The employee mobility problem

Marlies Pellikaan

Due to a structural surplus in the labour market, employees are increasingly remaining longer at organisations. This blog discusses the issues that this brings, and highlights the available solutions.

The employee mobility problem

Static employees

At present there does not appear to be any large structural shortages in the job market (the only exceptions perhaps being in IT and technology). Organisations have also become accustomed to doing more with fewer employees. If we add to this to the fact that we’re increasingly being told that we will have to continue working until we’re older and older, it starts to become clear that there is a problem around employee mobility.

3 steps to increase employee engagement

Numerous organisations are having to deal with employees who stay in the same position for too long. So what exactly does this entail for organisations and how can they solve the problem?

Behavioural loyalty

Today automation, robotics and a higher pensionable age have combined to create an increase in labour potential. Outside of technology and IT, the chances are remote that there is a shortage in the labour market. Consequently, even when employees no longer enjoy their job, there is no hurry to change employment.

We call this phenomenon behavioural loyalty.

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Employees’ performance ceiling

What happens to employees who find themselves in this situation and no longer function in their job?

What we regularly see happening within organisations is what is known as the Peter Principle. The principle states that employees in hierarchical organisations grow until they reach their position of incompetence.

There comes a time when an employee keeps on getting promotion, until they are in a job which is beyond their capability. The dysfunctional employee is thereafter stuck, as they are highly unlikely to leave due to the small chances of finding a comparable job with comparable pay elsewhere.

When the two combine, the result is:

Behavioural loyalty + Peter Principle = Lack of employee mobility

The mobility problem

The combination of these two phenomena – behavioural loyalty and the Peter Principle – create huge employee mobility problems. Such a lack of employee mobility is detrimental to both the productivity of organisations and employee engagement.

Approaching the subject of employee mobility, and employees that are entrenched in their job, is both difficult and sensitive. Unfortunately we still see that many organisations avoid addressing the subject in an honest manner. Creating new HR terms, such as flexibilisation, sustainable employability and strategic personnel planning, doesn’t solve the problem.

Best employers secret #1: A compelling organisational direction

One solution to the mobility problem is to offer entrenched employees new perspectives. Additionally, the negative effects of the mobility issue can be reduced by involving employees in the mission of the organisation (what the organisation stands for) and vision (where the organisation wants to go).

In doing so, organisations can help add an extra dimension to employee’s work, which will prevent them from becoming so entrenched in their jobs. This will consequently help ensure that the employees affected by the mobility issue will improve the level of their work, benefiting both themselves and others.

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