Employees are seeking it and employers are supplying it: mobility.
Moving people internally is an increasingly important way for firms to reduce recruitment costs, plug urgent skills gaps, boost retention rates, and take on low-risk talent with proven track records. And in the current stagnant external job market, it is providing staff with career progression opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise enjoy, according to the 15 senior HR professionals who attended the eFinancialCareers roundtable in Singapore this week.
A representative of a big four accounting firm said he has seen “huge demand” for in-house transfers this year, especially from auditors wanting to work in another department and from employees outside of Asia looking for roles in the region. “These people are willing to come here on a local package. The argument that Singapore has low tax, so you don’t need other benefits, works better now than it has in the past.”
Mobility is a must
Recent redundancies and cuts to hiring budgets have made financial services institutions place more emphasis on internal mobility and some have recently revised the way they promote and run their programmes. Although firms assess their needs on a case-by-case basis, the minimum time before external advertising can take place is typically one to two weeks.
“We must justify hard why we want to go external; this year it’s become more difficult to secure approval. So if you need people, and in particular if you need them urgently, internal is often the way to go, even if you don’t get an exact skills match,” said one of the delegates, all of whom asked not to be named in this report.
Mobility, either internationally or to another department, is also an important retention tool. One attendee said this was especially true for back-office staff who tended to get “bored with their jobs” and wanted new challenges after about two years. “We are focussing on operations right now, then we will move into IT and other areas; it’s a step-by-step process.”
The challenge for HR in instigating a company-wide mobility plan is educating managers that losing a good employee to another team or country office is in the best long-term interests of the business. “You need to build up trust with the line, and that takes time,” remarked a panellist from an accounting firm.
Another attended added: “It’s also critical to tell employees about what mobility really is. It’s not an easy option to escape your boss. Or for a boss to shift a ‘problem’ person over to someone else.”
To help ensure that only the best talent is eligible for transfers, one major international bank limits eligibility to the top 25 per cent of performers “and we insist on a year’s tenure, which in reality is usually two or three years”.
Encouraging internal mobility is more than just reactively marketing roles to staff as they arise. Roundtable panellists agreed that HR should have programmes in place to identify individuals who are willing to move. Two delegates mentioned that people at their banks were able to express an initial interest to HR without telling their line manager. One firm runs an online network in which staff can update their profiles, allowing in-house recruiters to search those who state they are mobile. Another incorporates a mobility discussion into annual development reviews.
A representative from a European bank told the roundtable that his firm recently held an internal career fair, with booths promoting jobs in various departments. “It’s the first time we’ve been able to do this openly, this has helped changed people’s mind sets in favour of more open discussions about mobility.”