Here’s what L&D can do to help build loyal talent for the long-term.

by Linda Jingfang Cai

September 1, 2023

The tide is turning in the job market. The historic levels of job hopping and quits we saw during the “Great Reshuffle” have subsided as more professionals stay put in their roles for longer in a moment many are now dubbing the “Big Stay.”

LinkedIn data shows the rate of people staying in roles for less than a year has sharply declined, down nearly 30 percent compared to last year as of April. Federal data shows a similar trend, with quit rates falling to pre-pandemic levels.

No one is better positioned than learning and development to help build long-term loyalty — from the bigger changes needed to empower employees to take control of their internal career possibilities, to the smallest habit changes that will get businesses closer to matching employee ambitions to business needs.

Internal mobility takes center stage

With fewer people leaving their jobs, companies have the chance to fill in a missing, and often overlooked, piece of their talent strategies: internal mobility.

When done right, identifying top talent from within becomes a big advantage for both employees and organizations.

This is not a new topic for L&D, but it is now a more prominent conversation for all business leaders today.

In a recent survey of roughly 5,000 U.S. executives on LinkedIn, employee L&D and retention both topped the list of the areas in which they are investing.

That’s because there’s urgency to figuring this out, especially in industries still struggling to fill open roles, and in an environment where we all continuously need to invest in new skills to keep up with advances in technology like artificial intelligence reshaping many roles.

Here’s how to make the Big Stay work for you.

Identify the roadblocks and ask hard questions

When it comes to figuring this out, a lot of companies jump straight into solutions and programs without truly understanding the biggest roadblocks that have prevented employees from looking internally before taking a job outside.

Getting to the bottom of this requires having conversations across your teams and asking the hard questions:

Are internal moves really encouraged at your company?

Do your employees even know how to access and discover open internal roles?

Are they comfortable broaching the topic with managers?

What we’ve found in our research is that when employees want to switch things up in their career, they are more likely to consider leaving their company than look for an internal move.

The reasons could be multi-faceted.

In some cases, this could be due to a culture that’s actively discouraging internal hiring, e.g. a mindset against “poaching” or that encourages talent “hoarding.”

In some cases, it could be more due to a problem of discoverability and awareness.

Understanding where your organization stands and identifying the blockers is the first step to charting a path forward.

Champion and celebrate the behavior you want to see 

Once you’ve identified those barriers, it’s critical to get your C-suite involved as active advocates, walking the talk and inspiring people to see all the possibilities and paths they can go down at the company to build a rewarding career.

Significantly more L&D pros say they are working more closely with executive leadership this year than last, and 61 percent agree their CEO is a champion of learning.

This means showcasing leaders on your teams and even the executives themselves who have made multiple lateral moves and developed a wide range of skills and experiences during their tenure to get to where they are today.

In my experience, it is also important at those forums to share openly and honestly lessons learned and even failure, to emphasize ownership we all have of our careers and courage we need to have in order to take those leaps.

C-suite engagement is incredibly important to help teams get past the misconception that internal mobility is risky, and that the outside hire who has performed the same job at a different company is going to be a surer bet at succeeding.

Seeing senior leaders who have had their own “squiggly line career” at the company and showcasing those stories can help shift mindsets in a big way.

Part of modeling this behavior is actually saying out loud to your teams that it is OK and a good thing to let your best talent go so they can explore other areas of the business and build new skills.

At LinkedIn, this has been well-embedded in our culture ever since our co-founder Reid Hoffman introduced the concept of “tours of duty” (the opportunity for employees to take on rotational assignments that provide access to new skills, experiences and connections).

It’s something we all hear about on day one, so that expectation is clear from the top down and from bottom up.

Encourage managers to help employees spot opportunities 

A big shift I’ve witnessed over the course of my career is that today, employees don’t expect to be told what to do or where to go — they want to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to their career. They want options, and they want control over their destiny.

This means you need to create a two-way conversation between managers and their direct reports about long-term career goals, and then encourage managers to help spot opportunities to give high-potential employees greater exposure to new skills and new areas of the business—whether that’s job shadowing, mentorship, job rotation or something else.

Managers play a critical role in making internal mobility a reality, and so investing in that relationship and incentivizing them to move from talent hoarding to talent mobility is critical.

At LinkedIn, we piloted a three-month job-shadowing program, called ShadowIn, that matches a “shadower” to a “host” based on their specific career goals.

The program includes wraparound training and support to ensure employees get the biggest return on their investment of time.

Creating clear programs where our employees feel supported by their manager and the company to experience a new side of the business is one way we’re continuing to find ways to help people explore different career paths without having to look elsewhere.

Your best next employee is the one you already have

Exposing your teams to internal mobility opportunities is not just good for their own careers, it’s a way for businesses to build resilient teams that have a more dynamic range of skills and are inspired to stay for the long-run.

Our recent “Workplace Learning Report” found that at the two-year mark, an employee who has made an internal move has a 75 percent likelihood of staying as opposed to the mere 56 percent likelihood for an employee who hasn’t made an internal move.

Our CEO at LinkedIn has said that your next best employee is likely your current employee.

That’s never been more true than it is today.

Now is a moment for all companies to invest in growing and nurturing their next best employees and to build a culture where people stay, and then keep staying even as the job market heats back up.

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