The challenges of internal mobility, and how to solve them

Internal Mobility Challenges

According to Deloitte Insights:

“Organisations have historically focused on external recruiting to find people for new roles, but with growing skill shortages and low unemployment rates, they are now finding that acquisition alone isn’t enough to access the capabilities they need. To fuel growth, organisations need to more effectively tap their current workforce to identify and deploy people with the required skills, capabilities, motivation, and knowledge of the organisation, its infrastructure, and its culture. Creating better programs to facilitate internal mobility can pay off in multiple areas: growth, employee engagement, and business performance”.

For employers internal mobility (IM) is critical for employee retention; employee engagement; strengthening EVP and significantly reducing the cost to hire. It also encourages high levels of collaboration as it breaks down silos between teams, which can result in a 21% increase in profitability.

For employees, effective internal mobility can have a huge impact on their professional development and overall value to an organisation by providing:

  • An internal marketplace where employees can showcase skills that reach beyond their allocated job role;
  • The time and opportunity for the employee to identify new skills and areas they’d like to develop in;
  • Easily identify jobs or projects that match those interests and skills;
  • Enabling employees to connect with the right mentor

But for all the positives, internal mobility can be difficult to execute, as success requires the whole organisation to shift to this culture.  Before a company can approach the challenge of implementing a culture of internal mobility, you must first understand the factors that make it difficult and the solutions for each.

1. Challenge: Traditional organisational structure

Traditional companies are structured like pyramids, with a top-down hierarchy. Implementing an internal mobility structure requires the lines of departments to blend, allowing employees to move freely between departments and projects, utilising skills and interests outside of their immediate role, giving them the opportunity to advance their skillset.

This pyramid structure is like a machine. Each part of the machine works to make the business functional, but its parts are rigid and not easily transferable, which goes against the nature of the fluidity of IM.  An organisational structure that supports internal mobility can be likened to an organism. Paving the way for a flexible and agile organisation that utilises resources sparingly and when they need it; pulling talent to tackle one project, once complete, talent can move easily to other projects or departments.

This is why it’s critical to have buy-in at board level because the company structure will have to be reviewed if IM is going to be successful.

2. Challenge: The hiring manager’s role

In the pre-existing culture and structure, managers tend to “talent hoard” and keep their highly skilled employees in a specific department, and only see promotions within that department.  In an internal mobility structure, hiring managers would not only take into account the skill set of the prospective employee but also their ability to grow more widely within the company.

Hiring managers and leaders must learn to embrace the gig economy mentality and encourage internal movement in order for IM to work effectively. Notably, Josh Bersin interviewed Cisco, a company that champions internal mobility. Their head of talent told Bersin that Cisco has a rule, any employee that has held a position for two years or more was open to look at other positions or projects outside of their department, and importantly, their managers were required to help this movement.

3. Challenge: Lack of visibility to open roles

Simply put, having to manually post job openings could undoubtedly make project and position openings difficult to fill. Therefore, how and where to communicate positions available along with skill matching, with full transparency, can pose a significant challenge.

A recent study discovered that HR professionals found that effectively communicating available positions was the number one issue within IM programs. Fortunately, this is where technology paves way for an innovative and customisable solution. With the right technology, a platform can offer job availability, employee profiles containing skills they have as well as the skills they aim to acquire, position or project matching, and other features to make the internal mobility structure successful.

In late 2019 Real Links started to seriously consider the importance of internal mobility to the future of talent acquisition and recruitment.  Throughout 2020 we’ve partnered with some fantastic businesses looking for an IM solution, to build a internal mobility tech platform that’s been tailored from the ground up to the needs of recruitment, HR, L&D and talent acquisition professionals.

If you’re interested in learning more please get in touch.

Get in touch and learn more about our internal mobility platform

How to increase employee referrals in 5 easy steps

Increase employee referrals

88% of employers said that referrals are the #1 best source for above-average applicants. (Source: Dr. John Sullivan research).  It’s not news, but most businesses are still facing an uphill battle to increase employee referrals.

Tipping the balance to reach a point where you’re less reliant on external hires to fill every open role, because you’ve got a steady stream of referred candidates topping up your talent pipeline every week is a dream position to be in.

More referred candidates equals less time-to-hire, reduced recruitment costs and usually lower employee turnover.

But, to get to that point you need to consistently test strategies and tactics that ultimately increase the number of referred candidates into your business.  Here’s our top 5 – but don’t forget, creativity is critical to driving participation so there will always be more ideas.

1. Automate the referral process

Without blowing our own trumpet early doors, one of the reasons Real Links works so well is it overcomes the very first hurdle that gets in people’s way.  Actually referring a candidate.  Between not knowing what roles are open to not understanding the process to refer someone, it’s a common bottle neck. Real Link’s unique matching technology automatically identifies skills from your job adverts and matches them with skills from people in your employee’s networks.  The employee is sent a notification, and at the click of a button they refer and receive a reward.

