Whether you’re promoting an existing employee or coordinating their lateral career move — internal role transfers are a powerful way to build up your talent pipeline, drive engagement and reduce turnover.

According to Gallup, employees who are given the opportunity to continually develop are twice as likely to say they will remain with their current company. An effective way to offer these employees the growth opportunities they are asking for, while increasing retention and saving on hiring costs, is to help develop them to a new position within your organization.

The benefits of internal development are clear — providing employees with meaningful opportunities to grow within your organization, and filling hard-to-find senior roles with proven talent. Internal candidates are already strong culture fits and possess the valuable institutional knowledge that comes from being in the company.

And when internal employees shift roles, providing them with an effective onboarding experience in their new team can often determine their overall success in the new position — meaning we must put as much thought towards setting an internal hire up for success as we would an external hire.

A new role often means a different team, a new manager, and a change in work culture — factors that need to be thoughtfully and strategically addressed by your People function. Instead of appointing your employees to a new department and wishing them luck, it’s essential to map out the steps that will guarantee a smooth transition and ensure high performance quickly.

Here are some best practices for setting your employees up for success in a new internal role:

1. Formally transition managers along with the employee.

Connecting the employee’s former and new manager is an important step in preparing for an internal role change. The People team should organize a session with both managers and the transferring employee to discuss the changeover and provide new managers with critical knowledge about their newest team member. At DigitalOcean, we facilitate these conversations to ensure that the important discussions are discussed candidly and openly.

Topics that are covered should include:

  • - What are the employee’s strengths and development areas? How can the new manager continue to support the employee’s growth?
  • - How can the manager and employee best work together? What do they both need to be successful?
  • - What is the best way to drive the employee’s performance and ensure his or her success?

Create a standard checklist of items to be covered to ensure a fluid transition from one leader to the next, and document the takeaways in your HRIS or performance feedback and goal-setting tools.

2. Set new 30, 60, and 90 day goals around the new role.

Everyone knows how important goal setting is to a new employee’s success. Formal goals create priorities and focus, ensuring that there are tangible ways to measure progress, and pivot if something is not working. That’s no different for a new internal role!

Even if an employee was the most productive member of their former team, when changing roles, they’ll once again need to be ramped-up to full productivity. To set your employees up for success, implement a strategic plan to teach them the right processes, tools, and responsibilities for the role during their first 90 days.

Create an onboarding roadmap to detail 30, 60, and 90 day goals for your employee’s new position. Building this roadmap as you would for a new hire is an essential part of internal onboarding — providing employees the direction they need to take full ownership over the role throughout the first 3 months. Make sure that the manager is meeting with them as often as they would a new employee to check in on what’s working and make adjustments on what’s not.

3. Ensure social and cultural acclimation.

Though an internal employee isn’t new to the organization, a role change often comes with a change of team, new leaders, team members, and cultural norms. Preparing employees with the connections, confidence, and support they need to be successful in the new role is a key part of internal onboarding. In smaller companies, most people will already know one another. But in larger ones, a new team may as well be a new company.

Don’t underestimate the power of shared norms and behaviors within teams, and be intentional about naming the salient aspects of team cultures and acclimating new transfers into them.

Detailing employee profiles in a central onboarding portal is a great way to help employees familiarize themselves with new teammates leading up to a role change. Employee profiles should include basic information (such as name and title), a headshot, and a simple ‘About Me’. This will help the new employee learn more about his or her team, and give the members information to get to know their newest member and welcome them with love!

A week before the role change, organize a lunch with the new team, so that everyone can get acquainted before Day One. Taking early steps towards social acclimation will help give employees the network they’ll need to collaborate with and succeed within their new team.

Encourage candid and open conversations on how the new team’s members communicate, collaborate, and work with one another; and what type of informal and formal behaviors are rewarded. Just like with company M&A’s, success or failure often hinges on cultural assimilation as much as technical, so don’t neglect this important part of bringing new people and teams together.

4. Assign a new mentor.

A new role comes with new unknowns. Regardless of how knowledgeable an employee was in their previous position, every hire needs some level of guidance when taking on a new role.

For internal hires to quickly reach full productivity, provide the professional coaching and support of a dedicated mentor.

A mentor offers a safe sounding board for employees to troubleshoot any questions that arise when starting their new position, which is critical in supporting their early engagement and productivity. They can help with learning some of the team cultural and behavioral norms described above, and provide a safe space to supplement the People team’s role in successfully supporting a new transition.

5. Create a new Development Plan.

In a 2016 Xerox study, “new career development opportunities” was reported as the number one step organizations are planning to retain talent. We've discussed how Employee Development Plans are fundamental for new hire retention, growth, and engagement — and the same applies to internal hires.

Building a fresh development plan around a new position will drive engagement by helping employees visualize their continued career progression within the organization. Even though someone may be new in their role, it’s never too early to begin thinking about continued development as part performance improvement and career growth.

While it’s likely personal developmental goals will remain consistent, the employee and new manager should co-create this plan with updated professional development goals relevant to the new role. At DigitalOcean, our People team actively supports creating formal development plans so that employees know what they need to be focusing on for their personal and professional growth, and managers have a clear roadmap and action plans on how they can support their employees.

In a healthy, engaged organization, both feedback and employee development are “always-on” processes.

While there may not always a chance to promote existing employees into more senior roles, you always be encouraging your employees and managers to look at how they can grow through new experiences and opportunities across the organization.

Oftentimes there may be unexplored options to provide development opportunities through cross-department hires. Gaining experience and exposure to different parts of the company is an effective way to continue development and drive engagement, and providing internal hires with the tools, support, and path they need to be successful in those cross-functional opportunities begins with a strategic onboarding plan.

What best practices have you seen or used to ensure the success of people in new roles within the company? Please share them in the comments below.

Sapling helps companies build structured onboarding programs with best-in-class technology. To learn more about delivering your employees an effective onboarding experience, download Sapling’s Essential Guide To Employee Onboarding Success, or schedule a demo below.


Author Bio:
Matt Hoffman is VP, People at DigitalOcean. If you’re interested in learning more about DigitalOcean’s unique development-focused culture, check us out here. We are hiring!


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Best Practices for Onboarding Internal Hires