Where Internal Mobility Is Most Common Since COVID-19: Top Countries, Industries, and Jobs

October 28, 2020

Rajesh Ahuja’s team typically hires tens of thousands of new employees a year. They were the epitome of an “always on” recruiting team — but for the first time ever, all those hiring efforts came to a screeching halt in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Fortunately, recruiting quickly returned to near-normal levels for Infosys, where Rajesh leads talent acquisition. But before it did, the very first hiring channel they started up again was internal recruiting — tapping into their internal talent pool to fill open roles. 

While internal mobility was already a growing trend before the pandemic – it was one of four trends we spotlighted back in January for our Global Talent Trends report – COVID-19 has made it a must-have. 

That’s because many companies haven’t recovered as quickly as Infosys. Facing financial strain and uncertainty, they may not be able to hire external talent at pre-COVID rates — but they can fill open roles with existing employees. Perhaps that’s why a larger proportion of jobs are now being filled by internal hiring.

There’s often a spike of new hires in January, so it’s not usual to see numbers decline a bit in the following months. But after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, the number of overall hires continued to fall while the number of internal hires stayed relatively stable. 

That’s why the proportion of internal hires — a metric we’re calling the “internal mobility rate” — is higher than usual. Since April, the internal hiring rate has been nearly 20% higher than it was during the same time in 2019, according to LinkedIn data. That may explain why internal mobility is such a hot topic now in recruiting circles

Internal recruiting comes with a bevvy of benefits. Along with cost savings, the most important benefit for many is retention. Companies that excel at internal mobility are able to retain employees nearly twice as long as companies that struggle with it.

To facilitate these internal transitions, forward-thinking companies help their employees develop new skills — tying reskilling efforts directly to internal mobility. “The future of talent acquisition lies in reskilling, rather than finding someone better in the market,” Rajesh told us in a recent interview for the latest Future of Recruiting report

If you’d like to learn how to improve your company’s internal recruiting, you can find some tips and tactics here. But you may also be curious about just how common internal mobility really is — overall and in businesses like yours. 

To help you benchmark your own internal hiring — and better understand the extent of this trend — we’ve analyzed LinkedIn data to reveal where internal mobility rates are highest.

Internal hiring is a truly global practice, with the top countries representing Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific. Rates have recently gone up in all these countries since April, except for Germany, where internal hires have typically made up a quarter of all hires. 

That may be because Germany has long had one of the world’s strongest apprenticeship and vocational training programs, in which trainees are often hired into full-time roles. This focus on skills training could also make it easier for existing workers to reskill and find new opportunities within the same company.  

Energy and manufacturing industries have among the highest internal mobility late, which may reflect larger transformations, namely the transition to green energy and greater automation. 

For example, the oil company Shell recently expanded its reskilling program to help employees develop AI skills. And research conducted both before and after the onset of COVID establishes how vital reskilling will be to the future of these industries. 

If you’re recruiting for any of the functions above and you’re not sourcing internal candidates, now may be a good time to start. These are the types of jobs that companies fill via internal hiring most often, with almost one-third of all product management jobs filled by existing employees. 

LinkedIn Product Manager Alex Revee recently wrote about the best paths into product management, citing internal transitions as one of the most common ways to break into the job. Alex himself moved into product management after working in sales at LinkedIn.

“Experienced internal transfers tend to be strong candidates because product management is a deeply collaborative role,” he writes. “Expertise in another function, understanding the mechanics of the business and having strong intra-company relationships are all advantages.” 

Those advantages aren’t exclusive to product management jobs. Internal hiring helps companies encourage cross-functional collaboration while retaining talent and institutional knowledge. That combination of agility and stability is exactly what many companies need while navigating this pandemic. 

To learn more about how recruiting has changed since COVID-19 and where it’s going next, read our new report, The Future of Recruiting: How COVID-19 Is Transforming Hiring


In this analysis, internal mobility is defined as a change in job title to a dissimilar role while staying at the same company (i.e., direct promotions do not qualify as internal mobility). The time period considered for latest trends is between April - August 2020, while the 5-year averages include data from 2015 - 2019. For the list of countries, only countries with at least 10,000 job changes between April - August 2020 were included in the ranking. Only transitions in which the title, company, location, function and industry details of both the starting and destination roles are known have been considered.

*Update: a previous version of this post contained graphics showing the overall internal mobility rate between April and August 2020 as 20.1%, instead of 19.6%. The graphics have been updated with the correct rate.*