purposes ineffective.
In reality, most current approaches are relics from years of tradition, loosely defined, poorly integrated, and barely managed.
During this installment, I will build upon the goals and key elements of more effective second-generation programs discussed in Part 1 by focusing on the benefits of adopting second-generation approaches and methods to increase program participation rates.
Despite the current economic lull, consumers and top talent around the world expect organizations to continue innovating. No matter how well-staffed you may be, talent shortages or gaps will arise due to unexpected turnover, retirement (yes, a few people are still retiring), introduction of new technologies, and global expansion.
Now is the ideal time to restructure and re-engineer your internal movement processes to help mitigate the risk of key talent shortages. Fortunately, making such processes more effective is a relatively easy task.
The Definition of Intraplacement
As mentioned in Part 1, “first-generation” internal movement programs traditionally relied upon voluntary application by employees to jobs posted internally, except for a relatively small percentage of executives participating in rotation-based executive development programs.
Under such programs, internal movement really meant the permanent movement of individual employees into vacant jobs. This very narrow approach leaves out numerous developmental opportunities that are more in line with how work actually gets done today (i.e., projects).
If you’re attempting to re-engineer your process, start with a name change (i.e., Intraplacement) and a broader program scope.
Consider defining your new program as “an integrated set of corporate processes that are designed to proactively increase and broaden the options for re-assignment of critically skilled individuals based on rapidly changing business need projected talent ROI.”
The primary goal is to measurably improve employee productivity and innovation by increasing “right assignment” placements (i.e., right person, with the right skills, in the right assignment or job, at the right time).
The nature of the assignments may be part-time, temporary, seasonal, or permanent. Assignments may focus on individuals (i.e., individual movement) or groups/teams (i.e., redeployment).
Additional goals may include improving retention, accelerating leadership-development, driving best-practice sharing, improving recruiting, and intra-function cooperation. Intraplacement borrows and adapts its strategies, processes, and tools directly from external recruiting.
The Benefits of Adopting Second-Generation Internal Movement Systems
There are many reasons why firms should invest in Intraplacement. Improving internal movement can positively impact a broad range of business and HR issues, including sudden business problems, seasonal surges in workload, workforce productivity, employee retention, development, and individual motivation.
I) Business benefits and impacts
- Business results. Effective systems improve business results especially in the areas of sales, product improvement, and customer service.
- Increased productivity. Because highly skilled innovators and top performers are placed in “the right job,” the effectiveness of these individuals is multiplied.
- Better business-cycle fit. In larger organizations, some parts of the business are in different lifecycle stages (i.e., seed, start-up, established, expansion, decline, and exit). Proactive and targeted movement better ensures that an individual is placed in a business cycle where their skills and interests are a better fit.
- Increased innovation and idea generation. Moving individuals into new situations provides them with an opportunity to “view things as an outsider” and to propose new approaches that insiders might not see.
- Best practice sharing. As more individuals rotate between business units, the likelihood that best practices will be shared rapidly increases. Increased internal movement can result in the cross fertilization of ideas between previously isolated business units.
- Increased agility and flexibility. Having the capability of moving talent from areas of low return to areas of high return increases organizational agility, as well as the ability of management to shift resources as needs change.
- Better understanding and cooperation. By rotating individuals between disparate business units, individuals from both units can learn to better understand and appreciate the perspective of others. For example, purchasing professionals can better understand the problems faced by the individuals who have to operate under purchasing guidelines if they occasionally rotated into those business units.
- Improved contacts and relationships. Increasing internal movement allows individuals to build their contacts and to strengthen their relationship with individuals outside of the direct team.
II) People-management related and HR-related impacts
- More talent is available. Because individuals are proactively selected and moved faster, there are more and better qualified individuals available to managers with sudden or new strategic needs, than when individuals self-select themselves for movement.
- Higher retention rates. Rapid movement minimizes frustration and burnout. People working in their “ideal job” are unlikely to find a superior opportunity outside the firm.
- Leadership development. Multiple on-the-job learning opportunities are likely to develop leaders faster and more effectively because the development assignments will include opportunities to lead more teams under a variety of circumstances.
- Increase motivation and excitement. Not only is the individual more excited because they have a chance to grow, but each permanent internal movement also provides an opportunity to “back fill” that position, further motivating others to strive for promotions and transfers.
- Increased learning. As individuals move more frequently not only will they gain more knowledge but they will also develop mechanisms for learning faster when they enter future situations.
- Increased technical skill development. Moving between diverse projects provides an increased opportunity to develop current technical skills and to learn new skills.
- Increased exposure for top talent. Increased movement across broader areas allows more managers a chance to work with top talent. This provides individuals with more opportunities to be coached by multiple managers while giving individual managers a chance to observe and assess talent they might someday want to add to their organization.
