BCG Henderson Institute

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Companies are facing a moment of reckoning in the workplace. They are struggling to find talent to advance their strategic priorities, and they are seeking to improve gender equity and open pathways for women to grow and develop. In the process, most are overlooking an asset that can help with both priorities: their internal talent mobility program (ITM).

But some companies are reinventing their ITM programs to go beyond the traditional ways of tapping in-house talent for promotions and evolving business priorities. This new generation of ITM programs is democratizing access to opportunity and helping employees chart their careers at a micro level—both of which have particular value for women.

Access and agency are important for women’s retention and advancement. Recent studies by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University have found that lateral career opportunities are more than twice as effective as compensation in predicting employee retention. And while stretch assignments can be critical for career advancement, studies have found that women are less likely than men to report receiving those opportunities—even when they explicitly say they are interested in working on more challenging projects.

The new ITM programs are deeply embedded in talent operating models and career development processes. They are also designed to make the most of innovative HR technologies, such as digital talent marketplaces. These programs are thus better equipped than their predecessors to normalize skills-based career mobility as part of the development journey for women.

The catch? Many business leaders haven’t yet updated their ITM models. Once they do, they will be better equipped to provide equitable career-growth opportunities, which will help attract and retain diverse talent in today’s increasingly dynamic environment.

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