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Why career mobility is good for business

Is your business guilty of hoarding talent? In other words, do you let departments hang onto their best people or do you give them opportunities to move around and add value within other teams?

According to Kevin Oakes, CEO and founder of the Institute for Corporate Productivity, the healthiest organisations foster a culture of career mobility. He believes the benefits are twofold: Firstly, you are more likely to hold onto these talented individuals; secondly, both they and your organisation will benefit.

I would like to take this concept a step further and suggest that the very best employers embrace mobility more widely, even if that means their best people ultimately leave the organisation to follow new opportunities.

Let me explain. If an organisation demonstrates genuine interest in the career and personal development of an individual, that will inevitably mean that some of those people will benefit enormously from gaining experience in other organisations. This may seem like bad news but, if you have successfully created a culture of career mobility, your people will see your company as a fantastic place to work and they will share that view with others, even if their career takes them in fresh directions.

Positive employers take time to select the best people and skills, they nurture them during the time they are there. When they leave, they wish them well and congratulate themselves on the part they played in that individual’s personal and professional development.  They hope the individual will learn even more from their next role and perhaps, one day, they will return with even more talent.

To help us understand this concept of generosity better, let us return to Kevin Oakes. In an article for Harvard Business Review last year, which focused on mobility of talent within organisations, he said that building a culture of mobility boosts collaboration between teams and departments and improves innovation and communication. Sadly, very few organisations operate in this way.

He said: “Managers are so careful to hold on to the stars on their teams that they often play games to keep them. We’ve probably all heard stories about managers who intentionally keep their top performers in the shadows so no one discovers them.”

Behaviours such as this can be eliminated in organisations where mobility is accepted and encouraged. The benefits to the organisation and individual are significant and although some people will inevitably move on, many will not and the talent within the business will be strengthening all the time.

Of course, some businesses are simply not large enough to offer much movement. In these cases, it may be worth considering cross-company mobility. This is a topic that is expertly introduced by a good friend of mine, Catherine Boddington, in an interview for Boardside in which she covers the concept of career loaning. You can read the article here.

For specialist legal advice for boards and those who sit on them contact Richard Port