2. Nail your rewards

A Real Links survey found that 34% of companies only offer rewards for referrals upon a hire being made with a further 65% once a referred candidate has passed their probation period. That is a long time for an employee to wait to be rewarded. And it’s not only about how long they wait, but the rewards they’re incentivised with.  Most organisations are still reliant on monetary rewards, which will be hurting their referral participation.

3. Communicate – all the time

Whether it’s a lack of transparency of the referral process; confusion about how to join in the first place or no up to date information on current open roles there’s a long list of reasons referrals fail, more often than not because of poor communication.  Clarity and consistency of communication from the day you launch your referral program is imperative for longevity.  A clear communications plan should be a key part of every new referral scheme.

4. Build an employer brand worth shouting about

Ok, it’s not a small task.  Especially if you’re starting from scratch, but living by an employer value proposition that’s clear and inspiring for your staff is likely to have the same effect on great talent.  We all know it’s important, but when it comes to referrals your employees have got to be committed to your message, and to do that, your message has to be clear and consistent.

5. Embed referrals into your culture

People are your most valuable asset.  Each and every person has a profound effect on the long term viability of your business.  As an HR or Talent Acquisition team you have a responsibility to convey how vital hiring is to the success of the company and empower employees to want to support you in making their business the best it can be.  In this case, by referring great talent.

Succeed with employee referrals – book a demo

3 examples of brilliant employee referral schemes

Employee referral examples

Although there is more than one method to building an effective employee referral program, it’s always interesting to take a look behind the scenes and get an insight into how other businesses have tackled that challenge.

We’ll keep you up to date with any brilliant examples we come across, but here are a few of the latest…

3 brilliant examples of employee referrals


At SalesForce, an American cloud-based software company, they acknowledge both the employee and referred candidate from the moment they are referred. Salesforce has a dedicated recruiting team as well as a chatter community platform in which the employee can communicate with a recruitment expert in real time. They also organise happy hours and social gatherings so recruitment specialists can mingle with employees as well as potential candidates, proving that a social workforce can help develop the company culture and employee retention. Salesforce then offers a variety of referral bonuses such as tickets to sporting events and payment for charitable work within the community. Notably, they not only offer bonus incentives to employees that refer a candidate that goes onto get hired, but they make a point of rewarding employees at each stage of the journey.


In 2017, DigitalOcean a cloud infrastructure provider, implemented an altruistic bonus incentive that brought their participation rate to 43%. For every referred candidate hired, the company not only gave the referring employee a monetary bonus, but also offered a charitable donation paid by the company to the charity of the employee’s choosing. Furthermore, if the employee chose to donate a portion of their monetary bonus, they were given a raffle ticket, that if won, awarded the employee with an all expenses paid trip.

Product Madness

Gaming platform Product Madness found they were at odds with their consumer and employer brand. That coupled with the competitive market for tech talent, posed a challenge to fill their open developer roles. They partnered with Real Links to implement our automated employee referral platform. Product Madness quickly success with the platform in under 12 weeks. With a 25% year on year increase in referral candidates, all developer roles filled and a newly established talent pool of 40,000 candidates.

It’s not difficult to understand the problems with employee referrals, it’s keeping up with the best tech and creative thinking that will set you apart . It’s a brilliant opportunity to spend some time on getting creative with engagement strategies that will keep employees motivated to participate.

Succeed with employee referrals – book a demo

The psychology behind successful referrals

Psychology of referrals

The benefits of a successful referral program are widely understood. The challenge is getting employees to participate and engage with your scheme long-term.  There are a variety of tactics you can use to help improve engagement, but one of the foundational principles of a great referral scheme is a deep understanding of the psychology behind your employee’s behaviour.  Once you understand that, you can begin to tailor your messaging; rewards and gamification strategies to appeal to this unique audience, your workforce.

There are a few psychological models that can help support employee referrals.  One of the primary ones is the Hook Model, created by entrepreneur, author, and behavioural economist Nir Eyal, it is a framework designed to understand and drive customer behaviour towards using products or services habitually. Although the model was intended for influencing customer behaviour and product marketing, the Hook framework can be applied to influence the behaviour of your workforce. By learning how to create scenarios that encourage habitual behaviour, you’ll be able to drive long term engagement with your employee referral scheme.

The 4 components of the Hook framework are trigger, action, variable reward, and
.  When applied to the workforce and referral system, these components make up the process of creating referral habits and rewarding employees.

