Retention through mobility: How to offer your employees an internal career change

Retaining top talent is an increasing challenge for businesses, with salary and benefits no longer always enough to seal the deal - and more than a quarter of employees considering a career change. 

Page Group’s new ‘Career Changes’ report revealed 26% of workers are considering a career switch in the near future, while 44% have already made the leap. The top motivation for changing professions was the desire to pursue a career which offered better opportunities to increase earnings, with one in three citing this reason, while 32% reported they wanted a role they felt more passionate about.

Thirty-one was the age at which the most workers were considering a career change, despite having spent roughly ten years in their profession already. This is a danger spot for businesses, who may have invested large amounts of time and money into top talent in this age range. 

So, while salary and benefits are no doubt high on any employee’s list of priorities, what more can businesses do to ensure they’re not haemorrhaging top talent who are shooting for a career change? 

Just because an employee is keen to switch to a different career path does not mean a business has to lose them. Most businesses encompass a variety of job functions and departments, so boosting internal mobility could give the employee the professional change they’re craving without having to hand in a letter of resignation. 

Personal development meetings: Ask about ambitions

It’s long been accepted that failing to carve out a clear path to progression for employees from day one will result in rapid disengagement. Regular personal development meetings between a worker and their manager are a must - and these meetings are the perfect space in which to find out about an employee’s wider ambitions that may well lay outside their current team.

Managers must take a genuine interest in the employee’s desired career path - not only how the staff member can benefit themselves and the team. 

Helpful questions to ask at this stage include:

  • Which parts of your role do you enjoy the most and why?
  • Which parts of your role are you currently finding the most challenging and why?
  • What are your short-term career goals?
  • What are your long-term career goals? 
  • What types of training do you feel you would benefit from?
  • Are there any functions within the company you’d be interested in finding out more about? 
  • Are there any side projects or additional responsibilities you’d be keen to take on?

Managers must also be empowered to assist the employee along their career journey, setting up training and opportunities to help them meet both their short and long term career goals. 

Secondment opportunities

Secondments are perhaps the most clear cut way of helping an employee to make a career change. 

A secondment is where an employee is assigned to a new role, which can either be inside their current company or external. The aim of secondments is for the worker to upskill and develop experience outside of their immediate job requirements. Secondees may remain in their secondment post on a project basis or over a set amount of time. 

But vitally - the original employer retains the secondee and continues to pay their salary, even if they are working externally. In this circumstance, the employer will typically have a partnership with the external business, and also take on one of its employees on a secondment. Secondments are not typically accompanied by a salary or benefits change, unless they involve significant increases in responsibility or training. Employers may have to provide compensation for relocation, accommodation, and travel, however. 

On-the-job training

If a secondment is not immediately available, this doesn’t mean employees’ ambitions should be overlooked. On-the-job training is an effective way to use in-house resources to upskill workers and ensure they feel valued and invested in. 

While traditional Powerpoint-based training sessions can be useful, lessons learned are often forgotten unless they are quickly applied in a real-world context.

Therefore, once managers have identified their team members’ interests and career goals, they should consider how to acquire tailored on-the-job training for interested parties. This may mean the manager providing that training themselves, or setting up opportunities for employees to shadow colleagues or spend time working in other departments.

It is essential to ensure these opportunities are tailored to individual employees, not just in terms of their areas of interest, but also taking into account their capabilities, seniority, adaptability, and experience level. For example, a younger, greener employee may need to test out their new skills in a smaller setting, while an experienced team member could benefit more from tougher challenges.

Advertise internal job opportunities

Internal job opportunities are often advertised on a departmental level, rather than across the whole organisation. To promote true mobility - and a genuine career change experience - employees should have the opportunity to apply for roles that are completely different to theirs. 

A belt and braces approach will work best. Advertise opportunities on the company intranet or website, send email notifications, and ensure managers pass on the information in meetings too. 

If a manager is aware that, for example, an employee who works in the accounts department has ambitions to move to HR, they could personally encourage them to apply and find ways to help them meet the criteria for application. This could include providing training, assisting them in identifying transferable skills, and connecting them with key players in the department they wish to move into.

Open training sessions to all employees

A tactic that can only be mutually beneficial for both employer and employee is to open up any company training to all employees. 

While not every employee will be interested in attending every training session not relevant to their immediate job, this could be invaluable for those mulling over a career move.

What’s more, upskilling your employees and helping them to understand what other departments do is only going to increase collaboration, and help employees to feel valued. Workers will be more reluctant to leave an organisation where free training and upskilling across a variety of fields is frequently offered to them. 

Set up a mentorship scheme

Mentorship schemes are another invaluable way to use internal resources to boost retention. 

A career change can take a long time to gear up for - 13 months was the average time frame aspiring career changers forecast for their move. With the potential educational and experiential demands of switching paths, employees will appreciate being connected with a mentor in their desired sector.

It’s as simple as asking employees to volunteer as mentors, and clearly laying out the work involved in this, such as one meeting per week with their mentee. Next, make managers aware of your database of mentors in different departments, and the application process involved. Using what they have found out in their personal development sessions, managers should be able to make the appropriate connections to help their employees move upwards - or sideways - on the career ladder. 

Create networking opportunities

In large organisations, it can often be difficult for employees to connect with colleagues outside their own team or department. This is a barrier to internal mobility within your company.

If employees are not interacting with colleagues in other departments, it’s unlikely they’ll be aware of the full spectrum of opportunities on offer within the organisation. They also won’t be making vital connections that could further their career.

Set up regular networking events to ensure people from different offices and different departments can meet. This doesn’t always have to be a big production like a Christmas party - cross-department training days, workshops, and meet-ups can work just as well. 

What’s next? 

To find out more about developing and retaining the top talent within your organisation, access Page Personnel’s helpful resources here.

For more bespoke advice on how Michael Page can help your business drive success this year – request a call back with one of our expert consultants today. 

Want to know more about what top talent want from their employers? Download our latest Talent Trends where our data reveals a complete job market transformation. Employers must rethink and recalibrate their approach to retention in line with this changing workforce so make sure you’re in the know. 

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