“Intraplacement”: Reduce Retention Problems By Increasing The Internal Movement Of Your Employees

In these times of low unemployment, recruiters are constantly on the lookout for the best talent to fill open positions. We put tremendous resources into external sourcing and recruiting, but most of the time we fail to actively seek out some of the best candidates in the world-those that are literally right under our noses…our own employees! Sure, most companies have internal job posting systems but many were designed in the 1950’s before Generation Xer’s and technology came along! These traditional systems almost universally rely on the employee to initiate the search for a position while Intraplacement systems use Intra-recruiters to proactively seek out and place the best internal candidates (even though they might not be actively seeking a new position)!

Intraplacement is a dynamic process that uses the tools and strategies of external search and applies them to internal candidates. Internal candidates are superior to external candidates because they usually have a much higher success rate in their new jobs than external candidates. This is because they already know “our” culture and they have already performed well in it. But they might also be “passive job seekers” with poor job search skills. If you don’t act to keep their career moving they could easily become your next retention problem.

Many existing job-posting systems have serious flaws. Employees are often frustrated with them for a variety of reasons. Finding out the “real scoop” on a potential new job takes hours of “detective” work and if you are not well connected, it’s a shot in the dark. Firms post the openings on the bulletin board but just browsing through it can get you instantly branded as a disloyal team member. Some bosses even “hold back” the best employees from transfers for their own advantage and brand those who transfer often as “job jumpers.”

Increasing the internal movement of our employees through Intraplacement (it can also be called “Intra-sourcing” or “Intra-movement”) has additional benefits beyond the higher success rates of internal candidates. These include “back-fill” capabilities in case of an unexpected opening; increased retention rates; higher levels of motivation, and an increase and expansion of our employees’ competencies. The currently tight job market has forced companies to look at new ways to motivate, grow, and retain their workers. Intraplacement reduces turnover by increasing opportunities for employees to grow and to be challenged. It assists employees in moving to new projects, opportunities, and jobs within the company. Effective Intraplacement Programs use a combination of internal posting, external sourcing, and career development tools to accomplish its goals.

This piece will give you insight into how top firms have increased their internal movement. It will help you improve your current job posting system or show you how to replace it with a totally new Intraplacement system.

How does Intraplacement differ from current programs?

Intraplacement differs from the more traditional job posting systems in a variety of ways including:

  • Intraplacement is a shared partnership where the company assists candidates by increasing their opportunities to learn and grow within the firm. Under the traditional job posting systems candidates are pretty much “on their own” to place themselves. Intraplacement is a proactive approach that helps employees get placed. It assumes that many internal candidates are “passive” and that they don’t automatically possess great job search skills (if they did, they might use them to leave our company)!
  • It focuses on corporate needs as well as employee wants. It attempts to guide employees toward areas where the corporation has the most need, rather than the more random approach of most job posting systems, where an employee must decide on their own where the best fit for their skills would be. Internal job posting relies on the employee to decide when and where they want to move. But THEIR “when and where” may not actually be in their OR the corporation’s best interest.
  • Intraplacement is a flexible, multi-opportunity approach. It differs from the traditional “whole job” approach in that it also seeks out project assignments, “part-time” job rotations as well as promotions and transfers to increase the number of opportunities for employees to grow.
  • It can be an “attention getter” that excites current employees and helps attract external candidates as the word spreads about the number and variety of opportunities available to our employees.
  • Intraplacement actively uses internal recruiting specialists, “redeployers” and their tools to identify potential internal candidates for “growth” opportunities. Common candidate identification tools include interest inventories, forced rankings, assessment centers, 360° feedback, and just talking to managers and employees. Under the traditional approach, employees must aggressively seek out their own opportunities and determine if there is a skill “fit.” Unfortunately, that also means that fewer employees are likely to take advantage of the “correct” growth opportunities, resulting in less capable and motivated employees for the firm.
  • Intra-recruiters assist the candidate in assessing opportunities and in marketing and selling themselves to internal managers. Under traditional job posting, many posted jobs are “wired” or are really not available to “unknown” candidates. Intraplacement recruiters can assist in pre-qualifying candidates for opportunities for which they are a reasonable match. By avoiding multiple “turndowns,” you can help reduce the frustration that can occur with many job-posting systems.