  • The trigger is the auto matching technology that allows the employee to
    refer to potentially qualified candidates.
  • The action resulting from the initial trigger will be the referral or social introduction of a candidate or sharing of company content on social channels. The employee can complete these actions in seconds straight from their dedicated dashboard on mobile or desktop.
  • To find the type of reward that motivates the team, a focus group must be conducted to identify whether the team is motivated by rewards of the tribe, the hunt, or the self. The rewards of the tribe are social rewards like feeling included, appreciated, or accepted. A shout out on social media or any recognition publicly for their valuable participation is an example of a social reward. The rewards of the hunt are physical things, such as gift cards, coupons, or vouchers. Lastly, the rewards of the self concern mastery, competence and completion.
  • The investment comes once employees have invested time and effort into completing actions within the referral scheme, the investment means they are more likely to repeat the action. The investment component helps to create a loop and our cognitive bias keeps us contributing.The Hook model is one of the most critical to understand when it comes to referrals schemes.  Alternatively, the reason that referral systems don’t work tends to be lack of consistency (unclear process), lack of reason for referrals (rewards), and the referral system not being a positive part of the company culture. Ultimately, by applying the Hook Model at the very beginning when you’re planning your scheme, it allows you to create a process that encourages long-term employee engagement.This can help keep hiring costs down, gain reach to more qualified candidates, increase
    long-term retention rates, and create a positive and motivating culture within your

Download our guide to the psychology of successful referrals

5 reasons employee referrals will be critical to recovery post COVID-19

We’re in the midst of an unprecedented time in global history.  Every country has reacted differently to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting impact on local economies and the global landscape is yet to be fully understood.

In the shadow of global economic turmoil modern businesses are once again faced with the challenge of streamlining costs; relying more heavily than ever before on technology to run their business and of course recruitment freezes are widespread across a large number of industries (though as ever some industries continue to succeed and even thrive on the back of this situation).

Employee referrals as a part of a business’ talent acquisition strategy has always been a cost effective and impactful tactic for recruiting high quality candidates with higher engagement and lower attrition rates.

According to a study run in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis: ‘Employee referral schemes are the best talent acquisition strategy during economic uncertainty’

When businesses are attempting to reduce costs and improve efficiency, from a recruitment perspective employee referral when done well is a quicker and cheaper alternative to other recruitment methods.  This makes it an important part of business recovery as we all take the first steps towards some sort of normality, BAU and future growth.

In this context we’re talking about fully automated employee referral platforms that import all employee’s social connections from a variety of platforms.  Using gamification and competition to engage employees. Implementing micro rewards to keep them active throughout the recruitment process and two way communication so TA teams can proactively suggest referral candidates, as well as employees putting candidates forward.

5 ways effective employee referral will help support business recovery

1.  Reducing the cost of recruitment
Employee referral is one of the most cost effective recruitment methods.  Especially when a lot of businesses find that large monetary rewards aren’t as motivating for employees as smaller, incremental less expensive rewards.  For example, we’ve seen much higher engagement with referral through £50-£250 Amazon vouchers, distributed at different stages of the candidate journey than a £5000 reward for a hire at the end of the process.  It also allows you to avoid hefty agency fees and streamline your recruitment budget which will be a critical part of keeping your business lean and prepared for recovery.

2. Keeping talent acquisition and employees engaged and connected
Employee engagement has been a significant challenge for most organisations during COVID-19.  Maintaining a high quality talent pipeline and keeping employees connected with each other, as well as talent acquisition teams connected to the business can be enabled through the use of automated employee referral systems; internal competitions and social sharing.

3. Fundamental shift to online
With enforced home working, businesses who perhaps hadn’t implemented flexible and remote working practices have been forced to.  Relying on technology to communicate and get things done has rapidly become the new norm.  It’s likely that investing in new technology like automated employee referral will now be a lot more effective than pre-COVID as reliance on digital technology is far more widespread and accepted by employers and employees alike.

4. Talent overflow as a result of furlough and redundancy
There’s no two ways about it, there’s going to be a significant spike in unemployment as life begins to return to normal.  This will mean a huge influx of talent into the market place at the same time.  According to the CIPD, for many organisations placing staff on furlough redundancy is likely to be a very real consideration; if not in the immediate term, then potentially whilst staff are on furlough or when the furlough scheme comes to an end on 30 June 2020.  Beyond furlough this will mean a higher volume of applicants for every role advertised, far more time consuming for TA teams.  Using employee referral may reduce the volume and increase the quality of applications.

5. High levels of competition for great talent
If you’re fortunate enough to operate in one of the few sectors that will either thrive or be relatively unaffected by Coronavirus, competition for great talent in those sectors will remain high, if not increase as demand for the product or service continues to grow.  Within your market place, it’s likely you’ve always faced a competitive hiring environment, but if demand for those skills spikes, adding employee referral to your recruitment armoury will set you apart from the competition, giving you access to a totally unique talent pool.

If you think automated employee referral will help support your business with recovery, why not book a Real Links demo today and find out more.  We also offer low cost pilot schemes for up to 100 employees if you’d like to try before you commit.

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Hiring Great Tech Talent Fast

See how one tech business filled all their hard to fill tech roles with referrals;


Learn how referrals can work really well for specialist hiring;


Understand what motivates tech teams to engage with referrals.

The Psychology of Referrals

Learn the 3 psychological models that will influence success


Understand your employee’s behaviour and how to influence it;


Use this insight to generate long term participation with your referral scheme.

Rewarding Referrals

Based on research with over 100 businesses;


Learn how to increase employee participation with referrals;


Loads of new reward ideas you can implement into your business.