Top tech companies like Google and Facebook let employees try out different jobs, and experts say that strategy can yield major benefits
- Many top tech companies allow employees to easily move between roles and teams (this practice is commonly called internal mobility).
- Experts say this strategy helps with talent retention because people are less likely to leave out of boredom.
- Gaining a variety of skills and experience can also benefit your career in the long run.
- One survey found only one-third of employees say their companies offer strong internal mobility programs.
So you're bored at work. The obvious move here is to start browsing job sites, looking for more exciting opportunities at other companies.
But if you work at some leading tech companies, you might approach this situation differently. Specifically, you might think about gunning for a new job on a new team - within the same organization.
In HR speak, this process is known as "internal mobility." It's something that Facebook supports - and something that often surprises new hires, Kate Berardo, Facebook's head of leadership development, told Business Insider.
Berardo mentioned the "honest conversations" between managers and employees about career progression. "If I really am showing care for your development," Berardo said, "even though it might possibly be painful for our team, the right answer might be that you go work on a cross-functional team where you get to play more to your strengths." It might wind up being a better situation for the individual employee and for the company.
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Google, meanwhile, has a multi-pronged approach to internal mobility. The company has a "bungee" program, in which, when an employee takes parental leave, another employee temporarily steps in to cover their responsibilities. The employee on leave gets some peace of mind; the employee who covers for them gets to try out a new role.
Google has also boasted a "20% time" policy (it's unclear if the policy is still in place), which allows employees to spend a certain amount of time working on a project completely unrelated to their job. Gmail and Google News famously began as 20% time projects.
Hootsuite recently developed its own version of Google's bungee program. As CEO Ryan Holmes shared on LinkedIn, "stretch" employees spend one day per week on a different team for 90 days.
And Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told Fast Company that employees change jobs roughly every two years. Ek invoked LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman's concept of "tours of duty," as opposed to lifetime employment. Ek told Fast Company, "You have a number of years when you perform a job, and then your tour is over, and it's time for you to think about what the next step is."
Internal mobility can benefit the employee and the organization
Indeed, Holmes wrote on LinkedIn that Hootsuite launched the "stretch" program after realizing that "many people were leaving because they wanted to try something new."
The idea that employees leave because they're bored isn't new, nor is the fact that some companies allow employees to transfer teams. But several career experts told Business Insider that they've seen increased talk about internal mobility since millennials entered the workforce in droves.
Millennials are "attracted to companies that have a true career path for them," said Jaime Klein, CEO of Inspire Human Resources. "They want to feel that the great work that they're doing is recognized, that they're not going to stay in a role too long without having expanded responsibilities or perhaps a title change." That is to say, millennials may indeed see themselves as job-hoppers, just not company-hoppers.
Erica Keswin, a former executive coach at New York University's Stern School of Business, and the author of "Bring Your Human to Work," also cited the "flattening" of the workplace: The traditional corporate hierarchy is crumbling. "It's almost a necessity to move people sideways or diagonally," Keswin said. "Across is the new up."
Internal mobility may be more common in tech than in other industries, not solely because employees skew younger, but also because tech companies tend to be "progressive" and "leading-edge," said Alexandra Dickinson, career expert and membership strategy lead at personal finance company SoFi. What's more, said Jenny Blake, a career coach, former Googler, and the author of "Pivot," tech companies may be more accustomed to an environment of change than some older, more established institutions.
Cross-functional experience may benefit your career in the long run
Trying out new roles on new teams can pay off in the long run. A recent LinkedIn study found that workers with experience in different areas of a business are more likely to become top executives than those who have specialized in one area.
Somewhat ironically, Dickinson said that when you're ultimately applying to another company, they may look favorably on your cross-functional experience. "You learn more about how different parts of the business impact other parts," Dickinson said. (That said, it still helps to develop specialized skills.)
If you're considering moving to another department at your current company, there are a few factors to keep in mind. First among them is your company culture. Dickinson said some companies see an employee with a lot of cross-functional experience and think they're an asset. Others think "they're bouncing around because they can't decide."
It's also important to have a solid case for why you deserve to make this move, especially since most managers don't want to see a high-performing employee leave their team.
Blake started out as an AdWords product trainer at Google before she moved to career development. She started participating in coach training on nights and weekends and, when she approached her manager about changing roles at Google, she was at first turned down.
Eventually, a spot opened up and Blake made her case: She'd been training to be a coach, she had a popular blog, and she'd been working on a 20% time project at Google, which has since morphed into the global "Career Guru" program. The spot was hers.
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