opinion piece

BLOG – Preserve jobs and reduce costs with internal talent mobility

By Dan Davenport, President and General Manager, Randstad RiseSmart & Member of WEC’s Career Management Group

Published on 21st September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to organisations and individuals worldwide, leading many business and HR leaders to rethink how their organisations are structured. While organisations are doing everything in their control to stay afloat and keep their people working, it’s also important to empathize with employees and acknowledge the various stressors they’re facing during this time of crisis.

Organisations might be wondering how to best support their employees while simultaneously focusing on the larger business goals. One way to do so is by implementing an internal talent mobility strategy. By talent mobility, we mean the fluid movement of people within the company such that their career passions align with the needs of business. Organisations that take a strategic approach to internal talent mobility will be better positioned to survive and thrive through these uncertain times by promoting employee agility at every career stage.

It can be challenging when employees leave one part of the organization for another. However, research shows that mobility drives positive business outcomes. Data from the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute found that 80% of HR leaders believe increased talent mobility leads to significant benefits including lower recruitment costs, faster times to fill open positions, faster time to productivity for new hires, higher retention, improved career satisfaction and better culture fit.

With an impactful internal talent mobility strategy, organisations can help their employees grow in their careers, improve their overall brand perception – driving new business as a result – and reduce recruitment, onboarding and other related costs. Career management firms play a key role in supporting organisations throughout this process and here are a few key elements to consider.


A recent Randstad RiseSmart survey found that more than half of US employers (54%) have not taken any action to avoid conducting layoffs or furloughs since the initial COVID-19 outbreak in March. While reducing the size of the workforce is sometimes unavoidable, other options are available, including redeployment. Of the companies surveyed, only 4% have internally redeployed or reassigned employees, although among companies that did act to avoid furloughs or layoffs, 38% of US companies redeployed internally and 8% placed employees in partner organizations.

Redeployment enables companies to move current employees to other internal roles or assignments, either on a temporary or permanent basis, based on business need. By tapping into redeployment, in the short term, organisations can benefit from moving employees from low-demand work to busier, high-demand areas of the business, while also broadening the skills of the workforce and promoting a growth mindset so critical to agility.

Long-term, redeploying employees to other areas of the business can help organisations preserve jobs, maintain institutional knowledge and save time and cost that might otherwise be spent onboarding new employees and getting them up to speed as the economy recovers. Redeployment can also help employees find new career paths within the organisation that might better align with their skills and passions, ultimately boosting engagement.

Creative workforce restructuring

Beyond traditional redeployment, many organisations across industries are thinking outside the box for alternatives to layoffs. In speaking with our customers in HR and researching industry trends, we’ve learned of several creative approaches organisations are taking to avoid layoffs.

  • Rotating furloughs: One small business initially furloughed most of its employees while keeping its managers at work. Now, many employees have returned while most managers are temporarily furloughed, which enables the organisation to reduce payroll and push out any potential layoffs.
  • Salary and hour reductions: To keep all employees on payroll and preserve jobs, some organisations have either decreased salary for select (or all) roles or reduced employee hours. While this may make it challenging for some employees to make ends meet financially, it can be a better alternative than losing a job completely in a high-unemployment economy.
  • Early voluntary retirement: Some companies are offering older workers early retirement packages to reduce payroll and headcount. For example, Delta Air Lines recently announced a plan to invest more than $3 billion to cover the costs of early retirement among employees. Southwest Airlines announced a similar plan.
  • Unpaid leave: While some employers have offered sabbaticals in the past, given the current economic climate, more are offering employees unpaid time away from the company. Positioning this time off as a sabbatical reduces some of the stigma associated with time away from work, helps employers reduce immediate costs and gives employees the opportunity to return once business picks up.

Working with career management firms to implement an effective internal talent mobility strategy that includes solutions such as redeployment and creative workforce restructuring will not only help organisations do right by their employees during this challenging time but can also set them up for long-term success by developing a more agile workforce.

This post is part of a series of blog contributions by members of the World Employment Confederation’s Career Management group exploring the value added of career management services to people, organisations and society, in particular in a world of work disrupted by the Covid-19 crisis.

WEC’s Career Management group was founded by leading global career management firms LHH, Randstad Risesmart, Right Management and Intoo and keeps expanding to national federations in countries like Belgium and Poland. For more information about WEC’s activities regarding Career Management, visit our dedicated webpage.

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