Executive need to listen


AI flips the script on talent retention

Company platforms that promote internal opportunities can prevent skilled workers from jumping ship

By Howard Rabinowitz, Workflow contributor

  • Employee retention is a major priority for CHROs, with millions of workers seeking new jobs
  • Advanced internal mobility platforms help match employees with new roles and opportunities 
  • Machine learning tools crunch data about job performance, openings, and skills to help managers identify the right fit 

The reasons behind the Great Resignation are complex, but what seems clear is the toll the movement is taking on employers. In 2022, more than 4 million workers a month left their jobs, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Now, companies are turning to AI to retain their workforces.

One factor behind the surge is a lack of perceived opportunity to move upward or elsewhere within an organization. According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), one-third of departing employees cited lack of career advancement opportunities as a primary reason.

In response, companies are increasingly focusing on strengthening internal mobility—an employee’s ability to find new opportunities for growth and advancement inside the organization. Global companies like IBM, Unilever, Cisco, General Electric, PwC, and Mastercard have each created internal talent platforms to link their employees with upskilling and job openings.

More than just job boards and skills assessments, these platforms employ machine learning and other advanced technologies to analyze employee performance, job and upskilling opportunities, and skills overlaps, and then build models to help managers and employees find the right fit.

In 2019, Unilever debuted an internal talent marketplace called InnerMobility. Since then, 65,000 employees in more than 90 countries have joined the program. And 9,000 of them moved into new roles due to platform-driven upskilling efforts in the previous year, the company said.


of departing employees cite lack of advancement as a primary reason for leaving

Despite the success of such programs, only a third of HR leaders say they have implemented an internal hiring platform, according to a study by The Conference Board. But advances in internal mobility platforms may convince more employers to get on board.

“Organizations can make more strategic investments in employee development by using internal mobility platforms to understand what skills are currently valued and where there might be a skill gap for future needs,” says Gretchen Alarcon, vice president and general manager of HR service delivery at ServiceNow.


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According to a study of 32,000 LinkedIn users, employees who are promoted within three years of being hired have a 70% chance of staying five additional years. Workers who make a lateral move inside their organization have a 62% chance.

Janet Mertens, research director for the Josh Bersin Company, a leading HR consultancy, says internal mobility is now “a business imperative.” For early adopters of internal mobility platforms, it’s an investment that can improve talent retention rates, boost engagement and productivity, and break down organizational silos.

At the core of many of those internal mobility platforms is AI.

At IBM, where more than 50,000 employees have enrolled on the company’s Blue Matching platform since 2015, cross-silo recruitment uses predictive analytics to send notifications for potential job matches across divisions. IBM estimated that its AI-equipped program saved the company more than $100 million in 2018 by avoiding expenses associated with recruiting, training, and employee turnover, according to a SHRM report.

At Schneider Electric, the $30 billion French energy management company, an internal talent marketplace platform has matched 7,500 employees with mentors in other divisions.

“AI and analytics offer huge opportunities to manage talent in a data-driven and evidence-based way,” says Tom Haak, director of the HR Trend Institute. “It can be much less driven by whether you came from the right university or your previous work experience. It can tell us, ‘Do you have the interest and potential to develop the skills that we need?’”

In a company with 50,000 employees, or even just 50, HR teams can’t keep track of each worker’s skills, performance, potential, and ambitions. By using data inference, predictive modeling, and data analytics in AI applications, however, they can match great candidates with open roles before they decide to leave.

Internal mobility platforms resemble social networks like LinkedIn. Employees create a profile that lists their education and prior experience along with their professional goals and interests, such as moving into a project manager role, or moving laterally from one division to another.

Employees can choose to link performance reviews and competency endorsements to their profiles. Recruiters can upload new jobs or short-term project opportunities and the skills required to fill them.

Advanced machine-learning features raise the potential of these platforms. Network analysis identifies hidden talent by mapping out the organization’s social structures. Sentiment analysis lets companies gauge enthusiasm and engagement using natural language processing, better positioning them to identify potential leaders and retain valued workers.

The platform can also help employees make a horizontal or vertical move by recommending specific courses to acquire skills, suggesting short-term projects within other divisions, and connecting workers with mentors in divisions they’re hoping to join.

“Developing skills will be a key retention factor for employees as we move out of the pandemic,” Alarcon says. “Internal mobility platforms are a great way to socialize other opportunities available within your company.”

AI and analytics offer huge opportunities to manage talent in a data-driven and evidence-based way.

Internal talent marketplace platforms are not one-size-fits-all. Each company picks and chooses which core components they seek to emphasize, such as upskilling, breaking down silos, or leadership development.

One impediment to boosting internal mobility: poor managers. More than half of U.S. companies report that their managers actively block their employees from leaving their teams. One in three employees keep internal job applications secret because they fear negative reactions from their bosses, according to a study by University of California, Berkeley.

“The challenge is we need a shift in the way that we think about talent and development in the organization,” says Jeff Schwartz, VP of insights and impact at Gloat, a leading talent marketplace platform vendor. “We need to move from ‘Our employees work for a particular division, team, or manager’ to ‘Our employees work for the entire company.’”

That kind of change requires more than technology, Schwartz says, and must include support from leadership to align the organization’s goals with that of its employees, and then incentivize them to stay.


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Howard Rabinowitz is a business and technology writer based in West Palm Beach, Fla.