Pros and Cons of Allowing Internal Job Transfers

As a manager or supervisor, you have the critical role of shaping your employees’ careers and opportunities within the company. Most team leaders are aware that their staff isn’t going to stick around forever, but through an internal transfer policy, you can permit employees to grow into new roles at your business rather than forcing them to leave the company altogether when they outgrow their current positions.


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What are internal job transfers?

Internal job transfers occur when an employee wants to apply for a new role within the company rather than leaving your business for another one. While this might seem like a positive thing, many employers are averse to internal transfers because they view it as the employee quitting, since they’re no longer a part of the same team. However, a mindset shift on internal transfer requests is worthwhile for the company in many ways, especially if the staff member requesting the switch is a hard-working, valuable individual whom the business would miss if they left to work elsewhere.


Reasons employees may request an internal transfer

There are many reasons employees might request an internal transfer. The most common is a desire to step into a new role that’s perhaps superior to their current position. If a worker enjoys the company culture, has good benefits and is happy in the workplace, they may consider switching departments at work to fulfill a need for new challenges, rather than applying to external positions that would require them to leave the company altogether.


Other reasons employees might request an internal transfer besides seeking personal growth include:


Seeking better work-life balance

Sometimes an employee may need to make a change at work to benefit their mental or physical health. Perhaps their current position is extremely demanding, requires frequent overtime and is impacting their well-being. They might want to stay with the company but take a less intense role that allows them time to take care of themselves or their family members.


Better job security

If a company is downsizing, certain roles are likely to be eliminated and some staff members let go. An employee might request an internal transfer as the company begins changing to put themselves in a new position that’s still valuable in the new company order, ensuring they don’t lose their job entirely.


Circumstantial changes

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes an employee may experience drastic changes that mean their current role is no longer possible or practical. For example, if a spouse is being transferred to a new state, your employee may request an internal transfer to another branch or location in order to stay with the company while accompanying their spouse.


Resolving workplace conflicts

Unfortunately, sometimes a workplace transfer request might be the result of friction within an employee’s current department. If their current position requires them to work with peers who are disrespectful or difficult or they have a manager who doesn’t treat them well, a staff member might turn to an internal transfer as a way to remove themselves from a situation that’s making them unhappy at work.


Pros and cons of permitting internal transfers in the workplace

As an employer, is it worthwhile for you to allow internal transfers in the workplace? By breaking it down into pros and cons, you can determine whether letting employees transfer between departments is a suitable option for your business model.


Pros of internal job transfers


Reduces hiring time

When you’re hiring internally for a role, you already have a sense of the employee’s skills, work ethic and reputation to determine if they’re a good candidate for the new position. You can also easily speak to their current managers for an honest reference, eliminating the need to play phone tag with a new applicant’s list of references.


Reduces onboarding and training time

Once you decide to allow an internal job transfer, you’ll save time in the onboarding and training process because the employee is already part of the company and has knowledge of the hierarchy, layout of the workplace, benefits plan and software programs. This means you don’t need to spend time registering them for email accounts, arranging insurance or giving tours. You can simply allow them to dive right into their new responsibilities and focus on getting them up to speed on all aspects of the role.


Retains high-quality employees within the company

When you allow internal transfers, you’re permitting employees to seek new opportunities within the company rather than forcing them to leave if they’re no longer satisfied with their current job. This benefits the business as a whole because committed, valuable employees are retained for the long term, simply evolving their responsibilities within the company but still contributing in a positive way. Internal transfers can help you avoid a high turnover rate, which can be detrimental to employee productivity and morale.


Boosts morale by allowing growth

By allowing your employees the chance to transfer between departments, you can boost company morale. Permitting job transfers sends the message to staff that their role in your business is not just a job but the beginning of a career that will give them opportunities to grow, change and succeed in whatever capacity they want. If your workers don’t view their role at work as a single job but rather a stepping stone to the rest of their career within the company, they’re going to be more invested in the success of your business as a whole, incentivizing them to work harder.


Cons of internal job transfers


Stagnation within the company

When you allow and even encourage internal transfers, you’re limiting your pool of applicants to those already employed by the company. This means you’re bringing in fewer fresh faces, resulting in fewer opportunities for the work dynamic to evolve.


May cause resentment among other employees

While many employees might view someone else’s internal transfer as a sign that they can do the same, others could harbor resentment for the coworker who gets the promotion or leaves a department they worked at for years. It could create awkward relationships between departments that wouldn’t exist if you hired externally for new roles.


Leaves gaps in some departments

By granting an employee’s transfer request, you create a gap in the department they’re leaving. This means you need to either move someone from another department into that role or begin the process of hiring externally to fill the position.


Outlining a company policy for job transfers

The pros of internal transfers heavily outweigh the cons, but as with any company practice, an official policy is the best way to ensure everyone is afforded equal opportunities and provided fair consideration. Many businesses permit internal transfers if the employee requesting the transfer meets certain criteria. Some useful points to add to an internal transfer policy include granting transfer requests only to employees who:

  • Have been in their current role for a minimum of 18 months
  • Are willing to wait 1-2 months before transferring
  • Agree to train their replacement
  • Have been with the company for a minimum of two years
  • Have demonstrated commitment and a good work ethic
  • Recently obtained a new qualification that aligns with the position they’re requesting for transfer

By creating guidelines for employees when requesting internal transfers, you can ensure that any requests you receive are from workers who are dedicated and valuable to the company and are ready for a new challenge. By putting time constraints on transfer requests, you also prevent employees from hopping between departments too frequently, which could weaken the productivity of your workplace.

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