Why is Intraplacement becoming more necessary?

There are a variety of reasons why you can no longer rely on your old job posting system to maximize internal movement in today’s job market. They include:

  1. With a low unemployment rate, employees have more opportunities to leave then in the lean years of the early 90’s. Their inability to move during those years now makes them more eager to leave at the slightest point of frustration.
  2. Generation Xer’s often have a lower tolerance for stagnation than earlier generations.
  3. Global and multi-location operations make it almost impossible to be “in the know” about all job opportunities. With modern technology (Intranets, e-mail, and the Web) it is now possible to help employees move between jobs without having to meet them face to face.
  4. Mergers have also increased the size of firms. Mergers often create “US vs. THEM” camps which tend to “hire their own.” Intraplacement programs can help break down these barriers and help build a cohesive company.
  5. The rate of change and the growth of information has increased to “Internet” speed. This trend can teach employees to think and learn quicker than ever before but it also raises their expectations for change and growth. This need for change and growth can seldom be met without the addition of new “help” resources.

Possible advantages of Intraplacement:

There are many reasons why companies are putting increased emphasis on Intraplacement programs. Some of them include:

  • Attracting and retaining employees becomes easier if you have a work environment where people are constantly being challenged and are given new opportunities to grow (one of the prime reasons people leave jobs is due to the lack of challenge).
  • Employees feel more wanted and important and they
    are often excited that someone is actually taking an
    interest in their career development.
  • It speeds up the job placement rate in the company (especially for “passive job searchers”) which helps keep employees motivated. It also increases employee learning and it gives employees a broader range of experience, making them more competent to “back fill” openings.
  • Particularly in the hi-tech field, many employees from technical backgrounds are weak in communication and job search skills. Intraplacement helps move this important group toward greater challenges (which is especially important because technical employees have so many external employment options).
  • Intraplacement focuses on increasing the total number of challenges and learning opportunities available to employees not just on getting employees new job titles and promotions. Intraplacement can offer projects, short-term assignments, or part-time (one day a week, mornings, etc.) job rotations, so it is more flexible than traditional placement.
  • It uses “push” technology to drive targeted job information to the employee through e-mails and paycheck insert notices.
  • Career development becomes a shared responsibility under Intraplacement.
  • Intraplacement can increase the movement and growth of employees who lack self-confidence, are loyal team players, are shy or that just have rusty job search skills.
  • It minimizes or eliminates most job posting “rules” (like requiring a minimum stay and allowing a manager to veto a move) in order to increase movement.
  • It allows managers to partially own the placement system. It also makes it easier for the manager to find the internal talent they need to operate.
  • Intraplacement can increase the amount of information we have about our employee’s interests and capabilities.

The goals and objectives of Intraplacement:

The basic goal of Intraplacement is to increase the number and quality of growth opportunities available to current employees. Intraplacement works because there are many employees (and particularly technical staff) that have low job search initiative and weak interviewing or job search skills.

Internal systems can also be so confusing or frustrating that employees often postpone any internal search. Sometimes they will only act when they get direct help from another source and unfortunately, that is often the executive search professional that calls them with a new external job opportunity with another firm!

The second goal of Intraplacement is to improve the retention of key people, because “if we don’t place them (internally)… an outside firm will.”

Intraplacement is a prevention strategy that “pushes” or guides key employees into new opportunities rather than waiting for them to “jump” on their own. Intraplacement also offers a variety of challenges in addition to the traditional promotion opportunities. A strategic goal of Intraplacement is to help redeploy a firms “Human Assets” to areas of business need (and opportunity). Intraplacement facilitates the movement and helps direct it from areas of low return to those of higher return. (Yes, this means moving people when the corporation needs it as well as just when the employee wants to go!).

Another goal of Intraplacement programs is to motivate and excite the workers. Continually challenging workers through internal placement will increase employee motivation and growth. An added side benefit will be that you will enhance your firm’s image, so it will be easier to attract new workers. A final goal of Intraplacement is to get managers more involved in the development of their employees. Currently it is solely the employee’s responsibility to grow his or her own career.

