Matthew J. Daniel
January 28th, 2022
Most companies say they want to improve internal mobility.
But how can you measure what actions will have the maximum impact?
Last year, a team at Guild set out to find out.
In the summer and fall of 2021, we conducted research that included more than 75 papers, podcasts, and articles about internal mobility (IM).
Then we took what we learned to our employer partners as well as a handful of other companies in the midst of their own IM strategy.
With their help, our team was able to test a number of hypotheses about IM and gathered even more insights into the latest in mobility across industry verticals, job types, and operating models.
Over the coming months, I plan to share a lot about what we learned.
For now, however, I wanted to cover the concept of leading and lagging indicators of IM. Here’s what we found out.
For companies to measure how proactive they are at advancing mobility through their education and skilling initiatives, it’s important to identify the leading and lagging indicators of IM.
This enables companies to accurately gauge supply and demand and answer questions such as:
- Where will I have a surplus of additional skills and talent in the coming months/years?
- Where will I continue to struggle to staff?
- Where should I focus efforts to remove barriers to mobility since there will be people ready to transition?
Some may find it surprising that mobility itself is a lagging indicator of an IM project’s success.
It’s an important metric of course, but this is a long game, which requires patience. It may be months or even years before the success of some initiatives can be properly measured.
Of course, many companies cannot afford to wait that long if they want to remain competitive in the present.
Other metrics that are helpful in measuring mobility but are also lagging indicators include promotion rates, earnings rates, and retention rates.
(Though retention may seem misaligned with mobility, one of the primary “Jobs to Be Done” of mobility initiatives is to engage existing employees and send a clear and definitive message: “You have a future at this company.”)
But whether these hires are funneled through your talent marketplace or through some other program, internal hiring has a flywheel effect — the more it happens, the more it happens.
When measuring mobility, we recommend tracking this by both business unit and level. This allows employers to identify any potential cultural or process barriers to mobility that aren’t as readily discernible.
What are the leading indicators?
So what are some things you can look for early on in the process? Here are the top 3.
For our employer partners, Guild tracks how many employees are opening marketing emails and sites around pathways and programs for in-demand jobs.
We’re also tracking account creations and application completions for learners coming from that marketing and other relevant sources.
2. Learning progress
Compared to business needs for future roles, monitoring learning progress gives a very real number of potential candidates an employer has coming through their own relevant programs.
This involves all of the activity post-enrollment until a degree or certificate is conferred.
In addition to the raw data, an organization can gain confidence in the likelihood of a pipeline’s success as learners move along.
3 . Qualified talent pipeline
This allows you to articulate how many people in your organization are ready for a job today.
If your mobility program is centered on skills data, program completions, or rotations/gigs, then you are preparing a clear talent pipeline that is qualified for additional roles in your organization.
That should be a metric you track.
You don’t have to start with everything either, but at minimum, start with programs that are tied to high-demand roles and track completions. This is an internal talent pipeline that you should be able to quantify and use as leverage to accelerate investment in internal hiring processes and policies.
Leading (and lagging) indicators
There are a few measures that also serve as both leading and lagging indicators.
This includes internal interview rates (an increase in the number of employees receiving interviews) and employee perception of mobility opportunities.
The latter is a critical data point that you can begin gathering in spot surveys and correlate with engagement data.
Monitoring internal interview rates can help companies gain vital understanding of employees, whether it be positive or negative.
An August 2021 study by Cornell University, for example, found that internal candidates given an interview are half as likely to leave a company, and internal candidates rejected before an interview are twice more likely to quit.
Additionally, “a rejected candidate’s likelihood of leaving was cut in half if they were passed over in favor of an internal candidate, rather than an external candidate.”
What about occupational identity?
Lastly, there is one data measure rarely discussed in skilling that is actually critical to adult learners and should be considered as a leading indicator: occupational identity.
Educational programs offer employees the building blocks of skills and experience, but one of the biggest benefits they can also impart is confidence.
Mindsets begin to form as employees imagine that they’re not, say, just “in a software engineering boot camp,” but that they are actually software engineers.
Occupational identity, fostered with coaching and career prep, has a profound impact on how your employees will interview for their next job within your organization.
The types of lagging and leading indicators described above can be more or less difficult to ascertain and measure in an ongoing way. The key to the data is in how you use it and how continuously you measure what you are doing.
A lot of this labor depends on data that your organization is already gathering today.
However, with heavy collaboration with your people analytics team, you’ll find that interest in this type of framework will increase as stakeholders recognize the insights gained from the impacts of mobility in your organization.