4 strategies Workday uses to boost internal mobility

Like many companies, the Great Resignation hurt retention at cloud HCM software firm Workday. In 2022, to get to the bottom of the turnover trend, the organization delved into its employee survey data, finding that employees who ultimately departed were three times less satisfied with their career growth than those who stayed. In response, Workday consolidated its siloed and inefficient internal mobility programs into a single tool that same year.

The results of that revamp?

- Advertisement -

Applications from internal candidates rose 67%, and internal hires increased 79% when comparing the three years before the 2022 revamp with the three years after. Following the revamp, 30% of all new hires were internal, compared to 20% previously.

Workday also found that 82% of internal hires after the revamp were more likely than external hires to be considered “top performers” during their first performance review after their move to a new internal role, according to exclusive data Workday provided to HRE. After the revamp, retention among employees who made internal moves was 26% higher than the company average, according to Workday’s data.

4 internal mobility strategies with impact

Workday has long recognized the value of internal mobility, particularly its importance for building skills and culture at the company, says Inna Landman, senior vice president of talent acquisition for Workday. However, prior to the revamp, Workday’s internal mobility efforts lacked some organization and efficiencies, she notes, largely because they were not supported by a unified, organization-wide strategy.

Inna Landman
Inna Landman, Workday

“We not only wanted to increase our internal mobility, but our goal was also to have more satisfaction and an easier time with the process. It wasn’t just about increasing the number of people who are getting internal jobs,” says Landman. “We did a lot of focus groups and found that people had a desire to make the process easier for them to apply.”

To do that, Workday, which has 18,800 employees worldwide, tackled four particular pain points, according to its recently released Workday Hiring and Talent Trends Report. These changes included:

Internal role transparency

Problem: Employees wanted more transparency and an easier process to navigate their search for a new internal opportunity.

Solution: The organization now posts all newly created positions or backfill opportunities to its Workday Talent Marketplace and Career Hub.

“Previously, we didn’t post every job internally and didn’t have a companywide philosophy on how to think about posting jobs internally,” Landman says.

Talent hoarding

Problem: Leaders worried employees participating in an internal mobility program would jump to a new role with a different team too quickly.

Solution: Workday now requires employees to remain in their current role for approximately 18 months after training, depending on the business unit, before applying to another internal job. Prior to the revamp, no formal guardrails existed to ensure managers saw an ROI on their training efforts.

Landman says that such infrastructure around internal mobility needs to be driven from the top-down, adding, “It can’t be presented as an HR or talent management policy.”

Manager communication

Problem: Managers felt out of the loop when their employees applied for another internal job or were approached by a hiring manager within the organization.

Solution: Managers now receive automatic notifications via Workday Alerts when their employee applies for an internal role elsewhere.

“Employees would sporadically notify managers they were applying for another internal job, so these were some of the things that we wanted to address with our holistic enterprise-wide approach,” Landman says.

New skills opportunities

Problem: Employees wanted the ability to experience new skills and roles, even if an opportunity was not immediately available.

Solution: With its internal mobility program revamp in 2022, Workday broadly promoted its internal gigs program that it launched in 2019 to help employees pick up new skills and learn new roles via temporary assignments and tasks. Approximately 3,500 Workday employees have participated in its gigs program, which initially began with employees committing 15% of their workday to the gig for up to three months. Due to the program’s success, Workday has expanded gigs so employees can commit up to 50% of their workday to the project for up to six months.

- Advertisement -

A whopping 95% of gig participants found they were able to expand existing skills or build new ones, while 83% of Workday’s managers reported their team members who participated in a gig brought back new skills to their team.

“A gig is most effective when the employee comes back to their full-time job and can actually exercise the new skill they learned,” Landman says. “Otherwise, they’ll lose the skill and won’t have that ‘wow’ sentiment that ‘I learned something I can apply [to my regular role].'”

Challenges to changing internal mobility plans

As employers look to drive internal mobility, it can be challenging to enable employees to train and grow without disrupting the business, Landman says.

To counteract such challenges, Landman offers three suggestions:

  • Develop a supportive mindset for internal mobility modeled by top leadership, backed by a philosophy that recognizes the values of employees’ skills and mobility.
  • Select ease-of-use technology to help employees find internal roles with a good fit.
  • Continue to closely listen to your employees’ needs.

Listening to employees is how Workday discovered the problems with its internal mobility efforts and improved its approach.

“When we saw how much of an increase in sentiment there was for those who moved internally and, thus, had a positive relationship to retention,” Landman says, “that was the impetus for us to relaunch how we think about internal mobility.”

Dawn Kawamoto, Human Resource Executive
Dawn Kawamoto
Dawn Kawamoto is HR Editor of Human Resource Executive. She is an award-winning journalist who has covered technology business news for such publications as CNET and has covered the HR and careers industry for such organizations as Dice and Built In prior to joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected] and below on social media.