Ed NewmanMarch 09, 2017
Topics: Employee Experience

Internal Mobility & The Number 2 Dilemma

Have you ever worked for a company where good performers sometimes leave after only one-to-two years? In just about every case, the exit interviews tell you the primary cause of their voluntary turnover isn't due to compensation. It is almost always about lack of advancement or inadequate development opportunities.

Sound familiar?

I believe the root cause of good performers leaving is the fact that companies have done a poor job with internal mobility. Hiring managers spend a lot of time screening and hiring new talent. When they get good people, they don’t want to let them go - even if its an internal move.

So we cave to the internal politics and put rules in place that say employees must self-nominate for a new position. Proactively recruiting internal employees is considered poaching. Employees must be in their job for at least twelve months before they are eligible to apply. Oh, and sometimes their immediate supervisor will be notified if they get an internal interview - you know, just as a heads up so they can plan for a replacement.

You know what? Any employee can apply and interview for jobs with your competitors without any restrictions. These kind of chicken shit policies on internal mobility have created a phenomenon that drains talent from your organization.

I call it the number 2 dilemma.

Here is what it means:

Most companies have a performance review system that churns out performance ratings. Sometimes the ratings are numeric and sometimes descriptive, but for the sake of the example let's say there is a five point scale and number one is the best and number five is the worst.

Your number fives are basically out the door. They are on double secret probation, final warning, or quitting before the pink slip comes.

Your number fours are running scared. They are job posting machines, trying to get a new boss before getting cut. They sometimes come disguised as number threes because their bosses were too chicken to call them a four.

Your number threes are happy campers. They enjoy the benefits, the company picnic, and take full advantage of all the discount movie and theme park tickets.

Your number ones are in the most exciting jobs in the company, on the fast track, constantly tapped on the shoulder to do new and interesting things.

Your number twos are pissed off! They think they are number ones, but because of the forced distribution, only five percent of the people in any department can be a number one. They are hard working, loyal, and talented people who think it's lame to use a self-nomination job posting system. They are waiting for the tap on the shoulder. They were just informed that the 4.5 percent increase is well above average, because they are an above average performer.

The number twos are the ones getting called by the headhunters, and that's probably a tap on the shoulder they can't ignore.


Have you ever been a number two?

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