I got the chance to sit down with Pat Whelan, CEO & Co-Founder of Paddle HR to discuss internal mobility, tech solutions in HR and what Paddle is doing to improve career pathing. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Why is internal mobility important now?
People are switching jobs more now than ever before, and that is for a couple of reasons. On the market-driven side, the advent of automation, technology disruption, and AI means people are forced from their jobs more often or being partially replaced by automation. On the preference driven side young people are interested in more frequent job changes, more than any other generation. Both of these trends mean job changes every 2-3 years instead of every 10 years, which has left companies with high attrition rates because people are switching companies, not just jobs. Internal mobility is important because it allows companies to keep top employees while understanding these trends are here to stay.
Is the HR industry open to tech, and using it for internal mobility?
What we’ve seen is different departments have adopted technology at different rates. Within the last five years, HR has seen a lot of innovation happening mostly in talent acquisition. But if you are trying to keep top talent this poses a problem -- there is an arms race for better technology to recruit employees out. So this is the time for employers who are focused on retention and internal mobility to begin using some of this technology as well to counteract that attrition and keep their best employees by showing them internal job opportunities.
What trends do you see coming ahead for internal mobility?
In general, companies are more open to internal mobility, when previously it was about waiting for that upward promotion to your manager’s role. Now employees are looking for lateral moves to grow new skills and positioning themselves for future growth. Companies are leaning into this, encouraging managers to take on a career counselling role and looking for low-cost ways to help employees thrive by building new skills sets either taking on new projects or starting interdepartmental teams.
How do you close the gap between awareness of a problem of employee attrition and taking steps to find a solution?
People leave their jobs because there is a perceived lack of career growth opportunities, and HR leaders are seeing this information in exit interviews and engagement surveys. So part of the problem is how to find solutions. From our experience at Paddle, the first steps HR usually takes are workplace culture shifts or process changes with content about employees who have had diverse careers within the organization or internal job postings. These are terrific, but a tech solution is needed to supercharge these efforts. That is where there is a missing link, and Paddle HR is working to improve these efforts on an individual basis. Currently, in HR, tech is being used to manage the hiring process which is a great first step. Paddle is bringing a further intelligence level to that process, using both a large external dataset and the company’s internal HR data to understand how people move around the organization. This helps employees see career paths within an organization and is an important next step for HR. Adopting artificial intelligence and machine learning internally, not just in external hiring practices.
When should a company start an internal mobility solution?
Internal mobility should be a value from day one, and every company should be thinking about career development and mobility as hand-in-hand. Small companies may use informal networks and personal relationship when hiring for roles. However, companies with thousands of employees will find it much harder to use these same systems on a scaled up basis. In order for a more formal system to work you need buy-in from both managers and employees. Managers need to be encouraged to enable the career development of their teams and employees need to be empowered to grow their careers, but also have tools to do so successfully.
What has surprised you most about this field?
When I have interviewed people about their career advancement generally, most want to accomplish a variety of things and work in different sectors throughout their career. But traditional career ladders are set up for direct promotions, and there is not a lot of effort put into lateral moves and career pathing. I was surprised by the variety of ideas in career development. The other surprise was that even in large organizations, the importance of internal mobility efforts is disproportionately small to other programs but growing.