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  • Writer's pictureBenoit Hardy-Vallée

From Lateral Moves to Strategic Placement: Navigating Internal Labor Markets (Season 2 episode 07)








In our latest episode, we had a fascinating conversation with JR Keller, an Associate Professor of Human Resource Studies at Cornell University's ILR School. Our chat revolved around the importance of having the right people in the right positions at the right time within organizations.

Traditionally, companies have relied on their internal labor markets to fill positions, but lately, there has been a shift towards recruiting external talent. However, with the pandemic, organizations have come to realize that they must provide their current employees with opportunities for growth and advancement to keep them satisfied.

To identify the employees best suited for key strategic positions that require specialized skills, organizations must cultivate and nurture their existing workforce. There are two primary approaches to facilitating internal movement: the slotting process and the posting process. Both processes promote a competitive environment where employees can negotiate and promote a free flow of talent.

Managers who actively listen to their employees' concerns and foster internal mobility are more likely to attract and retain top-notch staff. Our conversation with JR Keller shed light on how companies can successfully manage their internal talent and secure their position in the competitive job market.



  • Organizations need to ensure that the right people are in the right jobs at the right time.

  • In the past, companies had well-defined internal labor markets with clear job ladders and limited opportunities for lateral moves or higher-level entry.

  • In recent years, organizations have focused on developing their talent acquisition capabilities to attract external talent, but the pandemic has made them realize the importance of providing internal advancement opportunities to retain existing employees.

  • Organizations should focus on identifying and developing employees for key strategic roles that drive organizational outcomes and require firm-specific skills.

  • There are two main ways that organizations facilitate internal moves: a slotting process, where managers handpick internal candidates, and a posting process, where any interested employee can apply for a job through an open, transparent, and competitive process.

  • Competitive processes within organizations enable workers to negotiate internally and encourage a free flow of talent.

  • Managerial talent hoarding can discourage employees from applying for new roles or being staffed on high-profile projects.

  • Incentivizing managers to encourage their employees to participate in the internal job market can be achieved through internal candidate promotion rates and application patterns.

  • Third-party vendors can calculate which managers are good at exporting their talent to incentivize managers to participate in the internal job market.

  • Managers should be open to the idea of hiring candidates with adjacent skills, even if they do not have all the skills necessary for the job, to develop internal mobility.

  • Some technologies are proactive in matchmaking employees to job openings in their organization.

  • Employees talk about managers the most and share information on how managers listen to their concerns.

  • Managers who are open to employee input can attract highly qualified staff and can turn around organizations.

  • Employees are less likely to leave a manager they have a good relationship with, but when managers leave, it unlocks mobility and career development for employees.

  • Boomerangs, or former employees who return to the organization, outperform all other sources of external hires because they know the organizational culture and have a shorter runway to hit the ground running.






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