- Reduced time to fill. Transferring people internally allows you to just fill jobs faster; assessment can be done more quickly because you already have a great deal of information about a current employee’s skills, performance, and weaknesses. Because few internal candidates reject internal offers and it takes them less time to accept, the overall hiring process takes less time.
- Decreased time to productivity. Your current employees already know the culture, the company jargon, and they already have a range of contacts. As a result, internal transfers and promotions can begin the job sooner because they don’t need a great deal of orientation, and they don’t need to give notice before they begin learning.
- Lower cost of hire and salary. Internal searches don’t require expensive external advertising  and other recruitment costs. External reference checks are not needed and interviews can often be shorter. Internal candidates generally have no other external offers , so there is less likelihood of a bidding war and they are less aware of market salaries.
- Lower “job failure” rate. Because you’re hiring individuals who already know the culture, the job failure and termination rate is generally lower with internal transfers. External hiring costs are significantly higher than the cost of internal transfers.
- Improved employer brand image. Having a high-promotion-from-within rate generally improves your external brand image as a good place to work because you focus on the needs of your current employees. The increased security that it offers to current employees can also help your image.
- Allows for more entry-level hiring. By filling most jobs internally through transfers or promotions, you allow the firm to do almost all of its external hiring at the entry level. This is a good thing because entry-level jobs are cheaper to fill, have a larger candidate pool, and give the firm more time to train and assess “unknown” external hires while they are in jobs where they can do less damage.
- Decreased need for layoffs. Having a large percentage of your workers with a broad set of skills as a result of frequent movement means they are more capable of moving into new jobs or business units. This added capability and flexibility means that more workers can be transferred rather than laid-off from business units that need to be reduced or shut down.
- Individual employee benefits. Workers get more opportunities for development and learning as well as a faster overall career movement because they are proactively placed in the “right” job.
Before you implement any new process, identify the benefits that a firm can receive when the process is operating perfectly. The manager in charge of the process should set a specific program goal for each benefit. They should also identify a key metric for measuring and for assessing whether that benefit or goal was actually met.
Ways to Increase Program Participation
Despite this impressive list of benefits for both the company and the employee, you might still encounter some difficulty in getting managers and employees to fully participate in an Intraplacement program.
Some of the successful approaches for increasing participation that you should consider include:
- Business case. Work with the CFO’s office to demonstrate the ROI and business case to individual managers you want to participate. Make sure they clearly see the impact of participation to their own business results and career advancement. If possible, show how quickly an under-performing manager can improve under the program.
- Program champions. Get a senior executive, CFO, or key business unit manager to “champion” the program as a spokesperson. Let them use their visibility, political power, and influence to spread the benefits of the program. Encourage top-performing managers and employees to speak about the program.
- Recognition. Hold a recognition lunch or dinner sponsored by the CEO for all of the managers and employees who participated in the program. Plaques and certificates can also be handed out.
- Rewards. Making program participation and developing talent part of the bonus formula and promotion criteria will get the attention of your managers. Give lower priority or limit participation by managers who abuse the program.
- Communications. Sending periodic reminders to managers in the communications format they prefer can be effective, if you don’t overdo it.
- Reports. Including “ranked” program participation rate metrics in your standard financial reports not only makes your program more visible but it also serves to “expose” those managers with minimal participation. At the same time, it encourages low performers to ask those at the top of the list how to do better. Also show the correlation between program participation and meeting business results.
- Assignment design help. Provide direct help to managers in developing highly desirable project assignments and their descriptions. Provides samples of excellent (and weak) assignment descriptions, and offer coaching for those managers struggling with the process.
- Leadership development. Work with the leadership development program to make your process an integral part of the development program for new leaders so that they learn how to use it. Make the number of successful rotations that an individual employee has completed a key selection criterion for identifying high-potential employees.
- Top-quality replacements. One of the key reasons why managers are reluctant to participate is because they fear losing productivity when one of their key people rotates out. As a result, if you want to encourage managers to “release” their employees, even for a short period of time, you will need an effective “backfill” process that helps the manager to quickly replace their “lost” skill set. This might include a process for identifying those employees a manager is likely to lose and a process for training replacements.
- How-to materials. In addition to developing program materials that explains the process, these materials should be “pre-tested” with a sample of hiring managers in order to make them clearer and easier to understand. These materials should be available in a variety of formats.
Next Week in Part III: Common Problems Associated With Internal Movement Programs
Author’s note: I am putting together a guidebook tentatively called The Job Rotation, Internal Movement and Stretch Assignment Handbook. If you have job responsibilities in these areas and are interested in volunteering to be an initial reviewer, please contact me at JohnS@sfsu.edu.