UpMo’s Solutions Point to Impending Disruption in Internal Mobility
Recently, we’ve been taking a long look at UpMo, the internal mobility startup. Currently branded as a retention tool, the service allows employees to chart career paths and evaluate internal job opportunities. They summarize their positioning as “UpMo fosters enterprise professional networking and internal mobility that spurs motivation, engagement and productivity.” The emerging tag line is, “Keep your talent in house.”
Most startups reach a “pivot point” sometime during their early stage. “Pivot point” is code for saying our original idea ran out of oomph but the pieces can be rearranged. In its early incarnations, UpMo was pitched as a career navigation tool. The core technology (which is still a part of the offering) is a clever career mapping app that lets you try to forecast the next steps in your work life.
The team at UpMo discovered that the very same pieces could be reconfigured to let companies build an inventory of employee skills. Since the most cited reason for voluntary termination is ‘a better opportunity’, the UpMo team reasoned that attrition could be decreased by giving a clearer view of internal job possibilities with embedded career navigation.
As the conversation with UpMo evolved, I began to realize that HR rarely plays a role in several aspects of the internal talent economy of their organizations. As workers move from project to project, it rarely reaches notice by the HR Department. HR tends to document changes in grade, pay status, promotions, transfers, performance measurement, training course completed and so on.
Often, the real work of a company is expressed in small projects that are coordinated by project managers rather than first level supervisors. The internal project economy tends to run on reputation and political vectors rather than the HR preferred meritocracy. Project teams form and disband and the relationships established during those periods are the foundation of most internal mobility.
Not all companies have an dominant internal project economy. But, organizations whose products involve technology and service are in an inevitable trajectory towards the project world. And, all contemporary shops have some degree of project based organization.
With scale, a matrixed organization becomes a great way to manage complex project driven companies. In that setting, the best way to optimize effectiveness is to make talent as transparent as possible and to help employees self-navigate the environment. In that universe, UpMo is headed in the right direction.
That points out an interesting market opportunity and conundrum. The transactions that take place among projects are as hidden from view as the various contract and temp employees who come into the organization through purchasing. Project work, contract employees, free agents and temps are all a part of the project economy controlled by the organization but usually out of the reach of HR.
UpMo’s trajectory is worth watching because it points to another aspect of HR that is about to be disrupted.