Rather than being advocates of movement and growth, some managers actually “hold back” their best employees in order to protect their own self-interest. By including metrics and individual rewards for managers that attract, develop, and grow employees (theirs and ones from other departments) more learning, movement and growth will occur. With Intraplacement, managers can become more of an equal partner in the growth and movement of employees.

Companies like Intel, Sun Micro, HP, Pacific Gas and Electric, and Silicon Graphics are famous for the internal movement and the development of their people. They have all advanced beyond relying on “paper” postings and have added mechanisms to increase the movement of their employees.

Steps in Intraplacement:

Intraplacement programs must be customized to the culture of the company. However there are some common steps almost all firms go through in implementing an Intraplacement program. They include:

  1. Start with tracking the movement (or lack of) for all key employees and identify those that are “stagnant” (haven’t moved in __ years). Be sure to monitor for diversity and any possible adverse impact.
  2. Train, Assess and Reward managers for developing, monitoring and “pushing” their best “up and around” in the organization.
  3. Plot your key employees “history” of job jumping/movement to see if there is a predictable pattern and proactively try to Intraplace them months before they get frustrated and start returning executive search consultant calls.
  4. Plot what “phase” key employees are at in their career/ lifecycle. Often you can identify points in an employee’s career where the need for job growth/movement is a driving issue.
  5. Develop a system for continuously identifying growth and learning opportunities. Build rapport with managers and counsel them on how they can help develop and grow their employees. Identify areas of corporate “fat” and future corporate “needs.”
  6. Don’t just focus on “whole” jobs. Work with managers to identify growth opportunities including temporary assignments, transfers and “projects.” These can have the same stimulating impact on retention and motivation as a promotion.
  7. Assign “Intra-recruiters” who’s job is to act like internal executive recruiters to speed the movement of key competencies and employees to areas of high corporate need. Have external recruiters coordinate their work with Intra-recruiters to ensure that we get the highest quality hires.
  8. Don’t fall into the trap of treating all employees/positions equally. Identify superstar performers, hard-to-hire jobs and key competencies. Develop a priority of service list that identifies who should get priority.
  9. Get managers and employees involved. Get them to help you identify who is ready to move through forced ranking or 360 degree feedback mechanisms.
  10. Consider “pre-qualifying” candidates before openings/ opportunities occur. This can help retain employees because they know in advance they are qualified and it tells less qualified ones what they need to do to move.
  11. Do a periodic skills and “interest” inventory of all key employees. Find out where “they” want to go and get their managers (and the training dept.) to help to get them qualified.
  12. Use technology to help you do more. Provide resume writer/helper programs on your Intranet to help candidates who are resume- or interview-rusty.
  13. Post jobs, job descriptions and interview tips on your Intranet
  14. Have a searchable database for managers to use to “find” internal candidates by interest, competencies, performance level, and position.
  15. Have a quarterly “Human Asset” review among senior managers to make sure that we have retained, grown, and moved all employees that were targeted. Have HR do a regular report on Intraplacement successes and failures.

DO’S AND DON’TS OF INTRAPLACEMENT:

There are several suggested things to do (and to avoid) if you are going to have a successful program. Some suggested Do’s and Don’ts include:

  • Don’t require a waiting period before external posting. Make it a simultaneous process.
  • Don’t post jobs only in public places. Having public posting can discourage employees from looking at job openings.
  • Don’t penalize employees who move frequently or place minimum waiting periods before their next transfer. Learning speeds and boredom levels vary between employees.
  • Don’t allow an individual manager to deny an employee permission to move. Reward managers that push the best on to areas of greater growth/need.
  • Try to eliminate “Wired” jobs that already have a pre-selected candidate in order to avoid frustrating employees.
  • Do identify and counsel managers that keep/horde talent.
  • Don’t penalize fast learners by classifying them as “job jumpers.” Top performers must move more often than average workers.
  • Do eliminate fixed rules that treat all jobs and employees as equal. Some employees can move faster than “the rules” allow. They will get frustrated if, for example, they make a bad choice in a placement and then they must stick with it for __ years.

If you are feeling “bold” why not start today. Begin by assigning an intra-recruiter and identifying those who are most in need of a “push.” When you begin increasing the speed of growth and movement within your organization you will be gaining a competitive advantage over your competitors. Start moving and “growing” your employees now… before a competitor does it for you!

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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