Growing With Grab: A closer look at Internal Mobility (IM)

Historically, the origins of Internal Mobility were never fully established, but academic journals traced it back to the 19th century. Firms working in the American railroad industry were originally aggressively hiring from competitors, but the Great Depression and World War II dampened this strategy. The lack of manpower (as many males were sent to the military frontlines) and higher taxes forced these firms, as well as firms from other industries to develop talent internally.

Internal hiring and development was further strengthened as headhunting had huge drawbacks (e.g. higher taxes, lack of housing, tighter negotiations). The pull factor of adapting Internal Mobility to meet talent needs and lowering costs led to companies adopting this strategy as part of their recruitment strategy throughout the 20th century as well.

Years passed, and many industries and countries around the world have since adapted internal mobility into their organizations on a larger scale. Large tech companies such as IBM fill 45% of their roles internally. It is highly common to see on professional online platforms executives who have had high mileage in a particular company, holding different titles every few years.


Top leaders across industries have started to prioritize internal talent mobility as one of their key considerations of organizational success. In Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, 76% of survey respondents rated Internal Mobility important, and 20% named it as one of their organization’s top three issues. WIth a wider amplification on retaining employees and ensuring their career aspirations are successful, Internal Mobility is now a common scoring factor on how employees view an organization.

From an employee perspective, Internal Mobility is a platform for them to explore potential opportunities within their existing company. PWC’s 2020 Talent Mobility Study shows that less than 20% of Millennial employees plan to stay in their job  for the long term, and a whopping 64% intend to make a minimum of 3 job switches within their career. This suggests high mobility in the job market in the foreseeable future. Having Internal Mobility programs within organizations would be a key priority in employee development, allowing greater employee engagement and retention.

Employees who wish to reinvent themselves but seek to remain in their current employer would strongly benefit from Internal Mobility programs.A Milltain article reckons this helps to create an internal labor market that would help to constantly motivate them to learn specific new skills and products. The result of this would be a subset of employees who have a deeper understanding of the business, with a broader set of skills and a keen sense of agility.

At Grab, we recently revamped our Internal Mobility program to ensure higher visibility for all Grabbers and allow them to expand their interests in various functions within the company. John Hall, our Head of Talent Acquisition leads the charge in the revamp of our internal hiring program. “Internal Mobility is the perfect opportunity for Grabbers to explore other facets of Grab to grow in. It allows them to discover roles that keep them growing in other areas of their profession”

Internal Mobility is commonly a sensitive conversation between people managers and their teammates. The notion of wanting to depart from a team is highly delicate, and employees might find it difficult to approach the topic. Grab approaches this with an open communication standard where transfer policies are fully disclosed and internal movements are strongly encouraged.

It is a common perception that managers who have employees departing from their team would feel frustrated on this move. However, with internal People Operations Business Partners helping to backfill and resume business continuity swiftly, these worries are alleviated. Jamie Fan, Analytics Manager in Mobility & Customer Platforms, recently had a line reportee move to another team after several years being under her guidance. She feels that nothing is more satisfying than seeing your people grow and unlock more possibilities in more dimensions. “This is stemming from the mentality of owning up to the problems we see and do what’s necessary even if it is beyond your role.” Jamie firmly believes that there are really not many boundaries of what role you are confined with, and mobilising between roles becomes a natural byproduct of that.

Managers who receive Internal Mobility candidates at Grab are usually very appreciative of these applications. Akshay Sharma, Regional Lead for Platform Quality, has hired several Grabbers for his team. “Internal Mobility has helped speed up the hiring process significantly. It also gives Grabbers an invaluable opportunity to explore newer realms of business and steepen the personal and professional growth curves.” It isn’t only just for the benefit of the employees when it comes to quicker hiring times, “For business operations, having them (Grab IM applicants) already aligned with our principles and work processes allows for quicker onboarding and business continuity”.

We have progressively seen Grabbers take a further interest in applying for Internal Mobility. Over the past quarter, we have seen a 25% jump in our Internal Mobility applications, which is testament towards our efforts in ensuring the growth of our Grabbers. Two-time Internal Mobility Grabber Vincent Lok has been in three positions since he joined Grab. His Internal Mobility conversations between him and the respective managers were very open and honest. “They were very positive on this, there was no pushback and there was sufficient time given for handover before moving onto the new role. Two weeks before moving over to the new team, I was even entrusted with an interview for hiring by my managers.” Vincent is currently an Assistant Manager of the Regional Demand Optimization team and strongly encourages Grabbers to consider Internal Mobility. “I felt like my time at Grab has been meaningful, and I didn’t want it to end. So I thought of other areas of my professional development that could stand to be stretched and challenged, and I hope others would do the same.” Read more about Vincent here!

Hannah Vergara, a Grabber who has been in 3 roles over her 5 years in the company is a strong advocate for the Internal Mobility program too. “I considered trying out Internal Mobility as this program gives me the flexibility to advance my career without the fear of needing to start from zero.” She attributes her confidence in her incoming roles to her supervisors. ”My manager and previous managers in Grab have always been very supportive to me. IM has always given me the comfort that I can try new things and I can be successful with the right motivation, trust and support.”

As part of our outreach plan, the 2.0 revamp involves a new microsite with improved digital touchpoints. We ensured a consistent and clear communication with a constant communication push for awareness to allow all full-time Grabbers the opportunity to explore open roles. We also ensured our People Operations Business Partners were fully equipped to engage tech leaders in conversations revolving around internal mobility.

At Grab, we fully believe in encouraging our Grabbers to develop key skills in other areas, with the heart for serving communities through technology.


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