Talent Mobility: What It Is and How It Impacts Your Company

Written by Coursera • Updated on

You need an energetic, flexible workforce as the business world rapidly evolves. Effective talent management is critical. Learn more about what talent mobility is and why it’s essential.

[Featured image] Woman in group of colleagues celebrating promotion

Organizations want to attract, engage, and motivate top employees. Effective talent management can help with your recruiting and retention efforts. Yet developing your workforce has many facets. Talent mobility can help you successfully achieve your business objectives by keeping your people in challenging roles where they can make a difference. Read on to learn what talent mobility is, why it is valuable, and the best practices for developing a talent mobility program.

What is talent mobility?

Talent mobility refers to intentional strategies to identify employees within your organization who have grown out of their current role and would suit a new position. When you support your employees’ professional development, this growth is good. Yet, you could risk employee turnover if you don’t have initiatives in place to identify talent that needs a new challenge and could better serve your business in another area.

Actively supporting talent mobility can help you improve employee engagement. In this tight labor market, talent mobility can also help your business's bottom line. You can hire internally more quickly instead of competing to attract and recruit new talent. This offers the added advantage of having employees who already know your company culture and bring institutional knowledge to their new role.

Empower teams with access to world-class content from 325+ top companies and universities

Learn more

Types of talent mobility

Talent mobility can address gaps in your company. There are three main types of internal moves:

Vertical mobility

Promotion to another level of responsibility counts as vertical mobility. Putting someone who supervised a team of four into a position to lead three teams of four is vertical mobility.

Horizontal mobility

With this type of talent mobility, also known as lateral mobility, an employee changes their role and keeps the same hierarchy level in the organization. You might have someone in your accounting area that you train in a different responsibility to expand their role.

Cross-functional mobility 

Here, the employee moves to a new department or function to learn new skills. For example, you might move a project manager from the Midwest sales region to the Southeast marketing region.

Importance of talent mobility

Talent mobility helps the employee. When organizations look to identify people for internal hiring and work to develop those individuals’ necessary skills, the worker grows professionally. At the same time, they can feel more invested in the organization as they feel valued and respected.

Talent mobility also builds employee confidence and makes them more likely to accept new challenges. Having succeeded in one branch, for instance, they can feel more secure when trying to expand their role at another.

Additionally, by supporting greater job satisfaction, talent mobility directly impacts engagement. LinkedIn’s 2023 Future of Recruiting report states employees remain at a company almost twice as long if the employer is committed to talent mobility [1]. Seeing a career path and feeling encouraged to grow within a company is as essential today in recruiting and retaining employees as compensation and benefits.

This benefits your business, which has a more loyal and invested workforce. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) refers to offering employees lateral moves as “an untapped gold mine for companies.” [2] Per BCG, successful talent mobility lets companies enjoy:

  • Higher employee engagement and retention

  • Improved gender equity

  • Continuation of institutional knowledge

  • Less time spent onboarding

  • Increased overall productivity

  • Enhanced competitiveness

All of this adds up to cost savings and a better bottom line. You cut the time and money spent recruiting and attracting new candidates. Plus, you can onboard and train the internal employee for their role more rapidly since they're already knowledgeable about your organization, which benefits productivity and efficiency. 

Make talent your competitive advantage

See what it could look like to train your team.

Learn more

Challenges of talent mobility

According to BCG, “only 10 percent of job opportunities today are filled with internal lateral hires [2]." Thus, one challenge of talent mobility is identifying the internal people to fill open roles. This problem can stem from a lack of manager buy-in. If team leaders and supervisors aren’t looking for people to transfer or promote, they may assume they need to hire externally to fill their openings. 

Effective talent mobility also requires transparency and consistency. It’s important to avoid only providing mobility based on specific judgments, past experiences, or to specific groups. Adopting a talent-based or skills-based hiring approach can also help combat bias.

Best practices for talent mobility

To benefit from talent mobility, you’ll need to intentionally establish a program supporting internal moves, whether horizontal or vertical. Following these strategies in creating a talent mobility program can help.

Align company objectives and individual goals.

Knowing what your employees aim to accomplish and mapping out a potential company career path that aligns with your business objectives will benefit both parties. The employee feels more connected to your company and aware of development opportunities. Meanwhile, your leadership can see who might fit where and what talent development you need to implement to get people where they want to go and who you need them to be.

Invest in talent development.

Building up a talent pool requires active investment in training and development. Knowing your ultimate goals for talent management, look for ways to identify and fill skill gaps to avoid having to turn to external hiring for all your vacancies.

Some 35 percent of human resource leaders say the biggest challenge to talent mobility is that internal employees don’t meet the qualifications [3]. That’s something you can change. Make building both technical and workplace skills a focus. That way, you’re maintaining relationships as well as professional expertise. Educate employees about opportunities.

An internal candidate must know about the job to apply for that lateral or vertical move. Preparing your employees to advance with appropriate skills and talent development is critical. However, you must also communicate about internal mobility opportunities and ensure staff know where to find out about new roles.

Enlist C-suite support.

As discussed, talent mobility bottlenecks arise when leadership fails to transfer or promote internal employees. Managers play an important role in talent development and mobility. Building a talent marketplace that tracks employee skills, qualifications, goals, and more can help your company match people with open roles more effectively. 

Advancing talent mobility with Coursera

Make managing people at work easier by building your understanding of talent mobility and other key areas of workforce development. You can learn to make data-driven decisions about your talent in a Wharton School of Business course, People Analytics on Coursera. Take a broader look at Strategic Planning and Execution with 10 hours of flexible learning from University of Virginia faculty on Coursera.

Let's talk about making talent your advantage

Connect with our team to learn how you can prepare your business for rapid change.

Learn more

Article sources


LinkedIn. “The Future of Recruiting 2023.” Accessed September 14, 2023.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.