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  • Writer's pictureBecky Hain

Engage your workforce by mobilising talent internally

Published by the Employee Mobility Institute here.


Despite a multitude of research which shows humans are designed to crave exploration, experimentation, and learning (Professor Dan Cable, London Business School), we continue to see roles and career paths which operate in the narrow confines of routine and repetition.

What makes this all the more concerning is that we now understand that purpose and meaning in roles is vital for engagement. In fact, 2018 Harvard Business School research showed that 90% of a surveyed population would take a reduction in pay for more meaningful work.

Let’s imagine for a moment an alternative. Imagine how much more engaging our organisations would be if employees could opt to participate in projects and initiatives outside their day job – activating internal mobility to work in new and collaborative ways. What if every employee could not only develop skills and knowledge through experiential learnings on the job, but also contribute their “hidden” skills and passion to provide more meaning in the work they do? What if anyone could connect and collaborate across an organisation, or even groups of organisations? How engaging and stimulating would this type of environment be!

Across New Zealand and Australia, a number of organisations are starting to experiment with just such an approach. One example is a customer based in New Zealand who recently implemented a platform allowing any employee to list an opportunity, initiative, question or small piece of work, and anyone else in the organisation to put their hand up to participate. Using highly personalised profiles, and a contemporary, intuitive interface, almost 50% of the organisation is already participating. With less than 6 months under their belt, the organisation is seeing impressive results, with a material increase in their latest employee engagement results linked to learning and development opportunities.

The key to their success, and to many other organisations experimenting with this approach, is to start with micro-opportunities – supporting line leaders to adapt and overcome decades-old instincts to operate within silos and “bracing for” change rather than embracing it. Instead, opening-up to the power of networking as their team members contribute to small pieces of work and knowledge sharing opportunities across the organisation, a group of related organisations – or even an entire sector.

This type of mobility reflects a movement toward empowered and self-directed employee development. It also enables organisations to become more agile, in a fast-moving and uncertain environment, which is critical in complex problem-solving, where many minds collaborating are far more likely to innovate and unlock better solutions. For these reasons, more and more organisations are embracing this type of peer-to-peer marketplace.

Yet some leaders remain entrenched in traditional ways of working. The move to hybrid working over the Covid period of the past year has reinforced that the biggest – and perhaps only – barrier to more innovative ways of working is our mindset. And the data we’re seeing from organisations embracing internal mobility makes it clear employees are ready. For one group of 12 organisations, with 3,000 employees – over 95% of opportunities are enquired about within 24 hours – and many are filled within minutes!

Most importantly, those employees are significantly more likely to have improved engagement outcomes as they choose how they want to contribute, maximise their strengths, shape their own development opportunities, and build networks which benefit their teams and future. At the same time, organisations are seeing previously unmet resourcing needs filled in record time, and overall productivity enhanced by unlocking the previously hidden skills that already exist internally.

Accelerating internal mobility by providing access to real time micro-opportunities is a growing area and offers many exciting possibilities for organisations and their employees – including both productivity gains and engagement improvements.

By starting small, and starting now, organisations can reap transformational outcomes.


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